ArtsFwd, an interactive online platform where arts leaders can learn from each other about the power of adaptive change and the practice of innovation, is holding a first-ever National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture October 20th-23rd in Denver and online. (I interviewed the head of ArtsFwd, Karina Mangu-Ward, on the blog in 2012 and co-led a Chronicle of Philanthropy Live Chat about connecting money and mission with her last spring.)
The National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture will bring together arts leaders from around the world to explore the challenges, discoveries, and achievements of daring to depart from traditional approaches. Although the Summit will take place in Denver there is also a robust virtual component. The on-site conference will bring together 250 pioneering arts leaders and funders from 14 communities who were selected based on their track record of innovation and well-developed adaptive capacities.
But the Virtual Summit is open to everyone. All 27 powerful Summit Talks will be available via livestream. The dynamic series of thematically linked 12-minute talks by bold leaders from across the country will highlight the remarkable and mostly untold stories of innovative projects unfolding in arts and culture organizations.
The themes are:
- Taking Collective Action (6p ET on 10/20)
- Co-Creating with the Public (11a ET on 10/21)
- Artists as Agents of Change (1p ET on 10/21)
- Animating Neighborhoods (5:30p ET on 10/21)
- Citizenship and the Arts (11a ET on 10/22)
- Transforming Organizational Structure (5:30p ET on 10/22)
I will be leading an online discussion in the Transforming Organizational Structure theme. In this theme, six speakers will each spend 12 minutes talking about their stories of radical restructuring inside their organizations, including new staffing structures, the creation of innovation capital, embracing risk, and redefining the meaning of success in order to support innovation. Some of the speakers include Susan Medak, Managing Director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Steven Matijcio, Curator of Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati; and Lori Fogarty, Director and CEO of Oakland Museum of California.
Instead of asking the question, “How do we survive?” these arts leaders asked the question “What do we want to accomplish and how can we rethink our work to get there?”
The Transforming Organizational Structures theme is all about breaking free from small thinking. Small thinking handcuffs organizations to the ways things have always been done, the staffing structures that have worked before, financial models that once were profitable, programs that used to draw an audience. In order to stay relevant and continue to make an impact in our communities, arts organizations increasingly need to scrap the old structures and reinvent themselves.
This is not easy work, by a long shot.
So I am eager to hear these arts leaders talk about how they stayed true to larger, longer-term goals while throwing out old structures. How they found consensus around an ultimate goal and then began to build structure around it. And how they found funding for this transformational work. Arts organizations are notoriously resource constrained, which often breeds an aversion to risk. So I look forward to hearing how these organizations broke free from that risk aversion and found a way to innovate forward.
At the end of the six talks, I will lead an online discussion among the group. My questions will include:
- What elements need to be in place in order to completely rethink organizational structure and purpose?
- How can organizations move away from thinking about structure and instead think about the ultimate end goal of the work?
- How do we move beyond the inherent risk-aversion of a financially strapped sector in order to embrace innovation?
- How do we convince funders that risk and innovation are worth funding?
The National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture promises to open our minds to new possibilities and ways forward. To participate in the Virtual Summit, register here.
I hope to see you there!
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