The Process

The second cycle of Advance ran from January to June 2016. It tasked nine leading dance, opera, and theatre organisations from around England to proactively explore how they could achieve greater gender equality in their work and throughout their workforces.

Before beginning, each organisation was asked to write a question they wanted to explore over the duration of the programme. This was to give each organisation a targeted and focused starting point for their investigation and, following that, a way of helping them stay on track over the subsequent six months. After deciding on their question, Tonic worked with each organisation to help them break it down into manageable chunks, and to plan and carry out their approach to answering it.
+ Read the questions

Step One – Investigation

This step centred on the area of focus the organisations selected for themselves via their question. Tonic conducted investigations on their behalves, examining how things are currently working, and sought to understand where barriers to women exist. Tonic then shared their findings with the organisations.

This step was about the organisations enhancing their own understanding and asking ‘why’; it was about them questioning their own thinking and that of others, and about exposing themselves to perspectives and information that may previously have been off their radar. Over all, it was about them being reflective and listening to others, not about them leading or needing to come up with solutions; that would come in Step Two.

Step Two – Innovation

Based on the findings of the investigation, the organisations explored and considered alternative or supplementary ways of working which would go some way towards removing the barriers they had identified.

This step was about dreaming up new ways of doing things, and of challenging existing preconceptions and the ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ approach. At the same time, any new approaches had to be achievable, realistic, and deliverable within the organisations’ already busy schedules and programmes of work.

Step Three – Action Plans

By the conclusion of Innovation, the organisations had identified a range of new actions they would like to implement and each produced an action plan outlining steps towards making this happen. These action plans covered a range of approaches. Some were:

  • small and time-limited, others were big and long-lasting.
  • designed to achieve impact in one organisation, others to drive change across the wider industry.
  • focused on the operational or ‘nuts and bolts’ side of how the organisation runs, others focused on artistic output or the creation of new artistic works.

+ See what each of the organisations did

Away Days

Although every organisation was pursuing its own question, their findings were of course of interest to one another, and they were encouraged throughout to share their learning, provide provocation to one another, and look for opportunities to create future collaborations.

To facilitate this, Tonic led four Away Days over the course of the programme. These brought the lead members of staff from the participating organisations together in a focused environment and away from their desks, emails and to-do lists. Away Days 1 and 2 were hosted by the National Theatre Studio in London, Away Day 3 by Cast in Doncaster and Away Day 4 by Northern Ballet in Leeds. The Away Days:

  • Were an opportunity for the organisations to come together to talk, share progress, make requests of one another, and feel like peers taking part in a collective journey.
  • Participate in joined-up conversations, facilitated by Tonic over matters besides their individual areas of focus but relevant to how broader change could be achieved across the industry.
  • Spend time with members of the 2014 cohort and hear from guest speakers.

Watch the videos below to hear Emily McLaughlin and Sarah Murray from the National Theatre, and Alison Porter and Michael Duffy from Mahogany Opera Group on taking part in the Away Days.