Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada, 2014-2018
NetGain’s principal, Doug Simpson was asked to serve as MOCCA’s part-time Interim Administrative Director after Yves Theoret left for the National Gallery of Canada. After three successive contracts, the Board asked him to help secure a new, more permanent facility, as the lease was running out at its 952 Queen Street West location in Toronto. Since then, with help from NetGain colleagues, he brokered an agreement for its future home in the historic Tower Automotive Building, at 158 Sterling Road, After the MOU was announced nationally in June of 2015, he led the subsequent lease negotiation, with strong pro bono support from Osler Hoskin Harcourt LLB, and then led a committee through the architecture and design process until the arrival of MOCCA’s first CEO, Chantal Pontbriand of this significantly larger museum space. NetGain worked with MOCCA’s first CEO, Chantal Pontbriand and continues to provide ongoing support to the Board and the interim CEO, Terry Nicholson. In his current capacity as Project Manager, Doug works on all matters relating to preparation of the building for the new MOCA, and preparation of MOCA for the new building.
NetGain Senior Associate, Suzanne Wilcox, spent nine months researching and documenting the case for federal support of MOCCA’s plans, drafting the Cultural Spaces grant application for the Department of Canadian Heritage, among other federal and provincial grant applications. She also conducted targeted research intothe Museum’s membership, as well as new operating revenue sources and economic impacts, especially related to tourism.
City of Toronto, Economic Development and Culture Division: Evaluation of Governance and Operational Models for Toronto’s Civic Theatres, 2014.
After the City of Toronto’s futile effort to achieve savings by selling, leasing, or contracting out its three civic theatre complexes in 2013, it was at last obvious that a plan was needed to get better value from these assets. The existing management structure, which pitted three separately incorporated organizations against each other in competition for programming, event rentals, and funding, made it difficult to improve their dismal utilization levels and cost per visitor. In short, they weren’t used enough and were costing too much per use, but their structures inhibited reform.
NetGain was engaged to explore different governance and operating models that would improve their performance. Reporting to a large Task Force of politicians, bureaucrats, theatre managers, board members, and community cultural advisors, the assignment required research, analysis, and presentation of options. The end result was a plan that addressed the agreed objectives and priorities of the Theatre Task Force, and helped the EDC gain Council support for fundamental change.
The research proved that, while minor cost efficiencies were possible through integration of site operations, management, and governance, this wouldn’t help increase utilization. Without a dramatic increase in utilization, the City couldn’t improve the return on the value of these assets. NetGain proposed a bold plan to achieve both efficiency and utilization improvements by contracting out theatre operations, fund raising, programming, and marketing to an arm’s length foundation, to operate in a similar way to cultural trusts in Pittsburgh and Columbus, With seed funding from the City to help with the transition and private sector fund raising, the plan promised hundreds of new event booking days for dark stages, and hundreds of thousands of additional patrons occupying the 7,000 seats available every night in large, City-owned theatres.
Toronto Media Arts Cluster, 2014-15
The Toronto Media Arts Cluster (TMAC) had been working for years to prepare for occupation of a 40,000 square foot facility, built into the pedestal of a new condominium project, under a Section 37 agreement that was negotiated between the City of Toronto and the developer, Urbancorp. Three months before their closing date, their was legitimate doubt that TMAC could meet its financial obligations to the developer in time. They engaged NetGain Partners to advise them about how to save the project.
NetGain proposed to broker an interim tripartite deal between TMAC, the City, and the developer, that would protect the intent of the original agreements sufficiently to proceed with transfer of the property as planned, but which would provide additional assurances of TMAC’s ability to meet outstanding obligations afterwards. Given the history of the project, with apparent lapses by all three parties, it was in everyone’s interests to find a way forward.
Although the NetGain plan met with enthusiasm, TMAC was struggling internally with the loss of some member organizations and pressure to adopt a different governance structure. While this was going on, critical fund raising deadlines were being missed and oversight of the construction project suffered. Decisions were put off and project costs were mounting.
NetGain’s formal participation ended before the end of 2014, but NetGain continued to provide pro bono counsel into the new year, invited to meetings by both TMAC and the City.
In the end, the TMAC group was too depleted by the strenuous demands of the project, their relationship with the developer had deteriorated, and their credibility with the City had eroded. Internecine conflicts within the TMAC group delayed the provision of assurances required by the City to extend the closing date, effectively pinching TMAC out of the project. After a very public dispute and threat of a law suit against the City, the parties agreed to mediation. The mediation was conducted by Jonathan Yen.
Canmore artsPlace, 2015
NetGain was invited to complete a small but important project in the Rockies on behalf of artsPlace, Canmore, Alberta’s new arts centre. It was a chance to meet a community that had the will and the means to shape its own cultural future. With an artisan as Mayor, and a town council with vision, Canmore is becoming what its citizens dreamed. artsPlace is a big part of that vision. In a community that is already replete with spectacular vistas, sports and health facilities, a pristine environment, great schools, a thriving economy, and strong social cohesion, an investment in culture was a recognized need. Yet, with only months to go before opening the new facility, the Board recognized that it needed to reset its goals and objectives so that the organization’s progress wouldn’t stop on the day that programming started. They had become so consumed by the demands of the new building that they hadn’t had time to think much about their future aspirations.
NetGain prepared a background profile of the town and the organization, led the Board through two planning retreats, consulted privately with all Board members, and met with the Mayor to gain a sense of what was possible, what was desirable, and what artsPlace was committed to accomplish in the years ahead. The qualitative discussion was turned into quantitative goals, and subsequently into a strategic document that artsPlace could use for planning, management, and advocacy purposes.
Toronto Art Biennale, 2015-present
Toronto City Council directed staff of the Economic Development and Culture Division to explore the viability of an international contemporary art biennale, to open in 2017, Canada’s sesquicentennial. Funding from the EDC was provided to two of the leading proponents of a biennale, who subsequently contracted NetGain Partners to undertake the analysis.
Genevieve Tran led the project, interviewing all relevant stakeholders and researching current trends and historical growth patterns of biennales around the world. She then applied what she’d learned to an evaluation of the preliminary budgets and plans provided to Council, factored in the likely effects of program partners and competitors, and drafted an extensive report highlighting the cost, risk, and requirements of a successful new biannual event. The report went on to outline the support required from the City and the benefits to be expected as a result of that support.
JazzFM’s plan to consolidate and expand its broadcast, recording, performance, and educational programs in a single facility, had been developed by another consulting firm and appeared to be ready for presentation to prospective funders. The organization thought it was wise to test the assumptions underlying its plans, and asked NetGain to provide an opinion. Based on this opinion, which was generally positive, NetGain was asked to revise and augment the presentation to made for the Minster of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa.
In the course of reviewing and validating it’s plans, NetGain investigated alternate sites, spoke with senior public officials about plans and schedules, researched economic impact numbers, and reconstructed budgets. After the presentation to the federal government, NetGain advised JazzFM further on options, including a referral to their current development partner on Toronto’s east Harbourfront.