Sustainable and responsible festivals


In his article titled Policy for Sustainable and Responsible Festivals and Events: Institutionalization of a New Paradigm (Getz, 2009), Donald Getz (2009) has propounded a two-pronged strategy of expansion of scope and reach of public policy and its institutionalization to leverage the prospect of sustainable and responsible planned events. In their response article, Dredge and Whitford (2009) have disagreed to and criticized Getz's contentions, mainly the four theoretical premises of Getz's paper: 1) Present framework of public policy research is underdeveloped, 2) Delimiting, and thus expanding the scope and substance of policy concerns is a plausible idea, 3) Government intervention in this domain is primarily guided by economic concerns based on neoliberalism approach, and 4) Institutionalization of new policy paradigm by the government apparatus is possible, also advisable.

This brief paper intends to compare and contrast the dominant features of the two documents, and latterly, to argue that Dredge and Whitmore's mode of denial is ill-founded, flawed and out of place.

Comparative study of the two documents

Getz's work dwells largely on the inhibiting shortcomings of the prevailing policy in the first part, and recommendations that allow for future corrective agenda in the second part. The concise features of the article are:

  • Present policy-oriented research points towards marketing- centric approach so far; it takes into primary consideration the commercial aspects, concerns and interests of the for-profit sector.
  • A far less impetus and importance is awarded to social-cultural-environmental paradigms that have gained ever-increasing core relevance in contemporary parleys.
  • The triple-bottom-line - TBL approach detailed in the document is its guiding principle, which essentially strives to correct the imbalance cited above.
  • Inevitably, hitherto lesser studied and considered notions from the social-cultural-environmental combine ought to be incorporated in the new public policy to create fair-minded and inclusive sustainable practices. This envisaged integration will accrue rich dividends in enhancing the value of social equity vis--vis monetary equity, "It is through social capital...that collective action and strategic goals can be achieved" (Weisingera and Black, 2005).
  • In the domain of responsible festivals and events, corporate citizenship is advocated, thereby allocating considerable social responsibility to this for-profit corporate sector. Contextually, the result of a country-wide survey of leading Australian CEOs vindicates Getz's cherished goal, "More and more people, individuals and groups, are increasingly calling on business to be more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable; to be accountable and transparent; to be inclusive; to be ethical and more equitable" (Birch, 2002).
  • The present superstructure of festivals and planned events is crumbling under the growing weight of pressures exerted by various stakeholders - government, qazi-government agencies, nodal bodies, for-profit sector, non-profit sector, research and development sector, participant or impacted communities, and others. Given this wear-and-tear, faced with the choice of renovation/reconstruction or deconstruction of this superstructure, Getz has sided with the latter choice and advocated creation of a new public policy that is collaborative and inclusive, hence more sustainable and socially responsible. It is rightly noted in one reading, "Orientation to the diverse interests of stakeholder groups is central to strategic planning, and failure to address the interests of multiple stakeholder groups may be detrimental to company [policy in this case] performance" (Greenley & Foxall, 2003, p. 259).
  • As a cure to these problems, Getz has favored this core solution: Evolve and implement a new policy 'amphitheatre' in which an inclusive body of actors including those from the social-cultural-environmental can act out their roles efficiently and effectively, thus leveraging delimiting of public policy and its institutionalization.

The Dredge and Whitford doctrine is responsive with a negative bias. In general, it does not propose any fresh, innovative solutions. It appears that its preset goal is to contradict Getz's prophesies and provide research-backed contrary solutions. Much of the authors' efforts are directed at opposing the four pillars of Getz's theoretical framework as mentioned earlier. What is more, they go beyond academic discussion in their arguments and hint that Getz deliberately propounds ideas that "privileges his own background and disciplinary perspective..."(Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.4). They also criticize Getz's 'oversimplistic' and 'overgeneralized' theoretical approaches, which, according to them, lack in pragmatism, "The world is complex and messy, it defies overarching universal explanations and simple cause and effect rules" ..."(Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.4). The authors also oppose the comprehensiveness of Getz's proposed policy on two grounds: Firstly, they opine that there are simply too many diverse actors in this arena, and to strive to evolve a comprehensive rational, plausible and workable new policy paradigm that ensures every stakeholder's interests is a gross overexpectation, "Each agency frames their involvement according to different agendas, values and interests" ... (Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.6). Instead, they opt for a networked and adaptive policy approach that supposedly irons out the overlapping of stakeholder interests and provides a seamless policy approach.

Related reading cites that the dominant notion of horizontal integration of various stakeholders, and more importantly, the integration of their interests, which is what the Getz theory effectively proposes, comes in handy to leverage the perceived benefits from its application, "Horizontal integration leads to a larger market base for the merged firms [the alignment of various stakeholders in this case], and thus helps reputation building..." (Hongbin & Ichiro, 2009).

Finally, Dredge and Whitford vocally oppose the Getz model of institutionalization of government controlled public policy on the grounds that such an interventionist approach will only work towards promoting commercial and profit-oriented nuances, which will go against the core ethos of TBL. Typically, the authors harp on the themes of over simplicity and overgeneralization to criticize Getz in his inability to understand the nitty-gritty of complex governmental machinery and varied forces at work therein, and typically again, they propose a contrary qazi-governmental nature of institutionalization.

Conclusion: How and why Dredge's and Whitford's criticism appears flawed

The following set of empirical, rational and evidence based theses help reaching a conclusion that the response of Dredge and Whitford to Getz's document is flawed, even mal-intentioned.

  1. Dredge and Whitford have argued against the four different premises of Getz's propositions as mentioned earlier. These are diverse propositions impacting the subject in different areas, and a logical, systemic as well as systematic opposition to them should produce correspondingly different sets of argumentative points. However, the authors have used typically similar sets of argumentative points to criticize these four aspects of Getz's paper; namely, oversimplification, overgeneralization, perceived and real gap between theoretical approach and ground realities, nuances about research typicality, etc. The repetitive arguments almost universalize them, and seem intrinsically doubtful and skeptical.
  2. Contemplation on the Dredge and Whitford document produces a looming impression that bias and preconceived negativity dominate its rationale. Although the authors claim to have criticized Getz "in the spirit of critical, engaging academic debate" (Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.1), their tonality seems more involved with proving Getz wrong rather than proving their arguments right. The paper's voice is akin to that of professional competitors arguing their point rather than academic scholars doing so. The notion is reinforced by the fact that throughout their critique of Getz's paper, Dredge and Whitford are unable to locate a single specific point of agreement. Further, the voice is avoidably and unwarrantedly antagonistic at a few places, which does not befit the spirit of healthy academic deference, "Like Getz, we draw from our own eclectic professional backgrounds" (Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.4).
  3. While opposing Getz's theses of delimiting public policy and institutionalizing it by governmantalizing it to make it sustainable and responsible, the authors apparently take support of a "plethora of research" (Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.6, p.9), yet they fail to cite a single such research reference at that point of debate.
  4. While opposing Getz's pitch for institutionalization of public policy, the authors don't at all touch upon Getz's vital accompanying proposition, that of forming new institutions rather than depending upon renovation or reconstruction of the prevailing institutions to execute the said new public policy. This is very surprising, considering the depth of criticism on other points.
  5. Lastly but emphatically, going against their stated aim of providing a healthy academic opposition to Getz's paper, the authors have trespassed this threshold by hinting that Getz's opinions and recommendations are an indirect agenda of promoting his own career interests, "he privileges his own background and disciplinary perspectives which arguably is influenced by the field of planning, and in particular, positivist constructions of planning" (Dredge and Whitford, 2009, p.4). This is an ethically flawed approach to academic argument.

To conclude, this paper differs with Dredge's and Whitford's differences with Getz's proposals, and has strived to support its position by citing case-specific, generic as well as issue based and ethics-based oppositions.


  • Birch, David. (2002).Corporate citizenship in Australia: some ups, some downs.(business research data).Available: Last accessed 23 February 2010.
  • Dredge, Dianne; Whitford, Michelle. (2009). Policy for sustainable and responsible festivals and events: institutionalisation of a new paradigm - a response.Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events. 2 (1), p1-13.
  • Getz, Donald(2009) 'Policy for sustainable and responsible festivals and events: institutionalization of a new paradigm', Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, 1: 1, 61 78
  • Greenley, Gordon E and Foxall, Gordon R. (2003). Multiple Stakeholder Orientation in UK Companies and the Implications for Company Performance.Journal of Management Studies. 34 (2), 259-284.
  • Hongbin, Cai; Ichiro, Obara. (2009). Firm reputation and horizontal integration..RAND Journal of Economics.
  • Waddock, Sandra ; Graves, Samuel B. (2006).The impact of mergers and acquisitions on corporate stakeholder practices.Available: Last accessed 23 February 2010.
  • Weisingera, Judith Y; Black, Janice A. (2005). Strategic Resources and Social Capital.Irish Journal of Management.

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