Cultural Support Scheme Project funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Malawi
BACKGROUND TO THE CULTURAL SUPPORT SCHEME
The Cultural Support Scheme (CSS) was established in 2004 with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE). The project has been implemented in phases with the possibility of extending; Phase I: 2004-2007 (NOK 1.950 million), Phase 2: 2008-2011(NOK 5.2 million) and Phase 3( NOK 1.5million has currently been disbursed). CSS represented a major shift in RNE policy as until then the embassy had supported only one association, the Malawi Writers’ Union (MAWU). It began to support all arts associations. The scheme came into place when the long-awaited Cultural Trust Fund which was suggested in the draft National Cultural Policy did not materialise.
MAIN OBJECTIVE OF THE SCHEME
The main objective of CSS was promoting and strengthening the capacity of the member associations so that they could serve the interests of their members better. This has been done through distribution of grants to the member associations for various projects.
The scheme is implemented by the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) on behalf of the Embassy. The scheme has been implemented in phases.
PHASE 1: 2004-2007 NOK 1.950 million
During the first phase of the project, the main focus was to train the leadership in the rights holder associations in project management and reorganizing and strengthening the structures of the associations. Experiences from Phase I of the CSS showed that most associations were not used to manage projects with fairly large sums of money. The project officers hired for project management had not all received formal training in financial management.
PHASE 2: 2008-2011 (NOK 5.2million)
COSOMA took some major steps to shift in funding strategy to the associations. The most important was the shift from a decentralised project management where each association handled their own funds, to setting up a project office with two project officers to share the administration of the seven associations between them. Basically this means that the associations, with the assistance from the project officers, write up a proposal which is then screened and approved by a Grants Committee (with representatives from the Department of Culture, COSOMA secretariat and members). Funds are distributed fairly evenly to each association regardless of size of membership. The project office is responsible for accounting and financial reporting to COSOMA. This has eased the administrative burden for each association and also helped streamlining reporting procedures, enhanced monitoring and also reduced financial mismanagement.
The member associations have also been assisted to establish themselves with a shared office in Blantyre furnished with essential infrastructure. Although not fully operational, members can now organise meetings and address themselves to the leadership of the associations.
PHASE 3: 28th July 2012- June 2015
Upon signing the Agreement, RNE made available NOK 1, 500,000 to be disbursed to ten rightholder associations to enable them implement projects approved by the grants committee. The associations that benefited from the grant included Malawi Writers Union (MAWU), Poetry Association of Malawi (PAM), Film Association of Malawi (FAMA), Visual Arts Association of Malawi (VAAM), Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM), Journalists Union of Malawi (JUMA), Book Publishers Association of Malawi (BPAM), Photographers Association of Malawi (PHOTAMA) and Music Folk Dance and Song Society (MFODMASS). The Associations were obliged to meet 5% contribution towards the project.
Challenges identified in the implementation of this measure:
Basing on a report of the second phase (2008-2011) of the project, prepared by Nordic Consulting Group, and a progress report for the period 1st July, 2012 to 31st August, 2013, prepared by COSOMA, the following were listed as the challenges:
PHASE 2 (2008-2011)
- Lack of consultation from the project office’s side. Project proposals were cut without any discussion about implications and possible negative effects.
- Many projects get a late start up because of delays in funds from COSOMA and slow management procedures. Some associations claimed that they lost opportunities to access funds from other sources because of management delays.
- COSOMA’s legal status is in flux. Government was planning to privatize COSOMA but there is no clarity on when the privatization will take place and with what implications. This has made future planning process be difficult.
- During the second phase there were some arts associations in Malawi that were not among COSOMA’s membership base hence could not benefit from the fund for instance CREAM! Women in the Arts, The Film Association of Malawi and the Malawi Folk Music and Dance Association).
PHASE 3: (1st July, 2012 to 31st August, 2013)
- Implementation of activities in new associations was not easy due to poor organization and coordination among the leaders of the associations.
- Most Associations had challenges in meeting their obligation to fulfill their 5% contribution towards the project.
CSS has had a huge positive impact on the development of the creative industries in Malawi. This include:
- Provision of funding for Arts Activities: There is no other funding umbrella or scheme for predictable funding to the artist community hence the scheme has provided the much needed finances for arts activities.
- Growing involvement of women in arts: All the arts associations have now created women's desks within their establishments.
- Strengthening capacities of Arts associations: there have been a number of both technical and managerial trainings targeting membership of the associations that have in turn strengthened their capacities to implement various projects.
- Strengthened link between COSOMA and the Arts community: Due to the close working relationship Members of arts association have started appreciating more the role of COSOMA as their own organization, fighting to uphold their Copyrights.