Building Resilience: an online course from AMA

Building Resilience

Recently we took part in an online course from the AMA (Arts Marketing Association) and Wolff Olins brand consultancy on how arts organisations can become resilient or improve their resilience. We think this is particularly of interest to smaller organisations as sometimes it can be easier to effect change with less people.

Module 1: Defining Your Purpose

The first module looked at resilient organisations and how they each have a sense of purpose. If people are committed to what you are trying to achieve then you can be more resilient as you have a team behind your ambitions.

The three principles to defining your purpose are:

  • Radical, expressive and vital: does it move and excite people? Is it audience focused?
  • Authentic, plainly-written, doable: it has to be understandable to everyone and be capable of being achieved.
  • A directional but open-ended platform: leave room for individual interpretation so employees can apply it to their own roles.

If you can work out what’s wrong with your organisation/town/sector/art form/country/world – what is missing, what is needed and then what is unique or distinctive about your organisation – what drives you, your motivation then you can define your purpose.

Purpose = The things that make you unique that address what is wrong in the world.

Once you have a draft, refine it to its most radical, authentic, doable and open-ended version and then you can apply it to any project you’re working on. Make sure all staff are on board and understand how it is applicable to them. It is essential to make it part of the working culture.

Module 2: The Business Model

The second module looked at how to best use your business model to make your organisation more resilient.

The three principles of a business model are:

  • Desirable: This applies to audiences, visitors and funders. A range of events, experiences and services that deliver something that inspires and engages people.
  • Feasible: You need the resources, staff, skills and partners to make it happen.
  • Viable: You need enough people to believe in what you’re doing.

We then looked at a Business Model Canvas that you can download from It is split up into the following 9 sections:

  • Customer Segments
  • Value Propositions
  • Channels
  • Customer Relations
  • Revenue Streams
  • Key Resources
  • Key Activities
  • Key Partners
  • Cost Structure

The overall canvas should tell the story of your organisation and you should map your canvas against the three principles; desirable, feasible, viable. Make sure to look at any current strengths or weaknesses and note any assumptions that may need further research. Add any opportunities or threats.

When thinking about adapting for the future we should be considering potential external changes such as:

  • Changing audience expectations
  • New visitor groups
  • Technology
  • Funder demands
  • Wider economy

Module 3: Developing a high performance culture

The final module looked at why a high performance culture is so important to being a resilient organisation. In a positive culture, teams create clarity around their purpose and understand instinctively how to work together to solve problems and are therefore more resilient.

The three characteristics of a high performance organisation are:

  • Being really positive (positivity – negativity)
  • Asking each other great questions (enquiry – advocacy)
  • Being curious about yourself and the world around you (other – self)

Positivity – Negativity

  • High performing teams use positive language six times more than negative language
  • Positivity in the workplace includes: caring for colleagues, kindness, avoiding blame and having respect for each other
  • The emphasis is on constructive challenge rather than universal praise and support. Some negative feedback is essential.

Enquiry – Advocacy 

  • High performing teams ask questions slightly more than they uphold a proposal
  • It is important that teams don’t feel pressure to agree with the consensus or with the most senior person in the room

Other – Self

  • High performing teams also turn to the outside world and consider external factors.
  • They are happy to get inspiration from other industries and are open to unfamiliar techniques


In order to develop a high performance culture there is a framework that you can follow, made up of four techniques:


  • Basing an argument on facts and figures, using logic and reason as the foundation, making progress through objective analysis


  • Using empathy, trust and generosity to build strong relationships, talking through suggestions and inviting opinion, responding to concerns/ideas by amending accordingly.


  • Being action-focused and task-oriented. Clearly outlining immediate expectations incentivising completion at each stage.


  • Sharing hopes for the future built on mutual goals describing exciting possibilities and outcomes showing enthusiasm about potential.

You need to think about which technique will be the most effective in your organisation?

How can you action this technique this week, month, year?

When should you review your culture?

If your organisation:

  • Has become slow to act
  • Resists or undermines new ideas and strategies
  • Is wasting energy in internal conflict
  • Is losing good people

Can you change your culture?

It has to be organic and emerge from thousands of small management decisions.

Nourish your culture and nudge people in a positive direction:

Light fires: instigate many practical and visible examples of the kind of culture you want

Let it spread: encourage new behaviours to spread laterally, perhaps through a group of culture champions, chosen for their attitude.

Wire it in: reinforce behaviours through structures and systems

How do we get started?

  • Make the case by mapping out current strengths/weaknesses
  • Engaging people in defining what the culture should look like. Behaviours and actions.
  • Developing a plan to start the journey of change
  • Briefing teams so they are on board and are ready to deliver the plan
  • Review progress every 3 months

For more information on any of the above you can visit the following websites:

This blog was written by Nadia Niesterowicz-Newstead, Marketing Coordinator of house