Sharon Jeannotte is Senior Fellow at the Centre on Governance of the University of Ottawa. From 2005 to 2007, she was Senior Advisor to the Canadian Cultural Observatory in the Department of Canadian Heritage. From 1999 to 2005, she was the Manager of International Comparative Research in the Department’s Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate. She has published research on a variety of subjects, including the impact of value change on Canadian society, international definitions of social cohesion, the points of intersection between cultural policy and social cohesion, the role of cultural participation and cultural capital in building sustainable communities, culture and volunteering, and immigration and cultural citizenship. In 2005, she co-edited with Caroline Andrew, Monica Gattinger and Will Straw a volume entitled Accounting for Culture: Thinking Through Cultural Citizenship, published by the University of Ottawa Press.
Considering your own experience, what would be your main advice to the young researchers who plan to pursue a career in the field of cultural policy?
Get as broad an education in as many fields as possible. Cultural policy and cultural policy research is inherently multidisciplinary. During my career as both a policy analyst and policy researcher I have had to become acquainted with work not only from the fields of cultural and aesthetic studies, but also from museology, sociology, psychology, economics, spatial planning and design, media and communication studies, urban studies, citizenship studies, sustainability studies, program evaluation and network theory. If you are working for government, as I did for many years, a background in political science and public administration is also invaluable. Of course, as a researcher, one tends to specialize in either quantitative or qualitative research, but it always wise to have a working knowledge of both fields if you intend to undertake cultural policy research because useful data can come in all shapes and forms.
It also helps to have a sense of humour, as sometimes the only way one can survive the pressure to show “results” is to laugh about the foibles of decision makers!
What was the worst professional advice which you might have heard throughout your career?
Curiously, I never received any professional advice on being a cultural policy researcher – probably because this is a field with which not many people are familiar. I did receive offers from time to time to leave the field and go into administration or management, but in most cases I turned them down (unless they were related to my research career) as I felt that they would less interesting. Nevertheless, the fact that the offers were made suggested to me that others thought a professional change would provide more rewards.
Who (or what) motivated you the most by now in your research work?
The variety and challenge of cultural policy research are the most motivating factors for me. It is hard to find another area where one can explore so many facets of policy and administration, meet so many interesting people, and delve so deeply into the way the people live their lives.
Any concrete achievement or failure throughout your career which you would like to share with the young researchers?
The most concrete achievements (besides seeing one’s work published and recognized by one’s peers) were those when my research was taken into consideration when public policies in the field of culture were being developed or changed. Although I can’t characterize it as a personal failure, I must say that the biggest continuing frustration that I have experienced as a cultural policy researcher has been the lack of priority given by many governments to the development of adequate databases to measure the value of cultural policies and programs.
What still keeps you in the cultural research field?
I enjoy the challenges, the people and the opportunity to bring clarity and insight to issues that are critical to the continued sustainability of our globalized societies.
What are you working on now, what’s next?
My current research focuses on culture and sustainability. This is a bit of a variation on my past research on culture and social cohesion as both subject areas concern how we can continue to live together in a rapidly changing world. I am currently working with Nancy Duxbury to co-edit a special issue of the journal Culture and Local Governance on culture and sustainability. You can find some of my more recent publications at: http://www.socialsciences.uottawa.ca/governance/eng/profdetails.asp?ID=424&pageID=2 .
Read the blog post also on LabforCulture: Young Cultural Policy Research Forum: