Creative Access is to operate as a not-for-profit social enterprise from this month as a result of having its funding withdrawn from the government.
Founded as a charity in 2012, Creative Access finds internships for black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates in the creative industries and has placed 722 interns, 112 of those in publishing. But in December, it revealed the government had axed more than £2m of its funding, prompting an outcry from the trade and a pledge of £50,000 from publisher Pan Macmillan to help it continue to run.
However, its founders have decided that going forward the organisation will cease to be run as a charity which generates its income through grants, trusts and fundraising and instead will become a not-for-profit social enterprise which will secure income through business activity. The shift in status will allow the company to "carry on with exactly the same operation", Creative Access c.e.o. Josie Dobrin told The Bookseller.
However, where the charity used to cover half an interns' salary at a creative company, going forward a company will cover 100% of an intern's salary, with a “small fee” also being paid to Creative Access on top to cover costs.
Discussing whether Creative Access will continue to place interns in media companies at the same rate, Dobrin said that the rate is "totally dictated by industry demand".
"We can meet industry demand but it’s a very big shift from what we did for free and offering a subsidiary towards interns’ salaries, as we are now charging", she said. "So only time will tell really if the industry is ready to step up. In theory, we absolutely don’t want to reduce the numbers [of interns placed] at all, but it depends on the demand by the industry”.
She continued: "As far as we’re concerned there’s a massive number of young people that we work with and we think there’s demand from industry because we’ve obviously been speaking to a lot of people. So, let’s hope that we’re still able to place young talented people into the industry.”
The Creative Access team itself is “definitely downscaling”, Dobrin said, and will operate with one or two fewer staff members while there is no income coming through.
“Our team has reduced but that was partly just because one or two people have left and we haven’t replaced them. We’re definitely downscaling, but hopefully we’ll upscale again when money comes in. We can’t pay people when we don’t have an income, so we’ve got to make sure that we can be prudent about the way we operate", Dobrin said.
News that the government was withdrawing funding from Creative Access prompted an outcry in the publishing industry in December. A petition started to save the charity garnered over 3,000 signatures including those of authors Cathy Rentzenbrink and Nikesh Shukla, and joint c.e.o. of Curtis Brown Jonny Geller. Dobrin said help from Pan Macmillan along with Faber and Penguin Random House had been "brilliant".
“We were really overwhelmed from the support by everybody when we found out that we weren’t getting government funding and we just really hope that people will now step up to continue to work with us,” she said.