Despite the wide range of tangible benefits to corporate sponsorship of culture, there are several misgivings and misunderstandings that prevent effective corporate-cultural collaborations.
Real nature of corporate-cultural collaborations
The nature of support extended through a corporate setup cannot be compared to individual philanthropy since the money at stake does not belong to a single individual.
Gayatri Divecha from Dasra, an Indian philanthropy consultant firm, says that funding was a lot more easily available to the arts a few decades ago, when patrons from older generations felt a strong affiliation to culture and supported it through their independent funds. However, today decisions are no longer made by individual heads of the company but rather by a board of trustees or directors who decide to fund an initiative depending on a wide range of issues ranging from brand image to long term strategic goals.
Global identity overshadows local one
Today with globalization, businesses have shareholders who are dispersed over a wider geographical area than decades ago. As a result, the current shareholders may not identify as much with the relationship that the corporation has with local citizenry. Therefore, the global identity of the company overshadows the local one.
This in turn has a domino effect on the local art community. Often, decisions are made at a national or regional level – leaving independent funding of local corporate-cultural collaborations in the lurch, and preventing best practices learnt at the grassroots level from being implemented swiftly and effectively. This, in turn, prevents long term ecosystem development of artistic enterprises – wrapping up arts funding in a never-ending network of bureaucracy and coordination.
Creative freedom and autonomy
An unreasonable imposition of branding or visibility targets on corporate-cultural collaborations is a direct result of an erroneous understanding of the nature of such partnerships: excessive branding is in fact ineffective, and takes away from the goodwill that such a partnership would have garnered for both the corporate enterprise and the cultural institution.
Could CSR be way out for corporate-cultural collaborations?
The Apeejay Surrendra Group CSR has entered into a private-government partnership with the National Culture Fund and Archeological Survey of India to restore the historic Jantar Mantar Observatory in New Delhi a few years back. Together, they planned to work towards the preservation, maintenance, upgradation and beautification of Jantar Mantar in accordance with its conservation requirements.
To raise public awareness about the fascinating yantras, Apeejay Surrendra Group CSR helped create visual CDs and new signage panels, and organised interactive lectures at the observatory on Summer/ Winter Solstices and Spring/Autumn Equinoxes in partnership with Nehru Planetarium and the Astronomers Association of India. This example goes to show that CSR could be a ray of hope for corporate-cultural collaborations in India.