3 Steps to Success for Equity and Access
As a nation, we all agree that it is beneficial for every child to receive a comprehensive education, inclusive of the arts. How to operationalize this has been more elusive and challenging. Collective Impact, as shared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review article written by John Kania and Mark Kramer, outlines the conditions for broad, systemic change in social issues, and has been successfully implemented in a variety of communities across the country, including initiatives to support arts education.
In 2015, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded seven collective impact initiatives supporting a balance of established programs like Big Thought in Dallas, Austin Independent School District, Ingenuity Inc. in Chicago, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) and emerging ones (Jones County Public Schools in North Carolina, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Young Audiences of Houston), which represented a national urgency for collaboration in communities to improve arts education for all children.
At the core of these collective impact initiatives is the realization that isolated impact, exemplified typically by financial support of a singular program in one organization, will not produce the equitable and accessible arts education desired and deserved by all children. Collective impact cannot be achieved, however, without individual organizational program development and implementation.
In considering where we go from here, and creating conditions of success by individual organizations that will contribute to collective impact in arts education, there are three steps organizations should take.
- Programming with Community Needs in Mind—connected to Common Agenda and Mutually Reinforcing Activities of Collective Impact conditions for shared success, organizations design and deliver programs that support the specific arts education needs of the community. For example, if 60% of schools in the community do not have visual arts teachers, and 6 visual arts organizations have teaching artists that can lead residencies in schools, the visual arts organizations will collectively pool their resources to lead residencies in the unreached schools.
- Data Informed Decision Making—this connects directly to the Shared Measurement condition of Collective Impact. The community in the example above would have collected data from the school system itself and arts organizations to identify the schools with and without visual arts teachers, and those with and without arts partners to determine the gaps and identify the capacity to serve the students without visual arts instruction. Shared evaluation and assessment tools have also been reported in some communities engaging in collective impact.
- Community Accountability—this ties specifically to Backbone Support and Continuous Communication conditions of Collective Impact. Individual organizations have an organizational body, often an arts council or separate membership organization, to share best practices, data, and professional learning opportunities to inform and improve work in the community.
With thoughtful programming, using data to inform decisions, and being accountable to the community, individual organizations can be a meaningful part of the collective impact movement in arts education.