Emerging Leaders Networks: Leveraging Impact for the Future

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Apr 02, 2012 0 comments

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

Coming up with the theme for a blog salon is always a challenge.

For the past few years that I’ve been working with our Emerging Leaders Council committee to develop our blog salons, we usually have a kernel of an idea for what to focus on. It’s ideal when the initial inspiration comes from the council, because then it’s truly coming from the field. After all, the point of our blog is to facilitate online discussion about big picture issues in the arts that we feel need to be addressed.

When thinking about this year’s salon, the council knew they wanted to feature the Local Emerging Leaders Networks around the country. Great. Love it. Easy. Done.

But what should we have them talk about?

We already talked about emerging ideas in the field last year. What’s next?

We began to think about HOW those emerging ideas get implemented. In many cases, in order for a new idea to thrive, we as individuals, organizations, the community, and the field as a whole may need to change at a very fundamental level.

Perhaps we need to change our definition of success; how our organizations are structured; how we interact with our communities; and how we make art.

Then, we read Diane Ragsdale’s February 14 blog post; If Our Goal is Simply to Preserve Our Current Reality, Why Pursue It?, where she writes about innovation and arts sector reform.  Diane’s thesis can be summed up in these sentences:

“If our goal for the next century is to hold onto our marginalized position and maintain our minuscule reach—rather than being part of the cultural zeitgeist, actively addressing the social inequities in our country, and reaching exponentially greater numbers of people—then our goal is not only too small, I would suggest that it may not merit the vast amounts of time, money, or enthusiasm we would require from talented staffers and artists, governments, foundations, corporations, and private individuals to achieve it.”

From there, we decided to focus the theme for the blog salon on the idea of change by examining four major areas of our work: advocacy; civil discourse; public, private, and social sector partnerships; and nonprofit and arts leadership development.

This week, our bloggers will answer questions such as:

  • How does your community spark development in the four areas of our work at the local level?
  • How can our organizations and communities leverage arts patronage and arts participation into broader community-based solutions to economic and social problems?
  • What actions must emerging leaders and networks take now to push the arts sector into a sustainable and socially meaningful future?
  • In what ways must tomorrow’s arts leaders also serve as community leaders?

As we were putting the final touches on this blog salon topic and in the process of inviting our bloggers to participate, I was also in the middle of reading Yvon Chouinard’s autobiography, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.

For those of you who are into such things as mountain climbing and fleece jackets, you’ll know that Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia. What does an outdoor sporting & clothing company have to do with the arts, you ask? Well, for one, arts organizations could certainly learn a bit from reading Chouinard’s management philosophy and his focus on building values that guide every decision the company makes.

What really interested me in Chouinard’s philosophy was when he discussed change and surviving a crisis (Patagonia has successfully navigated and survived many changes and one major crisis).

Chouinard writes “new employees coming into a company with a strong culture and values may think that they shouldn’t rock the boat and shouldn’t challenge the status quo. On the contrary, while values should never change, every organization, business, government, or religion must be adaptive and resilient and constantly embrace new ideas and methods of operation.”

He goes on to say, “[Patagonia’s] success and longevity lie in our ability to change quickly…in fact one of the biggest mandates I have for managers at the company is to instigate change. It’s the only way we’re going to survive in the long run.”

I hope that this blog salon gives emerging, mid-career, and experienced leaders alike permission to rock the boat.

Secondly, I hope organizations can work to create a culture to allow some healthy discourse and debate to take place. After all, we’re all in this field together, and we have a lot to learn from one another.

What are some emerging ideas that are working really well and helping to advance the arts and culture in your community?

What else needs to be addressed in our society and how can the arts come to the table with a solution?

Let’s think big, and then craft the steps for how to create the change that needs to be made.

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