Arts Commission Strategic Planning

Peg Holman pholman at
Wed Dec 22 11:40:44 PST 1999

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and ideas on this work.  Several of you asked to be kept informed as we proceed.  So here's a little more about the project, where we are and responses to some of your comments.  The responses have gotten long; my apologies for that.  I hope you find value in these contents.  I know your questions were of great value to me.

One last question of all of you:
I still wonder if there are any successful examples of using technology to stay connected following an OS.  Anyone have stories about this?

Enjoy the holidays.  I treasure this list for the relationships I have made through it and the learning it has given me.


To recap, the basic form of this effort is a state-wide OS followed by 18 community OSs.  The theme for these events is "Issues & opportunities for arts and culture in the state and your communitites."  A second statewide OS will then happen.  Its purpose is to bring focus to what is most important for arts & culture in the state and communities.  I see the first OS and community OSs as the time of divergence.  A "breathing in and out" to explore possibilities.  The second OS has a twist -- it is an OS of convergence since its purpose is to focus what comes out of the other events. 

We just had a wonderful gathering of the 18 OS practitioners who are helping with the community gatherings.  We made extensive use of the arts in telling the story of the work and invited them in to the questions that I asked about on the list: ideas for creating linkages among the gatherings; ways of documenting the 3.5 hour OSs.  They provided a wonderful solution that we modeled in our meeting.  When we came together at the end of the meeting, we captured highlights of our work on flip charts to create a group reflection of the event.  We then asked each person to silently reflect on what key idea or insight they are taking away from this gathering.  Each person wrote a phrase or drew something on a "chain link" (a strip of colored paper).  We closed the circle by hearing each "link" spoken and watching the person attach their link to the growing chain/sculpture.  We envision taking these chains from meeting to meeting to symbolically acknowledge the individual communities and their links to each other.

I'll elaborate further on this work as I respond to some of the questions you had of me.


* From Jim Lord:
>Most organizations are held back by the sense that their resources are finite and never sufficient.  Consciously or otherwise, this view >acts to inhibit their imagination, vision and enterprise.  If our resources are limited, then our horizons must also be limited. 

Interesting you should mention this.  One aspect of the work I've been doing with the sponsor and her staff is to re-think the role of the arts commission.  The fear that people will want them to do more than they have resources to do is very real.  There are a couple aspects to the reframing.  First, to think of this work as an invitation to participate.  That participation means that ANYONE, based on passion and responsibility, can take action; not just Arts Commision staff.  Their role changes from one of DOING everything to one of leverage.  The work of manifesting the strategic plan can come from anywhere and everywhere because people have been invited in to participate.  By focusing on ensuring information is easily available, they can support work happening anywhere.

A second aspect of this has been to think about the plan as having a larger aspect: an expression of a shared vision or the common ground among everyone participating.  The Arts Commission is supporting the community in seeing their common ground.  Anyone can and undoubtedly will act on this.  Another aspect of the plan is the specifics that WSAC (Washington State Arts Commission) is choosing to take on to manifest the shared vision.  This approach allows for all voices to be heard and WSAC to make choices based on what it feels it is best equipped to address directly.

* From Muriel Finegold:
>What about combining some Appreciative Inquiry with Open Space and gathering stories from each of your events.  

and from BJ Peters:
>I have found that using the combination of AI and OS energizes people and opens them to possibilities of will, commitment AND

As an AI practitioner, I have held the question of the role AI will play in this work.  The Arts Commissioners engaged in an inquiry that led both to the question for the Open Spaces AND helped them to understand each other and their work much more deeply.  

I know that I will invite people in the beginning of the first state-wide Open Space to reflect on how the arts have made a difference in their own lives and invite them to notice how their stories show up for them as they participate in the Open Space.

We have also discussed using AI if we need to reach any stakeholder groups who don't attend any OSs in sufficient numbers.  

* Offline from Michael Pannwitz:
>Have a preparation/training session for the 18 facilitators in open space to get them focused on the project.

A brilliant idea!  As I mentioned, the 18 OS practitioners who have agreed to open the community meetings came together for a wonderful preparation session.  I think 18 seeds left that room with a deeper insight into the potential impact we can have not just on the arts in our state but on unleashing passion and responsibility wherever we go.

* From Harrison Owen:
>One thing you might do it so all the community events at the same time 

and from Kerry Napuk:
>might you consider a rapporteur for each travelling session, that is, bring one person from the previous session to the new one to >communicate the buzz?  

and from Koos de Heer:
>I would look for both symbolic ways and ways that communicate information. 

I LOVE the idea of doing all 18 events at once!  Didn't think of it when we did the inital planning and I know Kris (the head of the Arts Commission) would have gone buggy planning the logistics.  Something to consider another time.  The events are spread, 3 a week, over 6 weeks.  I think this will be intense and allow for building momentum and buzz over that time.

The idea of a rapporteur is also wonderful and something we will explore.  At a minimum, we'll carry the chains created in each session around the state in testimony to the growing body of understanding and connection.  I hope it acts both as a symbol and source of information for everyone involved.

* From Erich Kolenaty:
>What is working best with a limited number of people (let's say up to 10, max. 15 working groups a round) is to generate a new social >structure for 30 -45 minutes: The working groups are still sitting together in circles like leaves of a flower and in the inner circle the >facilitator is sitting with the workshop invitors and talks about what they feel about the work in the groups and what they think the main >results have been. After this: talking stick round or next working round. Theres is less focus on the contents and more attention to the >links bitween. 

While we will move back into one large circle, we are inviting reflection and discussion on the main insights from the work as I described early in this e-mail.  Your comment about noticing the links between seems vital to me.  I hope this work inspires local communities to continue gathering long after WSAC has gone.

* From Brian Bainbridge:
>Q1.  Are the 18 sessions to build on one another ?  If so, then some continuity format would be critical.  If not (as seems the case) then
>each session would have the option of starting afresh from where the first 1-day session left off and each group make its own way.  


>Q2.  Is the second 1-day session to simply draw together into a strategy the outcomes of the 18 half-day sessions ?  If so, then some
>form of presenting to that 1-day session the outcomes of the 18 affairs would be vital, and then use the day as a convergence and >decisioning exercise rather than opening up new material.  

A1.  Your question on the need for continuity between sessions is a good one for me!  In one sense, each meeting is independent.  Yet there is a deeper sense of connection involved.  The president of WSAC's board made a statement during our planning that his hope is that this work  "creates a strong, unified voice speaking about the important role the arts play in our lives.  Whether people are from rural or urban settings, small or large organizations, there is common ground to be claimed."  

My hope is this process engages people in uncovering and embracing that ground.  My hunch is some sort of connection from meeting to meeting acts as a reminder that they are all in this together.  I think having the chains in the room does this in a way that allows the connection to be noticed and leaves each community free to do its own work.  And if its not working, well, we'll evolve as we go!

A2.  Brian, you are right on that a challenge of the second OS is to engage people in what has come before so that the focus of the second state-wdie OS is more like the last half-day of a 2.5 day event.  The design of this is still to come, but I see it opening with a "gallery walk" through the various works (flip charts, drawings, scultures, whatever is created) from every session.  We are planning on putting a blank mural on the wall in each session titled "a picture of arts and culture in our community & the state" and inviting people to create the picture throughout the session.  These murals will be posted.  There will also be proceedings available to read.  I'm imagining spending the opening hour or so inviting people to look at and read whatever they wish about what has come before.  The OS would then strart with a question along the lines of "Based on what you've seen, read, discussed, what do you see as the most important work for arts and culture to pursue?"  And rather than encouraging divergence, invite people with similar ideas to come together.  Anyway, design thoughts are definitely welcome!

Many, many thanks to everyone for your questions and thoughts.  They challenge me to think about choices we made and choices we continue to make.

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