Planting Seeds: Sustaining Leadership Growth

Posted by Ebony McKinney, Apr 08, 2010 0 comments

Last April, we held our first public event, Evolve & Vocalize. We asked the audience of 80 folks, a multi-disciplinary crowd of predominantly Gen X and Gen Y’s (with some progressive Boomers mixed in) on an early Saturday morning at SoMarts Cultural Center… “What could we enact now that will make a positive, powerful impact on your arts sector career in the future?” Our steering committee heard that there was a need for self-organizing, better connections to peers and mentors, access to relevant capacity building services and interest in experimenting with new business models.

The recent award from Hewlett and Irvine made it possible for us to spend dedicated time researching and creating an outline of our future in a 4-year strategic plan, action plan and budget. It’s also helping provide focused learning, knowledge sharing and network building opportunities like our spring 2010 series, New Growth : a spotlight on new ways of working. These funds, to a great extent, have allowed us to be more reflective and proactive.

Possibly because they’re facing both budget constraints and an over abundance of need, it seems that grantmakers are asking, what other types of support can be provided beyond the initial award? Technical assistance, access to regional convenings and professional mentorship, are equally important and could be key in cultivating sustained growth in new leaders. Increased visibility could also extend the initiatives impact.

Access to seminars and trainings have enriched our thinking and allowed us to work smarter. I thought so highly of a session The Monitor Institute conducted at The Nonprofit Management Institute at Stanford, which I was able to attend with a grantee scholarship, that I invited them to speak to our group later this month. We’ll discuss how to build a healthy network and engage in a personal mapping network exercise, which explores the social capital in the room at The Power of Networks on April 20th at the San Francisco Foundation.

Later this year, the Center for Cultural Innovation, at the behest of our funders, will coordinate a series of statewide convening’s with the four Emerging Leader Networks in California (San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles). These sessions will focus on information exchange, knowledge sharing and cohort building. Our group is interested in learning more about the make-up and focus of other groups so that we may gain a deeper understating of the complex ecosystem we inhabit and where opportunities for collaboration might exist.

There is a wealth of experience and expertise housed within these foundations that can be of benefit to emerging arts administrators. Funders can offer insight on rising trends in the field and advice on areas such as evaluation, finance, strategic planning and general management. They can also broker new relationships with other leaders and arts professionals. But of course it’s important to know your own mind.

The Creative Capacity Fund (CCF)*, another Hewlett and Irvine grantee, will soon offer emerging arts leaders across the state direct support to attend workshops, conferences and other local and national professional development opportunities. This type of investment can have exponential benefits, for individuals and organizations. By increasing the skills held by young professionals, funders are strengthening the organizations they currently work with, and those they’ll work with in the future.

Earlier this year, James Irvine Foundation’s president Jim Canales, wrote about this initiative in his President’s letter, saying “…The sector’s future depends in part on its ability to retain and cultivate talented young arts professionals so that they can more effectively move into leadership roles in the coming years. This will require a commitment not just on the part of funders such as Irvine, Hewlett and, hopefully, others, but also on the part of arts organizations themselves to make leadership development among their highest priorities.” Greater visibility around arts leadership can lead to even greater investment.

So that’s what’s up. What’s going on in Chicago, Seattle, DC or Baltimore or wherever you are? What would it take to sustain (or start up) leadership development in your area? What type of support would make a difference to you and your peers? An Emerging Leader Network? A professional development fund? I’d like to hear from you.

*CCF is administered by the Center for Cultural Innovation.

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