Implementing a remote working model: Ravensthorpe Regional Arts Council

Implementing a remote working model: Ravensthorpe Regional Arts Council

Jon Solmundson

Regional arts organisations are often challenged with the realities of a transient workforce; families can, on short notice, move across the state depending on the needs of their job, and this can create problems as staff are frequently being swapped out – but there are other solutions.

To maintain organisational efficiency, good governance, and staff development Ravensthorpe Regional Arts Council (RRAC) in the Goldfields-Esperance region have adopted a remote working model, and found great success. RRAC part-time paid Coordinator Kirsty Duffy reports on her experience:

In October 2016, I made the move to Dongara in the Mid-West. Although this seemed a world away, I’d spent over 10 years in the Esperance/Hopetoun region, had a good rapport with RRAC’s local art groups and was held in good esteem by the RRAC Committee.

Kirsty was able to attend the 2017 WA Regional Arts Summit in Mandurah. Picture courtesy of Kirsty Duffy

RRAC is familiar with the transient nature of mining families, and with a small population, the ongoing struggle to attract new committee members. But what if there was a way to overcome costly turnover of paid staff, perhaps this remote model could be beneficial?

With an executive committee spanning the two towns of Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun and having had a past secretary live in Esperance, this model was not completely new to RRAC. RRAC was already communicating remotely in a sense. With no allocated office space and up to 100kms between some committee members, each of the paid staff and executive committee members already communicated from home.

A few slight modifications were required to make the shift, but the organisation was already well adjusted to Skyping with international artists and attending teleconferences online. RRAC was well prepared for a long-distance relationship and the committee had built a strong foundation for the organisation. They had paid staff to alleviate volunteer burn-out and a good strategic plan to aid in direction.

Hopetoun residents mingle at a Ravensthorpe Regional Arts Council event. Picture by Dene Bingham

On top of these good general practices, there were seven key elements that supported an effective remote working model:

1. Technology

Phone, Internet, GoTo Meeting, Skype, Video Calling. Connectivity through technology can be made less isolating through visuals. The ability to see people’s facial reactions if there is serious business to discuss is valuable in avoiding misunderstandings.

2. Knowledge of the region & demographic

The remote worker must be familiar with the townspeople, the town and the region.

3. Flexibility

The organisation must be willing to accept the remote working model. The remote worker must be willing to maintain flexibility.

4. Strong Relationships

There must be trust. This model cannot work without strong relationships and excellent communication. This must occur from both the organisation and the remote worker. Ideally a strong relationship would already exist before a long-distance relationship begins.

5. A core communicator from the Executive Committee

In RRAC’s instance Chairperson Ainsley Foulds took this mantle. This person, the creative director if you must, is the main communicator with the remote worker, and the person who maintains communications on behalf of the committee on a day to day basis. This executive officer maintains regular contact with the remote worker through email, phone and GoTo meetings.

6. Passion

There must be passion for the job, its outcomes and objectives, which overcomes the feeling of disconnect that may occur. This passion must come from both the organisation and the remote worker so that each party is striving to achieve the same outcomes and objectives.

7. The right person for the job

It is paramount that the person employed as the remote worker has the skills to do so. They must be driven and be able to work autonomously. They must be responsible and accountable with complete transparency in their duties. They must be happy to maintain flexibility when working alongside volunteer committee members. This employee must be carefully chosen. Great people skills, a professional yet friendly mannerism, with the ability to step of their comfort zone to gain further skills and achieve results.

 

We’ve been running the remote working model for 12 months now and all parties are content with the operational components, the communication and the outcomes. To overcome the hurdle of not having me ‘on the ground’ in Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe, Project Officer Jackie Edwards has been taking care of the hands-on tasks. I communicate with Jackie, Ainsley (the core executive member) and RRAC Treasurer Dianne Belli weekly – at a minimum. To maintain cohesion and communication with RRAC Committee Members, committee meetings are held approximately bi-monthly, which I attend and take the minutes via GoTo meeting. Some might say we operate like a well-oiled machine.

On top of the expected benefits, one the RRAC did not foresee is the inter-regional networking opportunities that rely on contact with other arts groups across WA. For instance, RRAC recently received the “Hard Pressed” touring wood cut workshop in Hopetoun. The wood cuts were recently printed on the Geraldton foreshore, which I was able to experience and photograph. Through social media I was even able to report back to our local artists so they could share in the experience. RRAC’s involvement in the Regional Arts Partnership Project has further highlighted the importance of inter-regional connectedness for support and growth.

In summary, the remote working model is working for Ravensthorpe Regional Arts Council due to a combination of the above key factors. RRAC works ON their organisation as well as working IN it. We are passionate about delivering community cohesion through culture and the arts, we take pride in what we bring to our community and we are always looking to propel creativity and new growth.

Close Search