Defining R & D in the cultural sector: why we need innovation in grantmaking strategy

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As part of the research project I'm working on with the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation (see previous posts), I recently had the opportunity to attend the Annual Forum for Nesta's Digital R & D Fund for the Arts in London. To give you the lay of the land in case you don't already know anything about it, Nesta calls itself "an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organizations bring great ideas to life." Nesta works in partnership with other businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and funders to increase social … [Read more...]

Announcing Hothouse: Exploring new ideas in co-working with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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Something new is launching in Minneapolis next week! I'm excited to announce Hothouse, a 12-week pilot co-working project I've created as MIA Entrepreneur in Residence. In collaboration with Hunter Palmer Wright, Venture Innovation Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Hothouse will explore whether and how the museum can foster a creative co-working space that is inspired by the museum’s collections, capabilities, and setting but operates independently as a lively incubator and convener. The pilot will demonstrate new ways the museum … [Read more...]

Practicing extreme transparency: Why does your “About Us” section have to be so boring?

Entrance to Walnut Creek's maintenance yard

As part of a major project I’m working on with the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the websites of cultural organizations; looking at their apps, social media projects, and other digital channels; visiting them to see projects first-hand; and talking with them about the capabilities and resources needed to do the work. In the course of this research I’m engaging with interesting people and seeing a lot of terrific work and so I’ve decided to start blogging about it, in part to engage all of you in … [Read more...]

Don’t hope

Graffiti photo by Rupert Ganzer

About a month ago there was a NY Times interview with Ben Lerer, co-founder and chief executive at Thrillist Media Group. He says, "One thing we preach at work all day long is 'don't hope.' What that means is don't wait for somebody to do something for you. Don't do something 90 percent well and hope that it'll slide through. Don't rely on luck." Lerer went on, "It is important to know that you're giving as close as you can to 100 percent, dedicated effort, and you're being thoughtful about it. Definitions of hope: "The feeling that … [Read more...]

Inventive capitalization program reaping benefits for theater festival

Legacy Bond image

The Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) in Winona, Minnesota has created an inventive capitalization instrument that will interest the broader field. The Festival's "Legacy Bond Investment Program," launched in September, 2011 is a state-approved investment offer for Festival patrons that provides GRSF with significant working capital.  Essentially, GRSF is offering donors the opportunity to support the organization through interest-bearing loans, with the idea being relatively small loans ($5,000) from a relatively large number of … [Read more...]

New business models? Bring them on

Peter Frumkin

I have been following the modest torrent of discussion in the blogosphere about appropriate business models for the nonprofit cultural sector. A recently published paper was useful to my own thinking about this so I'll summarize it here and direct you to the link. The paper's author is Peter Frumkin of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the University of  Texas, Austin. It was distributed to the 100 arts leaders who are part of National Arts Strategies' CEOs Program, which convened in Austin in May and is now posted on the … [Read more...]

Does your organization need a Chief Experience Officer?

A big part of our choice of favorite products and companies comes from the quality of how they engage us. My favorite coffee shop not only has the best coffee in Saint Paul but also the best playlist going in the shop, the best free Internet access, comfy chairs, an entertaining and useful Facebook page, and multiple ways of interacting with writers, visual artists and local food producers. It’s a sole proprietorship that’s curated by its owner in every sense of the word. Apple tries to do this on a global scale (and in my opinion, fails in … [Read more...]

Need to get more done? Maybe you need help

May11-Cover

The May 2011 issue Harvard Business Review is dedicated to "How to Get More Done," a topic that consumes a lot of us as we try to do more with less, while simultaneously pedaling uphill during our current recession.  There are a few good articles in the issue but the one that got me thinking is about the role of administrative support (The Case for Executive Assistants by Melba J. Duncan is available here.)  The point of the article is that cutting back on support staff is not a route to productivity for a team, and that, in fact, adding … [Read more...]