Researcher/Research Consultant – Social Protection Challenges and Opportunities in the Cultural And Creative Sector in MENA Region Post Covid-19
The Open Society Foundations’ Middle East and North Africa Program has served as partner and donor of the independent cultural and creative industries across the MENA region for the past two decades. Its work has focused on field building, supporting an ecosystem for production, and incubating and strengthening core cultural institutions at the national and regional levels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the cultural and creative industries. Around the world, the livelihoods of artists and cultural professionals have been profoundly affected by lockdown and physical distancing measures. The precarious nature of their work has made them particularly vulnerable to the economic shocks caused by the crisis, which have, in turn, exacerbated the creative sector’s preexisting volatility and inequalities. Artists and cultural professionals have lost their jobs in record numbers and around the world, the sector is fighting to survive.
The COVID-19 crisis has also revealed a persistent need for improved mechanisms to protect the social, economic and working conditions of artists and cultural professionals. Now, more than ever, the status of the artist must be upheld, strengthened and reinforced. The question around social protection in the creative industries has emerged strongly post-COVID19 and continues to raise questions on how different actors within the ecosystem plan to adjust to a new reality where artists and cultural practitioners are not left unprotected.
The Open Society Foundations’ MENA Program is interested in better understanding the nature of precariousness and fragility of the creative and cultural sector, as made evident by the COVID19 crisis, across the MENA region. We seek to better articulate the needs of the sector’s labor by identifying the unique employment characteristics, the policies that are designed to protect the sector (or lack thereof) and emerging models regionally and globally that can be promoted across MENA countries. In specific, this research is meant to answer the below questions:
  • Understanding the Arts and Culture labor sector: sub-sectors (performing arts, visual arts, music, film, curation, literature and publishing, etc.), diverse forms of employment (artist, technician, curator, producer, distributor, etc.) , cultural economies, and cultural policies.
  • COVID19 and its impact on the sector; how did governments respond? What emerging needs are becoming more evident post COVID19?
  • The MENA Region and Employment Policy Trends: Where does the Artist fit? Inequalities within the arts and culture sector?
  • Non-governmental stakeholders: the role of civil society and the private sector in securing and protecting the sector’s workers.
  • What are the prospects for promoting social protection within the cultural sector? (Social Security Systems, unions, cooperatives, for-profit models, informal solidarity networks)
To implement the above, the Open Society Foundation’s MENA Program seeks to hire a researcher and/or team of researchers to conduct a quantitative and qualitative study on the impact of COVID19 on the cultural sector in MENA. The study will be published and used to inform a larger civil society community that operates within the sector.
The research should seek to:
  • Identify trends and emerging issues in the sector through a bottom-up data analysis (focusing on the hundreds of applications received by emergency assistance programs launched in 2020, as well as select interviews with a representative sample of the sector from each country);
  • Map social protection policy and alternative models in MENA countries by assessing existing capacities of institutions, programs and schemes. This will include reaching out to key stakeholders such as Ministries of Culture, Social Security Institutions, Artist Unions (if applicable), Cooperatives and Civil Society Organizations, and, international and multilateral organizations leading work within this domain such as International Labor Organization, UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNCTAD and others; and finally,
  • Based on the mapping, the consultancy should identify capacity constraints and bottlenecks in the sector, and present recommendations to OSF and the Arts and Culture Donors’ Group in MENA on how to identify opportunity for either advocating for policy-reform or incubating potential viable alternative models.
The mapping should focus on Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Iran[1]. Nevertheless, for comparative and general reference, a look into modalities present in the larger region (Gulf region, Iran, and Turkey) would be welcomed.
Data sources should vary to ensure triangulation of findings. Methods to collect quantitative and qualitative data for the assignment include: (i) preliminary data decoding of applications received by anchor organizations leading emergency assistance programs, (ii) online and desk research for context analysis, policy development process and history, and a general literature review; and (iii) online and face to face interviews with artists, cultural practitioners, staff of partner cultural organizations, experts and representatives of different international and national organizations, and government officials. The assignment allows for some travel to the selected countries in order to conduct more in-depth research and interviews. Whenever possible, the qualitative analysis should be enriched with publicly available statistics.
The research team should produce:
  • A brief inception report / study design (max 4 pages) within one week after the beginning of the assignment. This will define the scope of work as understood by the consultant(s) and include a work plan. The inception report will be approved by OSF before the consultant(s) can pursue the assignment.
  • A comprehensive assessment draft report clearly detailing responses to the study objectives listed above.
  • A minimum of two roundtable discussions to inform OSF and its partners on findings and recommendations.
  • A final report that will incorporate the comments provided by OSF to be published.
  • A university degree in social sciences;
  • A combination of expertise in Social Protection Policy and in-depth knowledge of the arts and culture field in the MENA region is highly desirable when looking at the composition of consultancy team;
  • Previous experiences in conducting mapping or evaluation studies, and/or policy analysis in the cultural field or other sectors;
  • Quantitative data analysis is essential; knowledge of sentiment analysis and qualitative assessment approaches required;
  • Strong communication and analytical skills;
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills in English and Arabic is a must, working knowledge of French is desired; and
  • Project management skills and interpersonal skills.
The consultant(s) will be contracted in June 2021 and expected to have completed the assignment by the end of November 2021 as per an agreed upon consultancy contract.
Interested individuals/ teams of individuals should send their up-to-date CV, a concept note on how they plan to execute the above research and a financial proposal to Rama Halaseh at Rama.Halaseh@opensocietyfoundations.org no later than 30 May 2021. Please indicate “Social Protection in the Cultural Sector in MENA” in the subject matter.
Closing date: 30 May 2021
These Terms of Reference outline the overall interest of OSF in the evaluation. Final tasks, focus, methodology and procedures of the evaluation are subject to further discussion and confirmation with the consultant(s).