A few months ago, a conversation with a local economic development administrator regarding community grants for artists summed up my years of experience, or should I say my frustration, about securing funding for an innovative creative project designed to address local and global social, economic, and environmental needs.
“We fund artist’s community projects, but the artist cannot make any money from the project,” was the administrator’s comment. After informing her I certainly do expect to make money from the original work I created, not just for myself, but also for the social business venture driving the global initiative, in part fuelled by creative projects I solely created, she suggested I apply for business funding. But since I do not have what is often labelled “cash equivalent” to match potential funding, plus still have the debt I incurred from the three plus years to be with Dad during his last years where I served as his personal care manager, part-time personal care assistant, and driver her initial enthusiasm wavered, as it has been with the many other people I have contacted over several years, so I do not expect to hear from her again.
Unfortunately, her response is typical and reflects one of the many barriers out-of-the-box creative innovators and their ideas encounter. The following presents a closer look at the barriers and their impact, many of which often prevent concepts from either never getting off the page or to take years to achieve, that is, if the originator does not give up in frustration or because economic desperation.
ART COUNCIL SOURCING BARRIERS
For the artistic project I created, an original school play I wrote, plus but will be directing and filming as part of promotional material for schools, as a film to sell to schools, and as one of the key tools in driving the global initiative, I can only apply for a grant if I am recognized as a professional in that field, but of course, if I was a professional in that field I may not even require the funding because I would be making money as said professional.
Also sad, but true is the reality writers who publish their own works are not considered professionals because their writing or ideas are not yet valued by someone else first in the same way we have been conditioned to believe that respecting–valuing someone is something a human life must earn whether through social status and/or achievement–is a disrespectful, prejudicial, limiting, and even harmful principle that inspired my development of the conflicting principle concept, plus created the books, products, services, and established the for-profit social business venture, Connecting The Dots With The Respect Principle to change the consequences of the historical and present prejudicial belief.
GOVERNMENT SOURCING BARRIERS
Community, local, provincial, and federal organizations also have the limited boxes a person and a project must fit into before government sources will look at an application, let alone consider funding.
Other than having to already be established as a professional, such funding applications also require a person to be affiliated with a university or a think tank.
Entrepreneurs, to be recognized as professionals, also often must have a proven track record of company sales or at least have a minimum of cash capital to qualify for funding. Since intellectual capital does not count in the eyes of many funders, entrepreneurs encounter the same dilemma new jobseekers encounter. How does one move to the next stage, securing funding or employment? And particularly with creative innovators, the other challenge is not being forced to sell or give away their rights for what they have created in order to secure the financial help they need, even if their venture creates jobs and adds to economic development.
NON-PROFIT SOURCING BARRIERS
Most non-profit organizations/foundations I have personally searched will not fund an organization that is not a not-for-profit organization, or if they do, the barriers are similar to the art council and government sourcing barriers exist.
PRIVATE SOURCING BARRIERS
Philanthropists, whether individuals, organizations, or foundations do give to causes and projects, but usually they are also expecting tax receipts from non-profits and often media coverage including, but not limited to advertising, though not necessarily at the same level sponsors expect for a financial contribution to a project or cause.
In contrast, altruists are the rare people, who do not expect a receipt or publicity, because what they give are true gifts, meaning they expect nothing in return, which is also the reason many altruists require their donations to be anonymous.
EMPLOYER and ACADEMIC RIGHTS
When working for someone else, whether a business or an education institution, we may not be aware or forget that the work we do for them legally falls under the auspice of their owning the results we generate during our time working for them. Yet it is also the responsibility of employees to not steal from those whom are being compensated by to work on their behalf. When an employee leaves, it is a common requirement for such people to sign a non-disclosure and non-competitive agreement to inhibit their creating competitive products for a given period of time.
Gratefully, this is not the case for my concept, thesis, and all related creations which were created not under the auspices of an employer or a university.
PROTECTING CREATIVE INNOVATORS RIGHTS
Unfortunately, not only does a creative innovator encounter many barriers to securing funding, especially grants, the other challenge frequently encountered is the compulsion other people have to take someone’s idea, without permission, to make it theirs; thereby stealing the creative innovator’s idea, plus the income from the stolen original work.
We know this is true because of what continues to happen as we have moved into the digital age. Piracy, the stealing of copyrighted creative work, became prolific as CDS and DVDs were copied and sold without permission. Of course, now the problem is much more wide spread, including the copying of computer games, software and hardware, plus our personal information and assets.
Several years ago when “Connecting The Dots With The Respect Principle” was still in its infancy/development stage, a volunteer community leader asked me, “What if someone steals your idea?” At the time, I actually laughed and replied, “Because if they steal the concept of respect as a principle, that is proof that he or she does not understand the concept and therefore did not originate the idea.”
However, since then, people certainly have tried and succeeded, to a point.
Several years ago, when I was still naive about copyright law, a proposal for a workshop based on my play, Charles Choice, motivated a few professionals to infringe on my copyright. A middle school and a high school contracted the workshop, which resulted in a friend with theatre experience, but without permission took over the project saying I did not have the qualifications, even though I wrote the play, recorded it in a studio, pitched the concept, and attracted the first interested parties.
The friend’s misdirection and rewriting of my work for the two workshops did not reflect my initial intent and message of the play, but then again, he was a very forceful, abusive, and controlling person who resented my creative talent, his lack of success, and disrespected me immensely, yet had no problem stealing my creative work for his own gain.
Struggling to recognize myself as a creative professional, as well as a person worthy of being treated respectfully, sharing a residence with an psychological, emotional abusive person constantly made me feel small and worthless because my experiences conditioned me to accept that was I all could expect because of my mistakes, even if my previous successes were noted as above average for going above and beyond the call of duty. Venturing into the new territory of the creative arts and social entrepreneurship dedicated to addressing a social need meant I was in unfamiliar and increasingly unfriendly territory. As a result, I failed to stand up for myself and my rights when the school social worker stated she was excited to be taking my work on the road. I should have said you cannot do that because you did not buy the play, but only the workshop opportunity to help you present the play to your school, not to your school board. As a professional, I thought she would have known that doing what she planned to do would be taking advantage of an artist’s copyright. Nonetheless, her un-professionalism certainly motivated me to learn more about protecting my original work.
In preparation for the career changes I was making to become a social business entrepreneur with innovative creative books, products, and services, I was fortunate for the opportunities to participate in self-employment programs, and even an angel investment contest, for which I had been accepted into the presentation preparatory workshop.
Still too naïve and trusting, months later I was shocked when a consultant, who had led one of the workshop series I participated in, until I dropped out of because of a move out of the area, contacted me months later, and without permission, sent me a message informing me he had created a business plan for my initiative. The very fact he did this compelled me without discussing the notion first resulted I my not even being able to consider his proposal because of how his presumptuous and invasion of privacy also demonstrating his low “Respect Level” for my original work and me.
In contrast, not wanting to infringe on another creative person’s rights, when I initially registered my innovative creative idea, first registered as the non-profit organization, It Is All About Respect Inc., I did my research and discovered a male American writer was using respect as a key element of his book. However, my research revealed his use of respect was significantly different in context and therefore was not a copyright infringement. His premise was that respect is something men need in relationships rather than my broader thesis that presents the idea of transforming respect to a principle versus the historical and present discretionary context as a value, unfortunately used to divide people by fostering prejudice and exclusivity.
Considering all these barriers, and even other barriers not mentioned here, it is no wonder many people give up, not only on their dreams, but also on who they really are and the unique value they can add to our world. As for me, at an early age, I was redirected to other paths people regarded as right for them or were socially acceptable, though not for me. Now, with a “Respect Level” high enough to overcome the barriers and challenges encountered, I choose to stand with those who believe, not only in the value of their work for themselves, but for the value their work adds to the lives of others and as a result, I forge on demonstrating to others who need role models to inspire them to believe that who they are matters regardless of their uniqueness, approved or not.
KAITLIN ANN TREPANIER
Specialist Writer Speaker Social Entrepreneur Founder and President
of Connecting The Dots With The Respect Principle
Smashwords interview @ www.smashwords.com
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January 18, 2020