Birds Gotta Fly

AirbusCockpit

One of the inevitable results of traveling around the country is getting used to airline employees, especially flight attendants, talking to me–often reciting governmentally- or corporately-mandated scripts about safety or the rich benefits of airline credit cards. The presentations range from  stultifying to (occasionally) hilarious. It's fun to hear creative staff riff on the means of fastening seat belts or the use of oxygen masks. What I've … [Read more...]

Making Meaningful Connections

Helicon-IrvineConnectionsReport

The Helicon Collaborative and the Irvine Foundation have partnered on a "hit it out of the park" report addressing substantive engagement. Making Meaningful Connections presents research into the most effective practices in efforts to engage with diverse communities. (I felt this way before I saw that Building Communities, Not Audiences was listed in the bibliography.) In the introduction they make the case that engaging with new communities is … [Read more...]

Community Engagement ≠ Charity

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A couple of weeks ago my blogging buddy Trevor O'Donnell posted one of his parting essays, "Community Engagement is a Lousy Way to Sell Tickets." [Disclosure: we had been corresponding on the subject in the days ahead of that post.] In it he highlights the fact that community engagement does not generate much in the way of immediate ticket sales and to expect it to do so demonstrates a lack of understanding of the nature of the work. He also … [Read more...]

Civil Rights Museum

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After attending the Americans for the Arts Convention in Nashville last month my wife and I went on to Memphis to explore another city that we had not visited. As part of that trip we went to the National Civil Rights Museum. (On a personal note, I had not registered the museum's subtitle "At the Lorraine Motel" so when I arrived I had the breath knocked out of me seeing "the balcony.") Coming so soon after the conference session I discussed in … [Read more...]

Frames of Reference

UpsideDownMap

"They're an hour behind." Recently, landing in Des Moines on a flight from Charlotte, I overheard a fellow passenger say this to their seatmate. I often hear people describe time zone differences this way, so I might have ignored it; but on this occasion, the tone of voice implied something about the speaker's attitude toward our destination. It sounded a tad condescending, as if the clocks might not be the only thing that was "behind" in this … [Read more...]

Getting to “Us”

TomatoesJalapeno

I have commented before on the habit of mind in the arts world that separates "us" and "them," especially with respect to our communities. Most directly, in Want-Need: "Them"? I suggested that: [W]e need to see our constituencies (and potential constituencies) not as "them." We need to understand that, together, we are all "us" in the application of the arts to make all our lives better. This requires humility (Humilité, Discovering … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That

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In But . . . How? I mentioned that I often am confronted with two vastly different "realities" with respect to arts organizations' commitment to community engagement. High ranking officials will say that commitments to community are deep and wide while others (often education staff) describe their organization's work as arts business as usual–focused almost exclusively on the art. Actually, on more than one occasion I've been faced with tears … [Read more...]

And

Ampersand

Last fall, Francesca McKenzie of ArtsFwd posted about a pair of improvisational comedy schools/clubs (The New Movement) in Austin, TX and New Orleans: "Yes, and." Ms. McKenzie begins with an acknowledgment of a fundamental truth about the competition faced by the arts today: In order to sustain meaningful audience engagement, many arts organizations aim to market themselves as uniquely different, providing a service or experience that movies, … [Read more...]

UX Design

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I recently learned a new concept: User Experience Design. (Thanks Devon Smith and Barry Hessenius–Barry's Blog Interview with Devon Smith.) Once again I find that a product development/management concept from the information technology world resonates with community engagement work. (I mentioned the idea of "community manager" in How to Engage.) The essence of UX Design is fairly self-explanatory. How can the experience of the end user of the … [Read more...]

Go to the Gemba

Gemba

Show of hands. Who knows what the title of this post means? As I've mentioned before, my son is a higher ed IT management consultant. From him I learn many fascinating things about what's going on in the world of management theory and practice. Recently he told me that one of his favorite approaches–Lean, derived from Toyota's management style in the 1980's (which was the heart of Japan's conquering the automobile industry)–incorporates the … [Read more...]