Panel discussion and debate organised by London Music Masters (LMM) City Hall, London, 9th May, 2017

This evening’s topic is bang on target because this is a time of significant and profound change.  The forthcoming election is likely to confirm this with implications for all of us.

If the Conservatives are re-elected, we should expect the state to provide less.

If the state is to provide less, then all of us will have to provide more.

We will also need to find new ways of sustaining society and our prosperity. We must think again about the relationships between all parts of society and how we collaborate.

There is nothing new in this: philanthropy has been evolving and re-inventing itself since the beginning of time.

In the nineteenth century, it was difficult to distinguish between corporate and personal philanthropy. The most far sighted Victorian industrialists and philanthropists understood that their prosperity depended on a healthy society. They were social pioneers, investing millions in communities and introducing experiments such as social housing.

In the twentieth century, philanthropy took a back seat as the public sector expanded.  However, as government expenditure came under pressure in the 1970’s, corporate philanthropy revived and re-emerged as corporate sponsorship of the arts.

Arts sponsorship was initially a means for companies to enhance profile with key clients through exclusive entertaining but has gradually evolved to the corporate social responsibility we know today.

Things are moving on fast to reflect change and the changing expectations of the workforce.  There is evidence that millennials wish to see the companies they work for reflect their own values by showing a greater commitment to society.  There is also evidence that customers have similar expectations.

When I interviewed Damien Leeson, Director of Group Responsible Business for Lloyds Banking Group, for my book Our Common Good, he told me that Lloyds is radically re-thinking its strategy for corporate philanthropy.

Whilst the new policy will be LLOYDS FIRST, what is fascinating is that the bank is considering how it could fulfil both corporate and social objectives together. Lloyds knows that the bank does well when society prospers. They intend to strengthen the voluntary sector because it is vulnerable. Charities have to take on more as the state provides less and charitable giving has not grown in real terms for decades.

This is a coincidence of mutual interests with different parts of society forming an alliance.

This kind of radical thinking is happening elsewhere in the private and voluntary sectors.

As ever, if you are looking for a creative response to social challenges, look to philanthropists, charity leaders and the voluntary sector. History demonstrates that the best charities and their donors have always been social pioneers.  The same is true today.

For example, youth services provided by local authorities have been decimated. In my book, I describe a new charitable enterprise in the north which is providing youth services in 7 towns for 30,000 young people. Onside Youth Zones is a philanthropic initiative that has brought together local authorities, local companies, philanthropists, volunteers and young people together as equal partners.

I stress the word equal. All the partners are signed up to achieve a set of objectives that they hold in common.

This project has demonstrably reduced crime and unemployment, transformed prospects for the young, has revived communities, and is redefining the roles of the public, private and voluntary sectors and how they work together. This is a template for the future.

A key component in the Youth Zone offer to their young members is cultural.  This is because young people say that is what they want but we also now know the role that the arts can play in helping people to fulfil their potential and to regenerate communities.

This is the thinking that inspired Victoria Robey, a former banker and now a philanthropist, to co-found LMM.

LMM is a small charity currently working in primary schools in some of the most challenging parts of inner London and, like Onside Youth Zones, is providing a template for the future.

LMM aims to change lives and transform prospects for very young people through professional classical music tuition.  It is doing so by pioneering new best practice in arts education.  This means not only changing what the very young experience together in the classroom and outside it but, crucially, how teachers are trained to bring out the very best in young people.

This matters.  Britain has a flourishing knowledge economy.  The creative industries are the fastest growing part of our economy. Its future leaders are now starting school.  In our brave new post-Brexit world, we will need to invest in the cultural and intellectual as well as the social capital we need to sustain both our society and our economy.

LMM is a prime example of a small charity pioneering social, educational and cultural change, successfully addressing challenges posed by diversity and disadvantage, helping to develop the talent and creativity the country needs.

LMM is now seeking corporate partners to help it expand its influence.

Although LMM is a small charity, it is not seeking sponsorship as a supplicant.  LMM needs social investors to enable it to enhance its social value and I believe that is in the interests of progressive companies to seek partnerships with progressive charities such as LMM.

To answer the question posed this evening: yes, the arts can prosper by forging new alliances with the private sector as I have described but I believe this is about much more. 

I suggest we should be asking: what role can the private sector play with the arts in enabling the country to prosper?

Whatever the question, charities such as LMM are part of the answer.  I believe their prospective corporate partners should see themselves as investors in Britain’s future.