As an exercise to introduce logic models, we recently spent time during class creating a logic model for this course based on the language on the NEC website. I'll share my personal attempt:
Mission: "This course offers participants both the conceptual and practical knowledge necessary to initiate a successful community-based artistic residency. Participants also gain a network of similarly inspired colleagues."
Theory of change: If a musician gains knowledge and skills to initiate his/her own community-based residency, then that musician will feel more artistically satisfied and develop a sustainable lifestyle that also brings great benefits to his/her community.
Current conditions: Independent professional musicians--including music school alumni--need support to create artistically satisfying and financial sustainable community-based initiatives.
Inputs: Instructor, curriculum, guest presenters/practitioners, web-based resource library.
Activities: 24 two-hour sessions (including presentations of work in December and April), individual consultations with instructor, readings and other homework assignments.
Outputs: 20 musicians who have a "holistic understanding of the nuances of creating a sustainable community-based artistic initiative" and a network of colleagues engaged in related endeavors.
Outcomes: 20 musicians experience greater artistic satisfaction and financial sustainability through their community-based activities. Some of them launch and/or grow new community-based initiatives.
Impact: An ever-growing network of musicians are finding artistic satisfaction and financial sustainability through community-based work. Many communities are experiencing the benefits of hosting so many encounters with artists and the engaging experiences that they provide through art.
"To transform the lives of people in our community through affordable education programs and vibrant performances that generate a mutual love of music shared and enjoyed by performers, students, and audiences alike."
In this example of a new organization's mission statement created for this course, it is interesting to point out the choice of the word "transform." A safer word choice would be "improve" or even "enrich." But those words don't make you sit up a little taller in your chair, do they?
I appreciate the boldness of the word choice. However, in 2015, sophisticated funders are very likely to expect you to provide evidence that the organization's mission is being accomplished. If you claim to be about transforming lives, you'll be asked to measure and document that transformation. What does transforming a life look like? How do show evidence of transformation? This is where evaluation enters the picture: from the very beginning, it is essential to figure out if you will be able to measure the outcomes of your efforts. (More about this in an upcoming post about logic models.)
Additionally, I want to draw attention to the inclusion of the musicians themselves among the intended beneficiaries mentioned in the mission of this organization. "Performers, students, and audiences alike" resonates with me because of my long association with Community MusicWorks, and the mission that founder Sebastian Ruth codified in 1999: "To create a cohesive urban community through music education and performance that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians."
As Sebastian described it, "the most surprising piece... of our mission statement for many is the fact that our work is intended to be transformative for musicians as well. This is not the traditional approach to “outreach,” in which students are transported out of their neighborhoods to view a new art form. This is about musicians working as part of a community, making their art form relevant and interesting to their fellow community members. And in this process of translation, the musicians themselves (and their music) are transformed and deepened by the interaction with the community."
So we've got a commitment to transforming the lives of children, families, and the people doing the work of the organization. That's a beautiful idea, and it feels so appropriate when the goal is to build a community. It is important to recognize that the musicians are certainly members of that community.
With regard to the new organization's mission statement, we agreed that sitting with the word "transform" for a while makes sense. Transformation is an ambitious goal not to be taken on casually, but doesn't it sound wonderful, conjuring up images of engaged, empathic, dedicated musicians who are in it for the long haul?
In becoming relevant, our challenge is to preserve our personal artistic vision/passion while also figuring out how to meet a real community need, serve a clear purpose. I can describe that challenge with a simple Venn diagram:
One circle represents My Needs. The other circle represents Their Needs, meaning the community's needs. The sweet spot is the overlap between My Needs and Their Needs. Being able to identify what activities or programming could be contained within that overlap is the key to creating something that is both meaningful and sustainable.
This makes me think of Maxine Greene, the great American philosopher of education who died in 2014 leaving an important legacy for artists and arts educators through her writing and teaching. I'm using an excerpt of her writing to catalyze a conversation about the significance of aesthetic education as a way of thinking about the potential relevance of artists in a community. Maxine argues that people can find "openings" through art, that ordinary citizens can become "wide awake" through encounters with art. In Texts and Margins, a chapter from her influential book, Releasing the Imagination, Maxine ends by requesting that we, as a society, seek out "more explorations, more adventures into meaning, more active and uneasy participation in the human community's unending quest."
What would Maxine say about my Venn diagram?
Through my experience growing a network of support for Community MusicWorks, I came to embrace the phrase "resource development mindset." Professionals use different words (e.g. fundraising, development, marketing, sales) to refer to aspects of the continuous effort to identify, cultivate, solicit, and steward all of the varied resources that are necessary to make the work of the organization possible. Here, I want to focus on the idea of a possible mindset that guides this effort.
At CMW, my mindset was based on two perceived truths: 1. everyone and everything presents a resource development opportunity, and 2. relationships can most easily begin by inviting people in and by offering them something of value.
Resource development is all about building relationships. It's important to note that these are strategic relationships, created intentionally in order to gather a community of support. The essential work is to initiate, build, and maintain the organization's relationships. With a resource development mindset, this means becoming aware of where relationships can lead and how they may potentially support the mission of the organization. Unfortunately, there's not enough time in the day to treat every relationship equally, and therefore a certain degree of hierarchy is necessary--prioritizing your attention with extreme sensitivity. These are relationships, after all!
A favorite metaphor for the mindset of relationship building is a gardener tending to his small plot of land with a watering can. Seeds are planted and carefully watered. With enough careful watering, small green shoots sprout. Soon enough, with patience, he can expect flowers to bloom. He enjoys and appreciates their beauty and fragrance while it lasts. After they wilt, there is still work to be done: pruning, raking, tidying, and generally readying the plot for the next season. Typically, this pattern follows an annual cycle , just as it does at a nonprofit organization.
Now imagine that the size of the garden expands over several years to contain more (and more varied) plants than the gardener can effectively maintain on his own. This is when infrastructure needs to be put in place (a sprinkler system? an additional gardener or two?) in order to be sure that each of the plants receives the specific care that it needs in order to reach its full potential.
In the case of the nonprofit organization, infrastructure needs are straightforward, starting with a database to document the details of all of the individual "plants" over time. An annual development plan, including a calendar of specific actions and activities for the entire year, helps the "gardener" stay on track. Still, these are relationships and they are most likely to grow and flourish through truly personal (meaning face-to-face) interactions. This is where the prioritization comes in, and hopefully some additional manpower as the organization is able to afford it. If you have two hundred annual supporters, who are the twenty-five people that you are going to be sure to meet with in person? I'm picturing the gardener roaming up and down the rows of flower beds, watering can in hand, strategically seeking out those few special plants that require his personal attention in order for them to be able to flourish...
Thinking about newly launched community-based initiatives, how might an individual artist--without the benefit of an organization's infrastructure--effectively maintain a resource development mindset? What is the grassroots version of the database and the annual development plan? We'll be focusing on this challenge later in the year.
Thank you, Greg Kandel, for providing such a clear template for us to consider a nonprofit organization's mission statement:
Why do we exist as an organization? For whom? With what desired impacts?
In last week's class, we looked at a number of existing mission statements to see if we could figure out which organization they belonged to. In other words, were the activities of the organizations clearly visible in the words that they had presumably carefully selected? Here are some local examples, and you may recognize them.
"To foster and maintain an organization dedicated to the making of music consonant with the highest aspirations of the musical art, creating performances and providing educational and training programs at the highest level of excellence."
"Provide opportunities for an evolving community of amateur, student and professional players to perform together, to present challenging classical repertoires and to enhance the public's awareness and understanding of music."
"To awaken and nurture musical interest, appreciation and artistic excellence in a friendly and stimulating atmosphere, to offer a high standard of comprehensive music instruction to people of all ages and backgrounds from the local community, and to serve the community by teaching in municipal locations, offering generous tuition assistance, and sponsoring a full schedule of concerts and public performances throughout the year."
"To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time." (Oops, that's not a nonprofit organization's mission statement; that's the mission that Starbucks promotes on its company website, although we know that, as a for-profit company, its truest mission is to make money for its shareholders. Why didn't they just write that instead?)
Sharing student project documentation and, more recently, my own.