ISPA: preparing for 2018 and beyond

With 100 congresses in the bag, and its 65th anniversary done and dusted, ISPA isn’t about to rest on its laurels. The organisation launched a new strategic plan in May that will take it through to 2021, building on ISPA’s 2013 objectives and its 2016 Statement of Values. Financially, the numbers at ISPA add up – a sure sign that the team are delivering on their promises. In 2016 ISPA’s revenue and total assets topped USD1.36m and USD1.6m respectively. Quite a contrast to the 2008 figures of USD400,000 in assets and just over USD600,000 in revenue, with a small deficit to boot.

Much of ISPA’s income is spent on programme service costs (USD1.15m in 2016); while the bulk of its money is earned from congresses, with other revenue coming from contributions, grants and membership dues.


“Membership figures are rising,” says CEO David Baile. “In 2008 we had 329 members, in 2013 we had 415, and today we have 527. But of more interest is the diversity of members by region, age, size of organisation, type of organisation and so forth.”

Over the years, it’s been clear to see that ISPA has worked hard to make its membership more inclusive. We’re not talking ethnography here, but a real cross section of interests, ages, nationalities and people power – from heavy wielding city institutions, to small start-up independents operating out of former conflict zones.

This ideology to cast the net wide continues in ISPA’s new strategic plan, laid out in its ambitions to “extend participation in the membership and activity in accordance with ISPA’s values of equity, diversity and inclusion [and] increase accessibility by minimising barriers (eg financial, linguistic, cultural).”

ISPA’s bold aim is to “enable all members to develop themselves professionally and personally regardless of career stage”. It’s a grand task because the arts sector has a reputation for being a difficult industry in which to get that all-important break (given its track record of hierarchy, tradition and elitism). You might work in the arts, but not all candidates can make a good living in the arts. And it’s here that mentorship schemes, knowledge sharing and professional support come to the fore: you have to be in it, so to speak, to even have of chance of winning at it.

This summer the ISPA team are off to work their magic in Scotland via a partnership with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, where a satellite series of events will attract ambitious arts professionals flooding the city.

ISPA has also been busy getting all its ducks in a row for future congresses: the regional host cities have been agreed up to 2021 with Leeuwarden in 2018; Guadalajara in 2019; Taipei in 2020 and Reykjavíkin 2021.

Says Baile: “Multiple considerations were factored into the decision for the regional congresses, including ancillary activity such as Cultural Capital status, festivals, new core cultural activity, ability to attract and support 300 delegates, leadership in the region and tourism.”

“I think in Leeuwarden we’ll be exploring arts in rural communities. Other topics that will probably be discussed in the future include the arts and climate change, the environment, migration and topics of strong regional resonance.”

Of course, ISPA is always on the lookout for submissions for its Pitch New Works strand. What sort of pieces stand out to the committee as worthy of selection? “Projects that have cross region or cross cultural collaborations are of most interest to us,” adds Baile.

For professionals seeking to join the coveted sponsored fellowship programmes, a country-by-country breakdown can be viewed on the ISPA website.

Most relevant now is that the Global Fellowship Programme opened for applications on 1 August – so if you have someone in mind you think will benefit from mentoring support, push them to put themselves forward. It could be life changing.

Fellows receive:

  • One-year ISPA membership with access to all member benefits
  • Full Pass registration to the New York 2018 Congress ( 9 – 11 January 2018)
  • One-day Fellows-only Seminar prior to the New York Congress (8 January 2018)
  • Subsidy to assist with travel and accommodation expenses related to attending the Congress (subsidies do not generally exceed USD2,500 / €1893)
  • Introduction to a current ISPA member who will welcome the Fellow to the Congress and help facilitate their participation as part of ISPA’s Community Building Programme.
Upcoming congresses: New York City (9-11 January 2018), Leeuwarden (11-15 June 2018)
See the ISPA website for congresses from 2019 onwards.