How Data Supports Advocacy

Danielle Brazell, Executive Director of Arts for LA



Executive Director Danielle Brazell blogged for Otis College of Art & Design's Creative Economy Report.

View its original post and other commentary by clicking here.



Advocacy is both a science and an art: methodical and opportunistic, driven by people who can deliver the message and data that can support it.

Just a few short years ago, before “Web 2.0” and before the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, Los Angeles-area advocates had very little opportunity to organize, much less work together to make the case for why the nonprofit arts sector is worthy of local public support. 

Before we had the technology and the data to work strategically, advocates focused solely on the intrinsic value of arts, or “art for art’s sake.”  At the same time, the public was calling for smaller, more streamlined government that focused on essential city services, e.g. public safety, health and built infrastructure. The economic crash of 2008 accelerated this viewpoint and caused a tipping point: budgets for arts and culture at the local level began taking disproportional hits.  We needed a change in the way we made the case for arts and culture at the local level. 

The 2008 Otis Report on the Creative economy allowed us to make the case with substantive data. We have been able to present policymakers with quantitative and qualitative evidence that the creative sector is the 2nd largest industry in Los Angeles, and should be counted along with the other essential city services that enhance quality of life and public safety. With Arts for LA’s new robust advocacy portal and a growing interest in arts advocacy, we have been able to organize thousands of respected advocates—artists, policymakers, business owners and many others—to deliver the message.

The message is resonating!  Last year, as the Los Angeles City Council grappled with closing a $450 million structural deficit, at the height of the of the worst economic downturn since the great depression, members of the Budget & Finance Committee refused a suggestion to cut arts & cultural investment. Recognizing that investments in the arts are investments in our economy, and that L.A. is an artist super city, they began citing facts directly from the Otis Report in council chambers:

        * One in six jobs is directly related to the Creative Economy
        * Despite the economic downturn, the creative sector is holding steady.

After years of hard work on the part of thousands of local advocates and the Otis Report research team, our elected and appointed officials began to speak our language.  Or was it that we had finally learned to speak theirs?

As municipalities begin to recover from the economic downturn, advocates are poised to move from responsive to proactive advocacy. Through this new narrative, creativity will continue to provide economic, social and civic opportunities for our region to build upon. 

The Arts for LA policy framework highlights three focus areas for our unprecedented collaborative advocacy effort: Arts Education, Creative Economy and Civic Engagement. Each of these issue areas involves policy recommendations and courses of action, built on regional partnership and coordination with initiatives such as Arts for All, Otis College of Art and Design and the California Voter Participation Project.  This coordination sends a powerful message to policymakers that the arts are ready to be a part of the solution.

Data combined with strong storytelling drives effective advocacy.

I'm curious - what research have you used to make an affective argument? Leave your comment below. Oh, and don't forget to include your name (or log in and it will appear automatically). 

Otis Report on the Creative Economy

Cross-posted from the Otis Report on the Creative Economy's website, with permission.

Creative economy

I will take your suggestion to encourage the CEO of the non-profit arts organization I work for to report on the economic impact on the city of Long Beach.   I see this as a means to not only advocate for the arts but the significance of the workforce it employs.  


Thanks for your time with CGU's Arts Administration students yesterday!


Monica Fernandez

Creative Economy - You make the link!

I love it Monica!  You totally made the link in making advocacy personal.  That's how it's done.  You hear an idea and then share it with your colleagues... pretty soon a groundswell will cause a tipping point and it becomes the norm.  Speaking of which, have you read the Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell?  Might be a good quick read for you.  

Great post

I particularly liked the comment about speaking our language, or us speaking their language.  At least we're communicating to each other.


Thanks for the comment. 

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