Live Blog: Inside Day 2 of the Continuing Innovation Convening

The ArtsFwd team is at Norwood Club today to cover Day 2 of the gathering. Live updates from the meeting will be below.

LiveBlog_CIConveningAt the Continuing Innovation Convening at the Norwood Club in New York City, leading edge organizations will come together with big thinkers from arts, culture, and innovation to talk about what it means to be “engaged”, organizational practices, civic responsibility, and evaluation in their work. The organizations and the convening are supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Karina Mangu-Ward, Piama Habibullah, and Kendra Danowski from ArtsFwd will be live blogging and tweeting @ArtsFwd #DDCFconf from the event.

Check out the live blog from Day 1 and Day 3.

5:30pm Takeaways

What are the tenets of developmental evaluation?

  • Continuous learning embedded into decision making
  • The design is response adaptive and dynamic
  • The evaluator is a strategic learning partner performing a non-traditional evaluative role
  • Has a complex system orientation is brought to the system

5:15pm What exactly is Developmental Evaluation?

Developmental evaluation serves the purpose of developing or adapting something. Especially innovative programs or initiatives that are unfolding in dynamic and complex conditions. – Michael Q. Patton

5:02pm The Steps of Evaluation

The four steps of evaluation:

  1. Data
  2. Interpretation
  3. Judgement
  4. Action

4:58pm Jamie Gamble on Evaluative Thinking

Evaluative thinking, Jamie argues, is something everyone is capable of:

Evaluative Thinking is a natural human capacity to test beliefs and ideas about the nature of the world  – and how to improve it – based on data and critical thinking.

4:30pm Jamie Gamble on Development Evaluation

When dealing with a complex problem, the strategy you start with is rarely the one you end with.  Strategy changes as you execute.  As a result, you need an system for evaluation that is well suited to complex projects.  That system is developmental evaluation.

He explains: you need a different system of evaluation for a simple problem (baking cookies), a complicated problem (building a rocket), and complex problems (parenting). For complex problems, you need developmental evaluation.

Jamie Gamble
Jamie Gamble’s different kinds of problems

4:30pm Jamie Gamble on Traditional Evaluation

Jamie Gamble of Imprint Consulting Inc starts off his session on developmental evaluation by asking the group what their experience (good and bad) has been of evaluation.  They said:

Our experience of evaluation has been that it is: rare, time consuming, an exercise, mysterious, frustrating, nerve-wracking, and an after thought.

Jamie Gamble
Jamie Gamble
This is what traditional evaluation feels like.
This is what traditional evaluation feels like.

4:15pm David Zinger on Acknowledging Strengths

David notes that acknowledging strengths in employees is a huge contributor in keeping them engaged.

“If you know your strengths, you’re going to have a better sense of well being at work.  If you know your strengths and use them every day at work, you’re doing to do even better.  If you know your strengths and use them every day in the service of others, you’re going to do great.”

If  a manager does not have conversations with an employee about their experiences, then there is a 40% chance that employee is disengaged.

If a manager has a strength-based conversation with an employee, then there is only a 1% chance that employee is disengaged.

4:10pm Zingers from David Zinger

  • “Are you recognizing someone involved in your innovation work at least every day? Make recognition a TASK.”
  • “Organizations are addicted to yes. Why would you say yes to something you have no capacity for?!”
  • “Like the Spice Girls, sometimes organizations must tell each other what they want, what they really, really want.”
  • “Bees have small brains, but together, a large mind. When you have such a small brain you have to collaborate.”
  • “When trying new things, it’s good to have a built in shit detector.”
  • Read more
David Zinger zings.
David Zinger zings.

3:45pm: David Zinger and Developing Internal Engagement

David starts the group out with a game.  In pairs, two people co-create a drawing of a face.  Each person adds a feature and then passes it to their partner.  Then, letter by letter, they give the person a name.  The exercise is a reminder that everything is co-created and that you can only contribute a part to the direction a co-creation takes.  You are deeply tied to the contributions of your co-creator.

David Zinger exercise

David Zinger exercise

David Zinger excerise

2:15pm: Rotating one more time for a final group discussion

We’re in our last session of rotating concurrent conversations that have brought together our guest provocateurs, organization representatives, and EmcArts facilitators.

Discussions continue among guests and organization representatives
Discussions continue among guests and organization representatives
The afternoon wraps up with  continued exchanges in small groups
The afternoon wraps up with continued exchanges in small groups

Some of the common themes, questions, and topics from this last set of discussions include:

  • Challenges around shared urgency about a project: When passion or priority around a project isn’t shared (especially among leadership), frustration and discouragement arises. Sometimes, when it comes to actual implementation of new ideas, there is often pushback from executive staff, and they don’t always “put their money where their mouth is.” When challenging the status quo, leadership might not always be receptive to provocateurs within the organization.
  • Organizations are addicted to saying “yes.” But, so often people say yes to projects that they either don’t truly want to do, or don’t have the capacity to accomplish.
  • Often, organizations don’t have an “engagement problem,” they have a safety problem. For some, it doesn’t feel safe to hold conversations about things that matter to audiences and to communities. By caring about people and caring about things they’re interested in–and creating safe spaces to dialogue around those things–there can be real, impactful, memorable experiences. True dialogues take place when you go into a conversation feeling willing to have your mind or perspective changed.
  • Setbacks are OK: they happen. Sometimes, you need to hit the ground or see a project fail to bounce back and “complete the sentence.” Setbacks are disengaging and discouraging, but if a project is structured around progress, those involved will stay motivated and engaged.
  • Sometimes, those involved with a new project thrive when starting it, but when year two rolls around and the excitement has worn off a little, you’re not getting as much out of it as you might want or need anymore.  Something needs to change to keep moving forward. One response to feeling stuck in a rut is adopting a mindful attitude: if you begin to notice that there is novelty every day in what’s going on, it’s more rewarding. (Also, refer to Ellen Langer’s book, Mindfulness.)

One participant mentioned that this convening has brought about up and down feelings: there have been both moments of excitement and potential and possiblity, and also moments where we have tackled big issues that remind us that things can fall apart at any point.

1:10pm: Back to thought-provoking conversations

Reenergized after lunch, organization representatives rotate groups once again to chat with our provocateurs and discuss challenges with other organizations. In Dan Moulthrop’s group, he started out by providing an opportunity for participants to speak back about what they took away from this morning’s conversations.

Back to group discussions with guests and organizations
Back to group discussions with guests and organizations

In Round 3 of these small conversations, a few questions and common threads were raised:

  • Recognizing the risks of their innovation project succeeding/not succeeding for 2 more years.
  • Balancing the need for delivering metrics with true engagement strategies. What do we need or what is useful to measure? And why do we measure?
  • The importance of clarity in language: When beginning a new department, project, or program, what does it mean to define your own terms for the organization, your supervisors, and other colleagues?  What kind of freedoms, and what kind of challenges come with that?  What kind of impact does creating new language have if it involves breaking away from the status quo?
  • Public space as a critical place for encouraging dialogues among audiences, and strangers. An example would be creating lobby engagement among audience members, staff, and performers.
  • Using social media: What takeaways from Ryan Davis’s talk (on Day 1 of the convening) about best practices in social media engagement resonated?  Some mentioned: the idea that if an organization can create highly interesting content, people will want to share that content, rather than just deciding that some arbitrary piece of shared media is cool and then sharing it — creating the cool up front.
  • A concern with using social media is capacity: There are difficulties in watching the timing of social media posts, keeping the “brand” in every post, making the time and getting the actual people power to write and create posts, and maintaining that posts are critical, important, and genuine.

12:35pm: A quick break for lunch

A brief lunch allowed for casual conversations between guests and group members over salad and sandwiches.

11:40am: Part two of our small group discussions

Participants, guests, and EmcArts facilitators have rotated around different areas of the Norwood Club to engage with new faces. By the end of the afternoon, all Convening attendees will have an opportunity to chat, raise concerns, and draw parallels between their organization’s work and each of today’s provocative guests.

A few threads that are already popping up in these conversations include:

  • The popularity of food and drink in drawing in audiences and getting them engaged, initially.
  • Parallels between the marketing challenges of a music-presenting venue and small arts non-profits’ engagement strategies.
  • The significance of technology in fostering meaningful experiences rather than simply using it as a tool for communication.
  • Arts organizations often focus on expanding their younger audiences, but shouldn’t the real value of middle-aged and older audiences continue to be recognized, too?
Our rotation schedule for the concurrent small discussion groups
Our rotation schedule for today’s small discussion groups

10:50am: Concurrent discussion groups

We’ve moved into small groups for hour-long conversations. Through the late morning and afternoon, each of our guests will stimulate new thinking around his or her area of expertise with each organization. Each guest’s role is to involve the participants in a close-up engagement, provoking each team to think more deeply about their innovation project. These moments are where each organization can voice concerns and fears, challenge each other, and be challenged.

Guests join organization representatives in conversation
Guests join organization representatives in conversation
One of the 4 rotating discussion groups with guests
One of the 4 rotating discussion groups with guests
Group conversation with provocative guests
Group conversation with provocative guests
Another small group discussion

10:40am: David Zinger

David Zinger is a leading independent expert on employee engagement. He founded and hosts the 5,500-member global Employee Engagement Network. His two big principles: “Never do anything about me without me,” and “If you want everyone on the same page, give everyone to write on that page.”

David Zinger
David Zinger

10:30am: Ronen Givony

Ronen Givony is the founder of Wordless Music, a concert series that pairs rock and electronic musicians with classical music performers. Ronen is also one of the two music directors of the music venue Le Poisson Rouge. Le Poisson Rouge’s financial structure involves no donors, no board, no non-profit status, because they didn’t want to be subject to anything but their own direct income streams. He says, the Le Poisson Rouge’s motto is serving “art and alcohol.”

Ronen Givony
Ronen Givony

10:20am: Dan Moulthrop’s Rules for Engagement

Dan Moulthrop is co-founder of The Civic Commons, a social media environment designed explicitly for civic conversation and deliberative dialogue. Some of their core principles for engagement are: be civil, be transparent, be credible, and be optimistic.

Dan Moulthrop
Dan Moulthrop

10:15am: Amy Heibel on Taking Risks

Amy Heibel is the Director of Technology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  She is interested in how arts organizations can be true risk takers and embrace failure.

Amy Heibel introduction
Amy Heibel introduction

10:00am: Official Start

This morning we start by welcoming new guests:  Amy Heibel, David Zinger, Jamie Gamble, Dan Moulthrop, and Ronen Givony.  See their bios here.

Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.