Planning That Gets You New Partners (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Mr. Robb Hankins, Apr 27, 2012 0 comments

Robb Hankins

Most community leaders don’t think about the arts much and most don’t really believe there is a link between arts and economic development.

I try to change that by hosting my own arts and economic development planning process, but I do it on a shoe string—quick, dirty, and cheap. It’s exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last year we started 20/20 Vision—the ten year plan for arts and economic development. On March 20, 2012 we unveiled our ten strategies: five community strategies and five county-wide.

20/20 Vision has already dramatically changed the landscape for the arts in Stark County (Ohio). We have new partners (and new dollars) available for the arts from places we’d never touched before.

Business leaders like Robert Timkin, managing director of Cormony Development, are leading the effort by planning to increase creativity and innovation in business through arts-based workshops, and increase cultural tourism by creating a marketing partnership between five major nonprofit tourism attractions in downtown Canton.

This strategic marketing partnership hopes to dramatically increase the number of visitors and increase overnight stays, as well as create day trip opportunities for arts destinations throughout the rest of the county.

Here’s the quick story on how we did it:

Step One: Assemble a Steering Committee and Task Forces. We recruited Bob Timken, our former board chair to lead the process. He insisted on face-to face-meeting with the 12 people we wanted to sit on our 20/20 Vision Steering Committee. That took some real time but paid off big time. You’re not from here, but if you were, the 13 names (on pg. 3 of the plan) would impress you. Next we got our Stark Community Foundation to help fund it—a very important strategic move.

And that’s the whole point. If you want to move mountains you need mountain movers. We had them.

Next we recruited a chair for each of the ten Task Forces. We used the same approach as we had for the steering committee—present each one with a job description that was hard to refuse. Here’s what one looked like.

Attendees at the 20/20 Vision "blast off" view a promo video with colored glasses.

Step Two: Host kick off event. We called it a “blast off” and it was to get the media and everyone excited. Each task force chair presented their thoughts and then we gave people colored glasses to wear while we showed them a short mock blast off video.

Step Three: Keep the meeting schedule oh so tight. I personally hosted all the Task Force meetings—more than 70 of them—and they were very organized. Each meeting lasted only 90 minutes and had timed agendas.

Step Four: Create a draft plan and get reactions. Before we created the narrative, we built our plan off of a series of one-pagers that were Excel spreadsheets. After we’d gotten all the feedback that spreadsheet became this narrative.

Step Five: Unveil a final plan that can be implemented. This is the key. We don’t waste people’s time by coming up with a plan that looks great on paper but can never be implemented or at least, not in our life time. Here is our final 20/20 Vision plan.

In closing, go to page 29 and check out the results of the 20/20 Vision Innovation Task Force.

Over the next ten years we’re going to position Stark County as one of the ten most innovative places in America. We’re going to use the arts, and all our new partners, to do it.

This post is also one in a series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts' campaign to to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!

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