Results Announced! “Business Unusual” Innovation Story Contest

We are very pleased to announce the results of the ArtsFwd ‘Business Unusual’ Innovation Story Contest. We’ve selected 5 Finalists and 5 Submissions of Excellence, plus 5 Intriguing Approaches we thought you would find inspiring. And the next step is up to you!

Our aim was to gather stories of organization innovation, which are instances of change that required a deep questioning of organizational assumptions and create value in the communities they serve. We encourage you to share these stories with your colleagues.  Inspiration and insight are the first crucial steps to motivating innovation, and these stories have both in spades.

The Finalists

Vote by Friday, December 21st (by 11:59pm EST) for the Finalist you’d like to see featured in our permanent Innovation Stories collection!

There’s no one winner when it comes to innovation, but many stories that we can learn from and share. That’s why we’re inviting the ArtsFwd community to vote for the story that you would like to learn more about.  We’ve selected five finalists, below, and the story that receives the most votes will be turned into an in-depth audio postcard and become part of our permanent Innovation Stories collection.

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The judges felt that these stories demonstrated a clear adaptive challenge, a deep questioning of assumptions, a genuine break from past practice, and a wide range of impacts:

Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg is connecting donors to specific arts and cultural projects in need of funding through their new on-line giving site,

Columbus Museum of Art made a bold strategic decision to reframe their role as “community resource” and focus their efforts on offering engaging programs that encourage return visits and meaningful experiences.

Cornerstone Theater Company collaborated with a pharmaceutical company to create a series of short plays that revealed the obstacles that HIV+ patients face to receiving treatment in order to provide a new pathway to a flexible income stream for the company.

Intersection for the Arts quest for a new space went from a traditional facility search to a radical experiment in cross-sector collaboration as a result of rapid changes in their operating environment.

Portland Art Museum had been struggling to involve visitors in a way that would allow them to connect with their own values, so they created Object Stories, a recording and photo booth that invites visitors to share the story of a meaningful object.

Submissions of Excellence

The judges felt that these stories demonstrated a clear challenge, an adaptive response, and had value for the field:

Art & History Museums-Maitland used to be two well-loved organizations that had existed next door to each other for over 30 years – until a conversation that started about sharing a copier turned into a full fledged merger.

Global Action Project developed a culture of critique and affirmation, known as CoCA, to build a healthy, responsive organizational culture, which is essential to moving through difficult times of change.

HowlRound / Center for the Theater Commons developed #NEWPLAY TV, a free livestreaming channel to aggregate and amplify the new works theater sector’s local efforts onto a national and global platform.

Walker Art Center’s new website, which presents content as narratives rather than as promotional vehicles is changing how the Walker staff members function internally and promoting a shared sense of mission.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company developed a new strategy for patrons to connect with their artists and each other – the Connectivity Department.

Intriguing Approaches

We were intrigued by entries from five additional organizations and wanted to share them with you. Click here to read summaries of the entries from Actors Theatre of LouisvilleArts @ Large, Arts to GrowPGK Dance Project, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.  

Many thanks to all who submitted – we know it takes a lot of time and resources to prepare an entry.   We would also like to thank our judges, Janet Brown, Deepa Gupta, Liz Lerman and Nina Simon.

If you would like to submit an Innovation Story to ArtsFwd, visit this page for more details.  From now on, we will be accepting stories on a rolling basis.

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