Architecture of value, part deux

Finally getting back to my summary last week of Alan Brown’s ‘Architecture of Value,’ rethinking the RAND efforts on the values and benefits of arts experiences. Alan’s model suggests five clusters of benefits, radiating out from the individual and ‘in the moment’ to the community and cumulative.

In a nutshell, the five benefits clusters are:

  • Imprint of the Arts Experience

  • Human Interaction
  • Communal Meaning
  • Personal Development, and
  • Economic & Social Benefits

You can explore all the elements within each cluster through this three-page overview (pdf format).

So, what’s an arts organization supposed to do with these benefit clusters? According to Brown, they’re supposed to explore and define, as an organization, what benefits they believe they foster for their communities — or, what benefits they strive to enable. As institutions serving the public trust — and drawing on public funding and fiscal privelege to do so — arts organizations should stive to understand, explain, and enhance their specific public, interpersonal, or individual goals. Then they should align their organization to deliver on those goals in more rich and meaningful ways.

Does that mean board members and administrative leadership should make artistic decisions? Not necessarily. But Alan suggests that all leaders of the organization should be part of the conversation. Says he in this Grantmakers in the Arts Reader article:

I hope for a time when board members of arts organizations sit down on a regular basis with both administrative and artistic staff and talk about the benefits they seek to create for their communities. Then, perhaps, board and staff will have something more to talk about than fundraising. Most board members are unprepared to participate in artistic decision-making — thats not their job — but they are eminently qualified to set overarching guidelines for how their organization can respond to community needs and create value. That is their job.

Speaking of Grantmakers in the Arts, I’m just now attending their Boston conference. Responses and insights from this convening to come…


  1. jessica says

    I agree with you 100%, Andrew. The first point in any modern marketing course is Know your audience. What exactly do they value? What are they looking to you to provide to them? It’s definitely not the same across every organization.
    I find too many organizations are basing their programming decisions on the opinions of a select few, and then making these decisions in a vacuum, completely separate from all other programs. There’s no cohesive strategy in terms of delivering value to their audience, or ensuring that every program is aligned with their long-term goals. Resources are limited, but every organization, public or private, is cognizant of their budget and efficiency is key.
    Arts organizations need to learn the proper tools to conduct market research and analysis. Granted, it may entail substantial investment, and turnover in arts organizations is high. But if the arts community is to survive in this world where money speaks louder than words, they need to maximize their artistic value by providing audiences, old and new, with what they want. This doesn’t mean curtailing innovative practices if that’s what your audience values and supports, but it’s important to learn to recognize when there’s a disconnect between mandate and audience, and engage the audience in realigning your programs. Finally, might I suggest developing metrics as adjustments to programming/administration are made to gauge any new strategy’s success?