Who we were
In early 2015 my trustees and I came to the painful conclusion that IdeasTap would have to close. It was a difficult moment for me, and for the whole IdeasTap team.
It came after six years of unprecedented success, during which time we funded, trained, connected and found work for more creative people than I could have dreamed possible in the charity’s early days.
I set up IdeasTap in 2008 amid the fast-growing global financial crisis. My trustees and I could see the impact it was going to have on young people leaving education and, in particular, we were concerned about those entering the arts and creative industries. We wanted to do something about it, and IdeasTap was our response: funding for creative projects, unique industry opportunities, training, advice, online and offline networking, job listings and more — all for free.
My vision was for a three-part programme. Firstly, working with some of the most prestigious arts organisations in the country to establish new competitions, commissions and training schemes for young people. Secondly, creating our own programme of funding and competitions. And thirdly, building a website to host and promote it all: a one-stop-shop for creative opportunities in the UK.
I was fortunate enough to meet Kevin Spacey in the early days and this led to our first partnership with Old Vic New Voices. The National Youth Theatre quickly followed and with these two fantastic organisations on board we launched IdeasTap in December 2008. Over the next six years, those founding partners became 53 major arts organisations including the National Theatre, BFI, Magnum Photos, mac birmingham, Writers’ Centre Norwich and Sky Academy.
We grew quickly, with more than 200,000 members across the UK by 2015 and millions of people visiting our website every year. We gave away more than £2.3m in funding and mentoring to our members and 70,000 people benefited from opportunities we created — quite aside from all those who met collaborators through our site, found jobs or were inspired by our editorial and advice.
We worked hard to make IdeasTap what it was, and I am enormously proud of what we and our members achieved together. I’m proud of all the career-changing competitions we created, and of our Spa, which offered hundreds of free professional training events every year. I’m proud of our Creative Space scheme, which enabled members to run businesses from our building in return for pro bono work for IdeasTap.
“It has been an inspiring journey that has given me huge personal satisfaction, but also taught me a great deal.”
But I’m perhaps most proud of the way we included members at every level of our operation — as trustees, as members of our executive board, as advisors, as contributors and as suppliers. We listened to them every step of the way and this was crucial to our success.
The creative sector is full of people with inflated egos. Is mine satisfied? The answer is yes. It has been an inspiring journey that has given me huge personal satisfaction, but also taught me a great deal. I am of course disappointed that we were unable to find the funding for IdeasTap to continue, as I know we could have helped many thousands more people — and the need for organisations like ours is now greater than ever. But we can close with our heads held high, knowing that we created something extraordinary.
I would like to give special thanks to Amanda, James and Sarah, who have been with me from those early days — IdeasTap wouldn’t have achieved what it has without you. And I want to thank all of those who cared and who contributed, who helped to make it all possible. If you’re reading this then you're probably one of them — I hope you enjoy this celebration of all that we did together.
Peter De Haan, Chairman and Founder of IdeasTap – 8 July 2015
From the very beginning, these were the basic principles that guided everything we did:
Open and inclusive
We aimed to be accessible, open, inclusive and friendly – never elitist. We talked to our members as one equal to another and tried never to be pretentious, patronising or aloof.
To join, to apply, to read, to attend, to participate and to win.
We were as open as possible, ensuring that members could see who applied for our funds and competitions, who was shortlisted and who won. You could only apply through our site – there were no back doors.
Our professional training programme – The Spa – operated on a first-come, first-served basis, to ensure that everyone had an equal chance to benefit.
We actively sought to take risks on new work, rather than backing safe options. Not every project we funded succeeded, but we knew that every participant would learn vital lessons in the process, whatever the outcome.
In an industry where working for free is all-too-common, we were determined to pay our members properly for everything they did for us – and encourage our partners to do the same.
Involving our members
Our members were at the forefront of everything we did and every decision we made. They gave us an incredible amount of feedback through regular surveys – which dictated the direction we moved in as a charity.
They were also actively involved at every level of our organisation – as trustees, on our management boards, judging our funds, writing for our magazine, designing our marketing materials, producing our festivals, coding our newsletters and representing us at events.