In May 2020, an important call-in was led by community members Shaista Latif, Sedina Fiati and Claire Burns encouraging the community to ask Buddies in Bad Times to acknowledge, document, reflect, and reconcile past harms and inequities at the company.
We have been doing this. We made time to step back, listen, reflect, pivot and focus on institutional learning and implementing change. Staff organized a regular self-education reading club for six months and participated in regular workshops facilitated by subject matter experts. Staff led and participated in brainstorms generating action plans which have been steadily implemented across functions.
Accepting the responsibility to do better and to lead by example, staff continue to devote significant time do the work of learning and unlearning as a team.
We acknowledge that systems change is not done overnight; to be innovative and progressive requires ongoing practice and imagining.
A year ago, some senior staff and the previous Board have left the Company owing to differences in strategy for moving forward. For more regarding these shifts in governance and human resources, please see the Community Q&A. While unanticipated, sometimes ruptures are necessary, and ultimately, healthy for continued growth. We thank the previous staff and Board members for their contributions and for helping to make Buddies what it is and will be.
You can read some highlights of the actions undertaken to date below. The list includes the formation of a Third-Party Review committee that is helping to develop actions and keep us accountable. You can also read previous statements on our organizational review and transformation page.
Throughout the past two years, with the help of community members and specialized consultants, many organizational and structural changes and new initiatives have been and continue to be implemented. Some highlights include:
- A Third-Party Review Committee was formed out of the call-in that took place in May 2020 asking for action around past harms and inequities at the company. Shaista Latif, Sedina Fiati and Claire Burns who had led the call-in are core members of the Third-Party Review Committee, alongside Buddies staff and Board members. They are currently conceiving key elements in helping the community and the company make changes that will better protect marginalized and precarious workers in the arts industry. They are being paid for this work.
- Initiated by the Third-Party Review Committee, plans are underway for community gatherings and community consultations for Spring 2023 and January 2024. Claire, Sedina, and Shaista will be co-producing these events with the company with additional support from the arts network/incubator Generator. The purpose of these community events is to help open pathways for collaboration and build solidarity amongst creatives who operate in and outside of institutions. The Third-Party Review Committee looks forward to providing context for this process and is eager to work with others to imagine and implement labour protections for all.
- Quarterly company training sessions have been implemented, focusing on anti-racism and anti-oppression (AR/AO) and skills-building to reflect community needs (e.g. basic ASL training for bar and front-of-house / box office staff).
- Production schedules have been restructured to improve work-life balance for all. We are avoiding the long hours of ‘10/12 days’ by extending the number of total production days. So far, the net effect reported by artists and staff include reduced stress, giving people time back for self-care, enabling production staff to be more accommodating to incoming artists / groups, and generally imbuing creation and production processes with better energy.
- Salaries and fees have been reviewed and adjusted to make compensation congruent to time and scope of work, implementing annual cost-of-living adjustments for permanent contracts and living wages for independent contracts. Contracts have been revamped for employees and contractors to clearly communicate role, responsibilities, and company policies.
- The Ante-Chamber space has been renovated with a focus on accessibility, digital creation, and relaxed performances. The space is currently used as a mask-on zone, includes a custom-designed wheelchair-accessible bar, and is used as a chill space for relaxed performances. Production work areas have increased physical access for crew and technicians. The Cabaret booth is now wheelchair accessible. The Chamber tech booth is not yet fully accessible as it requires more resources and planning.
- New funding has been secured to reimagine governance, leadership structures and organizational processes to be more adaptive to change and pro-active about community needs. The Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence is helping to deliver some of this work. In-depth policy audits are still ongoing, informed by the Third-Party Review Committee’s continued work. Hiring practices are being reviewed for bias and barriers.
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