Working Open Community Call 3: Learning through Transitions

EmcArts is continuing it’s series of community calls as part of the “Working Open” initiative to share strategies and learning about innovation in real-time.

On December 17th, 2015, we gathered our three Working Open Fellows and members of our Working Open community for our third community call.

During this hour-long call — which took place by phone and a shared, interactive notepad — we explored three areas of inquiry. Our Working Open fellows facilitated discussion and discovery around these three questions:

A movie screening at Staten Island Arts’ space in the Staten Island St. George Ferry Terminal

1. “How  and when should we communicate out to our people about our experiments  and prototypes, and what might be some useful tools and strategies to do  so?”–facilitated by Monica Valenzuela, Deputy Director, Staten Island Arts.



Navigating Theatrical and Organizational Prototypes at Center Stage Theater
Center Stage’s innovation team discuss their upcoming experimental theater project


2.What  are some strategies for managing the discomfort of change, and how do  you garner internal support while embarking on an innovation journey?”–facilitated by Hana Sharif, Associate Artistic Director, Center Stage.


NETNational Listening tour photo[5]
Network of Ensemble Theater’s executives have been traveling the country on their National Listening Tour



3. “What distinguishes member organizations from movements and what are the motivating factors for people to join them?”–facilitated by Sherrine Azab, Engagement Manager, Network  of  Ensemble Theaters.




 What did we talk about?

During the call, participants shared experiences, strategies and resources in response to the questions. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

While discussing the first question, our fellow Monica Valenzuela said,

While collaborating, changing the language from “You should do this” to “What if we did this?” made a huge difference to the outcome of these experiments and how we received feedback.

Monica also shared Staten Island Arts’ progress in the New Pathways for Arts Development Agencies program so far, and talked about the benefits of sharing  their innovation experiments with community members. She added,

We have tried to be intentional with our programming. Having people trust that we are being intentional made it easier to invite people into the process. I think when you are involved in an experiment, your trust in it is increased when you see some change or impact as a result.

In the same discussion, the issue of avoiding “communication fatigue” through repeated, tired use of e-blast, social media, and newsletter strategies was brought up. One participant identified the problem of continuously reaching and engaging the same group of already-activated members. She said,

The same people are pulled into these groups (or communication loops) and it becomes representative of their voices, and programming becomes geared towards what they’ve expressed. Are they really representative of who we should be programming for?

As the call went on, and ideas were exchanged about the concept of internal and external transparency in organizations. Another participant said:

How do you draw the boundaries between sharing enough and sharing too much? And I think this is applicable to all sizes of organizations. As a funder, we’ve been thinking about how we can be transparent about our internal work for an external audience, especially in grant making. The main concern is, either as a funder or an organization that’s being funded, do you want to have people looking too closely inside your closet?

A few examples of innovative projects and a handful of tools and resources for communications and organizational change were shared on the call. Participants talked about Slack, a messaging app for teams that helps streamline internal communications, and the organizational Wheel of Change, a tool created by Robert Gass in Transforming Organizations that helps create alignment and impact for organizational change.

To read the notes and resources from this call on our shared online notepad, click here or download the PDF.

You can also check out original media documentation from our Working Open Fellows that captures their innovation journeys at their respective organizations. So far, they’ve created a range of media and art including short abstract films, blog posts, and even a Buzzfeed quiz! See their posts here.

Join us for future Community Calls

Are you interested in exploring the ideas of working open around innovation in the arts, and learning more about innovation projects as they unfold in real time?

Sign up below to join us in future Working Open calls!

ArtsFwd is an online community of arts and culture leaders committed to doing things differently in their organizations in order to stay relevant and vital in a changing world.