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Champions of Change Makers: Follow Your Leader

Posted by Miriam King, Dec 15, 2021 0 comments

Read on for takeaways from the November Arts Marketing Coffee Chat “Champions of Change Makers: Follow Your Leader,” where senior marketing leaders explored how to reaffirm purpose and passion for their work as leaders of change-making in the arts.

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The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation: Inclusion. Sustainability. Resilience. Innovation.

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, based in Montreal and funding throughout Canada, supports what it calls socially engaged arts—arts organizations and activities that build bridges between culture and community—as a way to realize its vision of “a Canada where all people feel a sense of belonging and contribute as active citizens to improving the well-being of all.” The foundation’s most recent initiative focused on arts-based social inclusion owes much to what it learned from ArtsSmarts, an arts-infused learning program launched at the end of the 1990s.  In fact, ArtsSmarts has had a lasting impact on the way the foundation approaches its work in building networks and scaling innovations, no matter the sector.

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation often makes early stage investments to experiment and learn. Then, as it did with ArtsSmarts, it leverages its grants to support demonstration projects into national initiatives.  Devoted to generating and acting on knowledge, the foundation also disseminates its own reports and white papers, and convenes roundtables with other learning organizations. With an endowment of about $550 million and up to $20 million in grants each year, all of its activities are directed towards its mission of “engag[ing] Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient society.” 

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, based in Montreal and funding throughout Canada, supports what it calls socially engaged arts—arts organizations and activities that build bridges between culture and community—as a way to realize its vision of “a Canada where all people feel a sense of belonging and contribute as active citizens to improving the well-being of all.” The foundation’s most recent initiative focused on arts-based social inclusion owes much to what it learned from ArtsSmarts, an arts-infused learning program launched at the end of the 1990s.  In fact, ArtsSmarts has had a lasting impact on the way the foundation approaches its work in building networks and scaling innovations, no matter the sector.

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation often makes early stage investments to experiment and learn. Then, as it did with ArtsSmarts, it leverages its grants to support demonstration projects into national initiatives.  Devoted to generating and acting on knowledge, the foundation also disseminates its own reports and white papers, and convenes roundtables with other learning organizations. With an endowment of about $550 million and up to $20 million in grants each year, all of its activities are directed towards its mission of “engag[ing] Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient society.” 

Report
McQueen, Ann
Arts for Change Funder Portraits
13
File Title: 
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation
Publisher Reference: 
Americans for the Arts
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
Yes
January 2014

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Evaluation Handbook

Available online as a pdf (or it may be ordered from the Kellogg website for free), this 116-page handbook from the Kellogg Foundation provides a framework for thinking about evaluation as a relevant and useful program tool: “For those with little or no evaluation experience, and without the time or resources to learn more, this handbook can help project staff to plan and conduct an evaluation with the assistance of an external evaluator.” A blueprint for conducting project-level evaluations, this handbook is an excellent resource and was written primarily for project directors who have direct responsibility for ongoing evaluation. The handbook contains two principal sections: Part one presents an overview of the Kellogg Foundation's philosophy and expectations for evaluation, and a summary of the most important characteristics of its approach to guiding project-level evaluation. Part one also reviews the contextual factors that have led to an imbalance in how human service evaluation is defined and conducted and includes recommendations for creating a better balance between proving that programs work and improving how they work. Part two provides a description of the three components of project-level evaluation (context, implementation, and outcome) that can assist project staff in addressing a broad array of important questions about their project. In addition, part two provides a blueprint for planning, designing, and conducting project-level evaluation. Throughout part two, case studies provide project directors with real examples of ways in which evaluation can support projects. 

Available online as a pdf (or it may be ordered from the Kellogg website for free), this 116-page handbook from the Kellogg Foundation provides a framework for thinking about evaluation as a relevant and useful program tool: “For those with little or no evaluation experience, and without the time or resources to learn more, this handbook can help project staff to plan and conduct an evaluation with the assistance of an external evaluator.” A blueprint for conducting project-level evaluations, this handbook is an excellent resource and was written primarily for project directors who have direct responsibility for ongoing evaluation. The handbook contains two principal sections: Part one presents an overview of the Kellogg Foundation's philosophy and expectations for evaluation, and a summary of the most important characteristics of its approach to guiding project-level evaluation. Part one also reviews the contextual factors that have led to an imbalance in how human service evaluation is defined and conducted and includes recommendations for creating a better balance between proving that programs work and improving how they work. Part two provides a description of the three components of project-level evaluation (context, implementation, and outcome) that can assist project staff in addressing a broad array of important questions about their project. In addition, part two provides a blueprint for planning, designing, and conducting project-level evaluation. Throughout part two, case studies provide project directors with real examples of ways in which evaluation can support projects. 

Report
W.K. Kellogg Foundation Evaluation Handbook
120
File Title: 
W.K. Kellogg Foundation Evaluation Handbook
Publisher Reference: 
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
No

Philanthropy, Evaluation, Accountability, and Social Change

This piece suggests that the accountability movement is “setting a floor for minimum standards” (p. 84) and has consequences for effective social change work. Foundations, in particular, measure impact in terms of attentiveness to accountability standards, but this is a false measure of success.  Instead, the organization’s focus should be on its transformative value to society. Focusing on narrow measures of accountability is problematic, because, as Bare states, “For foundations, when they attempt to deconstruct complex social change agendas to create bite-size, measurable grant projects—those with quantifiable measures and easy attribution—the foundations lose contact with the larger purpose of their work” (p. 85).  Put simply, accountability tools can get in the way of complex social change.  Complexity is a characteristic of social change, and thus should be acknowledged as such. Not only can accountability measures create a “minimum standards” environment, they also contribute to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to problem solving.  This is problematic considering context is essential in designing effective programs. Westley, Zimmerman, and Patton’s 2006 work defines the characteristics of simple, complicated, and complex systems and gives guidance as to what approach is needed depending on the system type.   Bare gives significant attention to the area of education as a study in evaluation, accountability, and social change.  After a review of this complex area with examples of failures and successes, he suggests eight imaginative tools to advance social change: Risk Analysis. Identifying potential risks and hazards will help foundations identify possible threats to a strategy and think about what is most likely to go wrong. Systems Approaches. Foundations should identify the nature of the system (i.e. simple, complicated, complex) as a first step.  The system should serve as a guide for identifying tools and approaches.   Testing Assumptions. Faulty assumptions about a system or initiative are foundations’ “blind spots” (p. 99).  Foundations should consider the assumptions on which their strategy is based. The Outside View. Organizational pressures can lead to overoptimistic forecasts.  Foundations can seek an “outside view” as a frame of reference to push back against internally produced optimism. Sensemaking. Taking action with time for reflection is a critical component in determining the best course or strategy.  Foundations should not attempt to plan everything first, but instead, take action in order to make sense of a situation. Game Theory. Foundations should use a decision tree to make explicit decision points along the course of action (p. 101).  This helps to identify contingencies, alternate plans, and resources. Scenario Planning. Unlike logic models that predict the future based on a repeated course of events, scenario planning assumes that the future will be different than today.  Foundations can use this strategy to imagine what might be needed to increase their success in different scenarios. Documentary Methods. Photography, written narratives, audio, and video are powerful tools to explain complex systems.  Documentary products of this type “set things in motion” and are less likely to be ignored by the reader (p. 101).   John Bare is vice president of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and executive-in-residence at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship.  John holds a Ph.D. in mass communication research from the University of North Carolina and has taught college courses and executive education programs on evaluation and philanthropy’s role in social change.  He has published numerous book chapters and articles on topics ranging from international journalism training to symphony orchestra audiences to risk management. 

This piece suggests that the accountability movement is “setting a floor for minimum standards” (p. 84) and has consequences for effective social change work. Foundations, in particular, measure impact in terms of attentiveness to accountability standards, but this is a false measure of success.  Instead, the organization’s focus should be on its transformative value to society. Focusing on narrow measures of accountability is problematic, because, as Bare states, “For foundations, when they attempt to deconstruct complex social change agendas to create bite-size, measurable grant projects—those with quantifiable measures and easy attribution—the foundations lose contact with the larger purpose of their work” (p. 85).  Put simply, accountability tools can get in the way of complex social change.  Complexity is a characteristic of social change, and thus should be acknowledged as such. Not only can accountability measures create a “minimum standards” environment, they also contribute to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to problem solving.  This is problematic considering context is essential in designing effective programs. Westley, Zimmerman, and Patton’s 2006 work defines the characteristics of simple, complicated, and complex systems and gives guidance as to what approach is needed depending on the system type.   Bare gives significant attention to the area of education as a study in evaluation, accountability, and social change.  After a review of this complex area with examples of failures and successes, he suggests eight imaginative tools to advance social change: Risk Analysis. Identifying potential risks and hazards will help foundations identify possible threats to a strategy and think about what is most likely to go wrong. Systems Approaches. Foundations should identify the nature of the system (i.e. simple, complicated, complex) as a first step.  The system should serve as a guide for identifying tools and approaches.   Testing Assumptions. Faulty assumptions about a system or initiative are foundations’ “blind spots” (p. 99).  Foundations should consider the assumptions on which their strategy is based. The Outside View. Organizational pressures can lead to overoptimistic forecasts.  Foundations can seek an “outside view” as a frame of reference to push back against internally produced optimism. Sensemaking. Taking action with time for reflection is a critical component in determining the best course or strategy.  Foundations should not attempt to plan everything first, but instead, take action in order to make sense of a situation. Game Theory. Foundations should use a decision tree to make explicit decision points along the course of action (p. 101).  This helps to identify contingencies, alternate plans, and resources. Scenario Planning. Unlike logic models that predict the future based on a repeated course of events, scenario planning assumes that the future will be different than today.  Foundations can use this strategy to imagine what might be needed to increase their success in different scenarios. Documentary Methods. Photography, written narratives, audio, and video are powerful tools to explain complex systems.  Documentary products of this type “set things in motion” and are less likely to be ignored by the reader (p. 101).   John Bare is vice president of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and executive-in-residence at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship.  John holds a Ph.D. in mass communication research from the University of North Carolina and has taught college courses and executive education programs on evaluation and philanthropy’s role in social change.  He has published numerous book chapters and articles on topics ranging from international journalism training to symphony orchestra audiences to risk management. 

Report
Bare, John
21
File Title: 
Philanthropy, Evaluation, Accountability and Social Change
Publisher Details: 
The Foundation Review
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
No
December 2009

Evaluating Social Innovation

The authors suggest that traditional evaluation approaches (formative and summative) fail to meet the complex needs of social sector innovators. Instead, grantmakers should approach evaluation differently, specifically involving the use of developmental evaluation (attributed to Michael Quinn Patton). Through a review of literature, interviews, and case studies, this piece assists with putting developmental evaluation into practice. At the heart of this call for new evaluation approaches, is the encouragement of social innovation and change. Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation defines social innovation as, “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals” (p. 2). Social innovations are often cross-sector, involve many stakeholders, and challenge conventional wisdom. Because of this complexity, the pathways to results and even the results are “unpredictable and emergent” (p. 3). These scenarios require strategic learning, including data collection and evaluation, to inform decision-making and strategy. The authors briefly review and compare development, formative, and summative evaluation approaches and accompanying scenarios for appropriate application. Developmental evaluation should be explored with initiatives that embark on experimentation, uncertainty, and inquiry. Five characteristics distinguish developmental evaluation from other types: “the focus of the evaluation, the intentionality of learning throughout the evaluation, the emergent and responsive nature of the evaluation design, the role and position of the evaluator, and the emphasis on using a systems lens for collecting and analyzing data, as well as for generating insights” (p. 7). Conditions for a Successful Developmental Evaluation Plan, including fit and readiness, are presented graphically and reviewed in-depth. The four conditions include: flexible leadership, organizational values, sufficient resources, and open and transparent communication. Case studies from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (p. 9), the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation (p. 15), and the Knight Foundation (p. 17) serve as examples of real-world developmental evaluation efforts. The authors discuss common questions facing the developmental approach, including accountability, rigor, budget, and decision-making roles.   The Foundation Strategy Group (FSG) is a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research. See author Hallie Preskell’s blog post about this research with FSG.

The authors suggest that traditional evaluation approaches (formative and summative) fail to meet the complex needs of social sector innovators. Instead, grantmakers should approach evaluation differently, specifically involving the use of developmental evaluation (attributed to Michael Quinn Patton). Through a review of literature, interviews, and case studies, this piece assists with putting developmental evaluation into practice. At the heart of this call for new evaluation approaches, is the encouragement of social innovation and change. Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation defines social innovation as, “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals” (p. 2). Social innovations are often cross-sector, involve many stakeholders, and challenge conventional wisdom. Because of this complexity, the pathways to results and even the results are “unpredictable and emergent” (p. 3). These scenarios require strategic learning, including data collection and evaluation, to inform decision-making and strategy. The authors briefly review and compare development, formative, and summative evaluation approaches and accompanying scenarios for appropriate application. Developmental evaluation should be explored with initiatives that embark on experimentation, uncertainty, and inquiry. Five characteristics distinguish developmental evaluation from other types: “the focus of the evaluation, the intentionality of learning throughout the evaluation, the emergent and responsive nature of the evaluation design, the role and position of the evaluator, and the emphasis on using a systems lens for collecting and analyzing data, as well as for generating insights” (p. 7). Conditions for a Successful Developmental Evaluation Plan, including fit and readiness, are presented graphically and reviewed in-depth. The four conditions include: flexible leadership, organizational values, sufficient resources, and open and transparent communication. Case studies from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (p. 9), the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation (p. 15), and the Knight Foundation (p. 17) serve as examples of real-world developmental evaluation efforts. The authors discuss common questions facing the developmental approach, including accountability, rigor, budget, and decision-making roles.   The Foundation Strategy Group (FSG) is a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research. See author Hallie Preskell’s blog post about this research with FSG.

Report
Preskill, Hallie and Beer, Tanya
24
File Title: 
Evaluating Social Innovation
Publisher Details: 
Foundation Strategy Group (FSG)
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
No
July 2012

A Summary of the Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact

A May 22 Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact, presented by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program and hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, brought together funders, evaluation professionals, and arts practitioners to learn about concrete approaches and measures funders are using to understand the impact of arts and social change investments.

As the day progressed, it became clear that, at least within this group, evaluation is no longer viewed as a necessary evil, or worse, an empty exercise. Funders and practitioners alike shared examples of shifts in thinking about evaluation toward:

  • Frameworks that identify shared goals and clarify how grantees’ work aligns with larger values and social movements
  • Cross-sector indicators and tools that help stakeholders understand what difference is occurring as a result of their work
  • Iterative learning that moves future efforts toward more effective practices and greater potential for impact

There was a general consensus that if funders were more deliberate in communicating with each other about common interests, intentions, and results, their collective impact could be better understood and perhaps expanded. The need to embrace experimentation and even failure was also broadly supported.

A May 22 Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact, presented by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program and hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, brought together funders, evaluation professionals, and arts practitioners to learn about concrete approaches and measures funders are using to understand the impact of arts and social change investments.

As the day progressed, it became clear that, at least within this group, evaluation is no longer viewed as a necessary evil, or worse, an empty exercise. Funders and practitioners alike shared examples of shifts in thinking about evaluation toward:

  • Frameworks that identify shared goals and clarify how grantees’ work aligns with larger values and social movements
  • Cross-sector indicators and tools that help stakeholders understand what difference is occurring as a result of their work
  • Iterative learning that moves future efforts toward more effective practices and greater potential for impact

There was a general consensus that if funders were more deliberate in communicating with each other about common interests, intentions, and results, their collective impact could be better understood and perhaps expanded. The need to embrace experimentation and even failure was also broadly supported.

Report
Bacon, Barbara Schaffer; Korza, Pam
21
File Title: 
A Summary of the Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact
Publisher Reference: 
Americans for the Arts
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
Yes
May 2013

Toward Sustainability: A Partnership Case Study of the National Black Arts Festival and the Woodruff Arts Center

In the spring of 2004, an anonymous donor made a five-year gift to underwrite the National Black Arts Festival’s (NBAF) use of venues on the The Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center’s campus—which includes the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art, and Young Audiences.  The gift (and its forthcoming expiration) served as the impetus for NBAF to explore possible ways of working with The Woodruff that would institutionalize a relationship of mutual benefit and enhance the sustainability of both organizations.

In this case study, Vanessa Whang chronicles the details of the process between NBAF and the Woodruff (and its affiliated organizations) as they sought to explore synergies and shared interests toward the development of a mutually beneficial relationship. Grounded in general “partnership rules of thumb,” Whang documents the meetings that invited staff and leadership from each organization to define a collective vision based on programmatic collaboration; and to consider the larger concerns of a potential lasting relationship that would enhance NBAF’s sustainability and further Woodruff’s institutional goals. Further, Whang deconstructs the elements of the partnership development process, including stumbling blocks and success factors, in an effort to encourage and guide organizations beginning new partnerships

In the spring of 2004, an anonymous donor made a five-year gift to underwrite the National Black Arts Festival’s (NBAF) use of venues on the The Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center’s campus—which includes the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art, and Young Audiences.  The gift (and its forthcoming expiration) served as the impetus for NBAF to explore possible ways of working with The Woodruff that would institutionalize a relationship of mutual benefit and enhance the sustainability of both organizations.

In this case study, Vanessa Whang chronicles the details of the process between NBAF and the Woodruff (and its affiliated organizations) as they sought to explore synergies and shared interests toward the development of a mutually beneficial relationship. Grounded in general “partnership rules of thumb,” Whang documents the meetings that invited staff and leadership from each organization to define a collective vision based on programmatic collaboration; and to consider the larger concerns of a potential lasting relationship that would enhance NBAF’s sustainability and further Woodruff’s institutional goals. Further, Whang deconstructs the elements of the partnership development process, including stumbling blocks and success factors, in an effort to encourage and guide organizations beginning new partnerships

Report
Whang, Vanessa
Exemplar Program
18
File Title: 
Partnership Case Study of National Black Arts Festival and Woodruff Arts Center
Publisher Details: 
The National Black Arts Festival
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
No
February 2008

Three Insights Tools for Increasing Audience Engagement

Posted by Dr. Melissa Akaka, Oct 29, 2021 0 comments

In the recent Arts Marketing Coffee Chat entitled “Research & Data: What Do You Need?” I shared the process for how arts organizations can address a specific a business problem by identifying data that an organization has or needs, which can provide insights into developing an effective solution. 

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Media for Creative Change: The Role of Popular Media in Advancing Social Change

Popular media—film, television, celebrity, online games, and online videos—is a powerful way for the creative community to depict critical social issues and engage people in contributing to social change.  This paper focuses primarily on popular media examples that combine social message, narrative, and outreach tactics into intentional strategies to influence behavior and support broader-systems reform. Emphasis is on for-profit media in partnership with nonprofits.  Examples include:  Bono’s (U2) Product Red fundraising effort to benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Participant Media’s and Active Voice’s partnership on a social action campaign around immigrant detention issues related to the film, The Visitor; and online games and video such as Darfur is Dying and The Meatrix. Common current issues addressed in popular media are the environment, voting, education, children, health (especially cancer), war, and emergency relief, with the goal of “doing well and doing good;” in other words, earning money and having a social impact. Popular media’s potential for huge reach creates opportunities to provide information and education, resulting in increased awareness and knowledge of, and discourse around issues. The most common strategy is through a message: what actors or celebrity spokespeople say about an issue. Another way popular media can address social issues is through narrative, how the story—fictional or documentary—frames the issue.  Tactics implemented in relation to creative media, such as use of social media, fundraising for causes, or strategic outreach campaigns, can effectively influence action.

Popular media—film, television, celebrity, online games, and online videos—is a powerful way for the creative community to depict critical social issues and engage people in contributing to social change.  This paper focuses primarily on popular media examples that combine social message, narrative, and outreach tactics into intentional strategies to influence behavior and support broader-systems reform. Emphasis is on for-profit media in partnership with nonprofits.  Examples include:  Bono’s (U2) Product Red fundraising effort to benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Participant Media’s and Active Voice’s partnership on a social action campaign around immigrant detention issues related to the film, The Visitor; and online games and video such as Darfur is Dying and The Meatrix. Common current issues addressed in popular media are the environment, voting, education, children, health (especially cancer), war, and emergency relief, with the goal of “doing well and doing good;” in other words, earning money and having a social impact. Popular media’s potential for huge reach creates opportunities to provide information and education, resulting in increased awareness and knowledge of, and discourse around issues. The most common strategy is through a message: what actors or celebrity spokespeople say about an issue. Another way popular media can address social issues is through narrative, how the story—fictional or documentary—frames the issue.  Tactics implemented in relation to creative media, such as use of social media, fundraising for causes, or strategic outreach campaigns, can effectively influence action.

Report
Ingersoll, Sarah
A Working Guide to the Landscape of Arts for Change
19
File Title: 
Media for Creative Change
Publisher Reference: 
Americans for the Arts
Research Abstract
Is this an Americans for the Arts Publications: 
Yes
December 2010

Maintaining and Cultivating New Audiences During COVID-19 and Beyond

Posted by Kristie Swink Benson, Aug 24, 2021 0 comments

Breaking down barriers for our audiences to engage with our organization should be a top priority as we navigate today’s ever-changing landscape. Our new and existing audiences will thank us with continuous support, which helps us thrive as arts organizations. 

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