Increased Weighting of Equity Implementation Score in Operating Grants

At Toronto Arts Council (TAC), we consider it a privilege to play a role in fostering, supporting and developing the arts in Toronto. As Toronto is the most diverse city in the world, home to a vibrant range of cultures, communities and traditions, TAC strives to ensure that this diversity is reflected in the arts and cultural practices that receive public support. We want publicly supported arts to reflect the cultural landscape of Toronto.

TAC has long recognized the reality of systemic barriers and biases facing many Toronto artists and arts organizations. To address historical injustices, TAC formalized its equity policies and approved the Equity Framework in 2017. The Equity framework identifies equity priority groups, allowing TAC to address systemic barriers in our granting programs.

TAC grant applications include voluntary self-identification forms; information that allows us to track diverse representation among grant recipients, on our Grant Review Panels, as well as helping us evaluate and improve our programs and outreach activities. The collection of grant recipient data highlights both successes and challenges in the application of our Equity Priority Policy. In 2020, 90% of our applicants completed the Voluntary Self-Identification form, out of which 58% identified with at least one of our equity priority groups. 38% of applicants from our equity priority groups were successful, higher than the 35% average for non-equity group applicants. In addition to that, 64% of successful applicants to TAC grants in 2020 were first-time recipients. This number includes applicants applying to the TOArtist Covid Response Fund, of which 86% of successful applicants had never before received a TAC grant.

While implementation of the Equity Priority Policy in individual and project grants programs is relatively straightforward, TAC also strives to ensure that the arts organizations receiving core funding are also reflective of Toronto in their operations and programming. In 2018 we introduced Equity implementation questions in our operating program applications. These questions ask arts organizations to tell us how they implement equity within their organizations, in their artistic programming, in their operations, and their Boards. The total weighting of these questions was originally set at 10% of the overall assessment.

The introduction of these questions opened the door to frank and critical discussions about the practices of each organization in terms of equity representation and inclusion. “Quite early on, we noticed that the discussion these questions were generating and the focus it was drawing on the organizations went far beyond the quantified 10% weighting,” noted Andrew Suri, Director of Granting.

In 2020 with the backdrop of the social and racial justice movement sweeping the world, our Equity Steering Committee met three times to continue ongoing evaluation of our programs, how we can improve our processes, and how we can further address questions of equity, inclusion and representation. The Equity Steering Committee recommended an increase in the weighting of the Equity implementation score in our operating program assessments from 10 to 20%.

Those organizations that are poorly assessed on these questions will be contacted, informed of our concerns, and where possible directed towards resources and workshops that may be of help. If the organization continues to do poorly on equity implementation in the following year, TAC will consider grant reductions. We consider our Equity Framework to be a ‘living’ document and understand the need to update it to reflect the needs of our city.

TAC is committed to reflect the diversity offered by the city of Toronto. We want this diversity reflected in our operations, our art, arts organizations and arts programming, and we will strive to ensure inclusivity in the arts in Toronto.

For more information, please contact Andrew Suri, Director of Granting