Working Open: Our Community’s Response

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Sherrine Azab, Working Open Fellow and Engagement Manager at Network of Ensemble Theaters’ (NET).

Hello again. This is Sherrine Azab, Working Open Fellow and Engagement Manager at Network of Ensemble Theaters’ (NET). For those of you who are just happening upon this post, this is the third installment of th in-process missives that I’ve written about NET’s journey in EmcArts’ Innovation Lab for Arts Development Agencies so far. You can find my first post here and my second post here.

At the time of writing this post the Network of Ensemble Theaters is rounding out the period of activity for our suite of three experiments designed during our participation in EmcArts’ Innovation Lab for Arts Development Agencies. For those who haven’t read my previous Working Open posts, here are brief summaries of each experiment:

  • It’s On Us: NET invites our community to go out on NETdates to talk about ensemble practice and/or co-creation;
  • National Listening Tour: A 12-city tour by our Executive Director, Alisha Tonsic, to learn more about our membership and the communities in those respective places while also gathering input for how these communities would like to participate in NET and the future of the organization. Stops on the Listening Tour have included: San Francisco Bay Area, CA; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Philadelphia, PA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Minneapolis, MN; and a final event to come in Portland, OR.
  • Local Organizers: The engagement of four individuals from our membership to organize activities in their respective communities around NET’s values, as an experiment in how to expand leadership and capacity beyond our small staff and into the membership. NET engaged organizers in Los Angeles, CA; Phoenix, AZ; and the region of Western Massachusetts.
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Pictures from NET community members’ #NETDates

Since we are still finishing the process of executing the experiments, we are only now just beginning to sort through all of the data and responses collected over the last few months. Without being able to give you hard results what I can say, and what is so moving, is that our community was eager to participate and our membership was incredibly generous as we traveled from city to city in hosting our events at their venues and inviting their respective communities.

One question we were asked when presenting the experiments at the NET National Gathering was how we were going to give opportunities for participation and engagement for those who live in rural areas or other places not on our city tour or organizer list.

My colleague Park Cofield, NET’s Field Resources Manager, and I designed an online Valentine-themed gathering that mashed up some of the intentions of a #NETdate with some of the information sharing and gathering of a Listening Tour event.

And though it was only a small (but mighty) turnout for our online #NETdate we felt that the presentation was a big success. We used two online tools to do this: GoToMeeting and an online presentation and polling tool called Swipe.

You can watch the GoToMeeting recording of the entire online #NETdate here (52.21 mins):

Or you can view and participate in the live Swipe poll here (hover over for full-screen option):

As an organization I think we are still wrestling with what makes online live meetings worth making time for in a community where many feel over extended already. However, keeping the Swipe poll open for participation after the online event has resulted in many more participants contributing their responses in their own time. This proved to be an effective strategy in keeping access open for participation outside scheduling restrictions.

After sifting through the information we have gathered from all of our experiments and the online results we will be creating an online report for distribution. If you would like to ensure that you see this document you can sign up for NET’s email correspondence here.

The experimentation phase through our Innovation Lab has been such a meaningful time for NET. I can’t wait to see what picture is created by the information gathered and how it will inform the future of the organization.

Sherrine is the Engagement Manager for The Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET).