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The Swedish National Theatre Company – a touring national theatre based on volunteer. An analysis according to the governmental agency analysis model (2017:22)

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has conducted an analysis of the National Theatre Company on behalf of the Swedish Government. The National Theatre Company has the mandate to produce, arrange and promote performing arts and be a touring national theatre for all. The National Theatre Company is a non-profit organisation with national, regional and local activities throughout the entire country, which is carried out with the assistance of the efforts of volunteers and professional employed staff. The tasks and responsibilities of the National Theatre Company are formulated both in the goals and objectives as established by Riksteatern’s Congress (plenum) and in the Government’s guidelines. Its activities are financed largely by government grants. The nature of the National Theatre’s mandate means that they have many and broad target groups, and need to interact and work with many stakeholders.

Riksteatern – The Swedish National Theatre Company fulfils its mandate in all essential respects

Statskontoret has made the assessment that the National Theatre Company essentially fulfils its tasks and responsibilities in terms of producing, arranging and promoting the performing arts. The National Theatre Company has a broad mandate and undertakes initiatives within all the areas contained in the Government’s guidelines. We have also made the assessment that the National Theatre Company has addressed many issues that are of strategic importance to its activities over the longer term. One example is that the internal governance has seen improvements, which has created the prerequisites for a clearer division of responsibility and a more effective governance.

Our overall picture based on interviews and surveys is that the National Theatre Company is considered to be an important entity, for both the performing arts and the vibrant cultural life throughout the country, and that the National Theatre’s productions are regarded as maintaining a consistent high quality. In addition, the National Theatre’s unique mission to produce interesting and qualitative performing arts that are performed throughout the country, along with their possibilities to produce productions smaller theatres do not have the resources to do so, is emphasised. Even the National Theatre’s expertise as a provider of expert support to others in the performing arts field is also highlighted in positive terms.

At the same time, it is somewhat difficult to judge the results and its achievement of objectives. This is due in part to the nature of the mandate, but also due to shortcomings in the National Theatre Company’s presentation of its financial results.

Henceforth we focus in summary on the areas where we have assessed that the National Theatre has the possibility to further strengthen its activities to respond to future challenges.

The National Theatre Company needs to invest in organisational development so as to attract new audiences and additional members

The greatest challenge facing the National Theatre Company is, in our opinion, to attract new, younger and active members and new audiences. There needs to be members who are actively working with arrangements out in the National Theatre’s local associations, otherwise the activities will fall. The National Theatre is struggling with the regeneration of its membership base, a challenge they share with the rest of the civil society. After having focused on the production of performing arts and internal governance during the past few years, it is now extremely urgent that the National Theatre Company moves its focus to supporting the National Theatre’s local associations in their efforts to recruit new members. The National Theatre also needs to strengthen the association’s organising knowledge and structure so that they will be more able to reach a broader audience.

Statskontoret therefore recommends that the National Theatre Company i.a. streamlines its work with organisational development to make it more effective. This could be accomplished for instance by grouping the associations based on their level of activity and developing relevant support measures based on the respective needs of the particular groups.

Concentrate the Silent Theatre’s activities to particular cities

The broad mandate of the National Theatre Company requires that management establishes clear priorities in its various activities. In recent years, the National Theatre Company’s management has also made certain changes in order to be able to better focus on its primary mandate. Another change that the Statskontoret thinks that the National Theatre should consider is to geographically limit the activities of the Tyst Theatre (Silent Theatre) to a limited number of cities, due to that the Tyst Theatre’s target audiences are concentrated in certain locations. The objective would be to streamline the efforts of the National Theatre Company and thereby also increase the quality of its performances.

The role of the regional associations needs to be made clearer

With the cultural interaction model, the significance of the regional level for culture has been strengthened. During our survey, we have found that the role of the regional associations is unclear, both in terms of purpose and their activities. Therefore their role needs to be made more clear, both internally and externally. The National Theatre Company should therefore analyse what efforts the national and regional activities can contribute in order to make the role of regional organisations clearer.

Fewer objectives would make the governance clearer

One fundamental problem is that the Government’s guidelines taken together with the objectives as established by the Riksteater’s Congress, has led to the situation where the Governing Board is required to relate to and address many different objectives. We believe that it would be a good idea for the Governing Board to amalgamate for the objectives of the Riksteater’s Congress and the Government’s guidelines in a governing policy document, which everyone could work from. In the ongoing work relating to developing the upcoming plan for activities, the leadership of the National Theatre has the ambition to reduce the number of performance-based goals. In view of the number of objectives, the Statskontoret considers it especially important that the National Theatre Company continues its efforts to reduce the number of internal targets for the national activities.

The reorganisation has led to improvements, but is not at all finished

Since 2015, the National Theatre Company has organised its national activities and taken measures to improve its internal governance. Our assessment is that the National Theatre has created a structure for the planning of its activities which provides the foundation and preconditions for a clearer division of responsibilities and more effective governance.

Even though the staff and management are for the most part satisfied with the new organisation, it has not yet fully found its form. Statskontoret therefore recommends the National Theatre Company to continue with the efforts to implement the internal governance process and organisation.

Efforts to improve the working environment work have been strengthened, but continued focus is still needed

With the new leadership, management and organisation, the environment for collaboration within the national activities has significantly improved. In recent years, the Human Resources Department has also made efforts to strengthen the work with the staff and improve the working environment. The Human Resources Department has also implemented efforts to increase diversity and the response to potential incidents of bullying, violations of personal integrity, harassment and discrimination.

However, extraordinary high expectations and demands are placed on the National Theatre Company as an employer, due to that parts of the National Theatre’s staff are on tour. Moreover, many of the touring employees are employed on a temporary basis and, according to the National Theatre, are eager to obtain good references. The proclamations under the headings #tystnadtagning and #metoo testifies to a general need for a change in cultural in the performing arts industry. The National Theatre Company’s management has shown great willingness to work with these issues, which is something to be commended. However they have a tremendous amount of work in front of them. The same applies to the area of gender equality and diversity in general.

Expand the collaborations with Folkets Hus & Parker, and the county theatres

In principle, the National Theatre Company’s activities in their entirety is based on joint collaboration with various different parties and cooperation at various levels. Based on the National Theatre’s own investigations and our interviews, the collaboration seems to be working well.

It is our assessment that the National Theatre Company’s collaboration with Folkets Hus & Parker (FHP) should be further developed, due to that Folkets Hus & Parker has more extensive experience with digitisation. We believe that the organisations should also collaborate more based on their common experience with organisational development, in order to strengthen the organisational team. The National Theatre should also, if possible, respond to the needs of the county theatre needs for the National Theatre’s expertise to a greater extent.

Improve monitoring and reporting

There is a recognition within the National Theatre Company that there is a need for them to improve their efforts relating to monitoring and reporting on their activities. The National Theatre needs to improve its reporting of its financial results on several points, for example in regards to which expenses are associated with which parts of the activities and in terms of further developing the analysis of the financial results. The National Theatre should also develop gender-divided statistics in the area of human resources, against the background of the stated high ambitions the National Theatre has pronounced in the field of gender equality. The National Theatre should also be able to improve its follow-up of the audience by increasing the use a digital ticketing system.

Therefore the National Theatre should review the appropriate incentives in order to encourage more national theatre local associations to join the ticket sales system.

The governmental representation on the Governing Board is appropriate for its purposes

Statskontoret has not found any reason to propose any changes regarding the governmental representation on the National Theatre’s Governing Board. We regard it to be suitable for its purposes in its present form.

Additional new assignments may adversely affect the basic mission

Over the past three years, the National Theatre Company has received three new assignments. At the same time, the National Theatre has been working on further developing its activities via i.a. a reorganisation of the national activities and via introducing a new structure for the planning of activities.

It is our assessment that the National Theatre Company can not take on more short-term assignments within their current financial framework without risking negatively affecting the quality of its activities. The Swedish Government can facilitate matters for the National Theatre Company by carefully considering and prioritising among the mandates that it plans to give the National Theatre Company going forward.

The decrease in the number of co-productions is not in line with the Government’s guidelines

Over the past five years, the number of co-productions has decreased by almost 20 percent. The decrease in the number of co-productions is not alarming, but at the same time, the Government is clear in its guidelines that the National Theatre should produce, to the extent feasible, its performances in collaboration with others. If the Government still has the same objectives in upcoming guidelines for state grants, the Government should also stress this in its dialogue with the National Theatre Company.

Establish requirements for clearer reporting of financial results

Statskontoret has found it difficult to analyse the financial results of the National Theatre Company and the achievement of its objectives on the basis of the reports of financial results submitted by the National Theatre to the Government. We therefore recommend the Government to establish requirements for a clearer presentation of its financial results on a number of different points.

Monitor the financial developments

There is good reason for the Government to monitor the National Theatre Company’s finances more closely in the future, in the light of the fact that, after 2019, the National Theatre Company will not have funds from foundations available to it to the same extent as they have had in recent years, along with the yet unknown financial consequences of a possible sale of the Södra Teatern property. Statskon­to­ret therefore recommends that the Government request that the National Theatre Company prepare a long-term plan for its financial situation from 2019 going forward.

Monitor the efforts to obtain gender equality data

It is to be viewed very positively that the National Theatre Company has initiated a project together with the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis in order to further develop the work of following up and analysing the audience from a gender equality perspective. In its dialogue with the National Theatre and the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis, the Government should continuously monitor the developments with these efforts. The National Theatre has also taken the initiative to establish a network for cultural institutions, where participants can share experiences with follow-ups.