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  • Barry's Blog: Further Consideration of Failure
    at by research and study we need to make sure that research and those studies are credible and reliable and not just attempts to skew evidence to support a pre determined theory of how to address the challenge I know we have spent energy in surveying our audiences but there is credible evidence that people do not always respond forthrightly to surveying We have to dig deeper We want foundations to take on systemic change challenges But we also want foundations to fund approaches that succeed And I have no doubt whatsoever that that is exactly what foundations want too I think foundations need to more fully understand the root causes of any given challenge they wish to tackle before adopting whatever approach they want to embrace And I don t think we are spending enough time and resources of identifying the actual causes of the problems we face So for example if the challenge is to address the declining audiences for performing arts programs then whatever the response is first we need more thinking to go into why the audiences are declining If there are internal studies that answer even in part that question they ought to be made public Usually if they exist they aren t public And it simply isn t enough to focus on one of the root causes of the problem we really have to understand all the causes and how they interact even if we are to limit our responses to addressing but a single one of those causes And my guess is that in attempting to affect systemic change we must bear in mind that the core of the challenge may be in that the situation for each organization is unique and that there isn t one cause but multiple causes Thus in the declining audiences example for some organizations the real reason their audience is declining is a combination of factors some are mundane too high a ticket price inconvenient schedule times difficulty in parking some have to do with content that doesn t appeal or excite some have to do with a failure to successfully compete with other forms of leisure activity vying for people s precious time resource and some may have nothing at all to do what the arts organization is or is not doing If people aren t coming because the ticket prices are too high or the venue is too far away or the performance start time is inconvenient then making content more relevant trying harder to engage people in the process of creativity or any other approach may simply be a waste of time Conversely if people don t believe the content of the performance measures up against the other alternatives available to them then lower ticket prices bringing the performance to the audience and making it easier to attend may be irrelevant If we wish to fund efforts to stem the tide of declining audiences then that funding should support a specific plan to address

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/06/further-consideration-of-failure.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: Your Other Brand
    Managers Administrators Teach your people that being late to a meeting and not phoning to advise his her running late absent some intervening emergency is unacceptable that it seriously tarnishes the image of your organization and thereby damages your brand And it negatively reflects on you There is no excuse really leave earlier Your time is no more valuable than mine Pay attention to all the small details that normally we don t think about when considering our brand and image for it is the aggregate of these small seemingly insignificant little things that dramatically affect how people think of your organization And those perceptions can impact some big decisions people make about whether or not to support your organization including whether or not to fund you or otherwise support you Teach your people that every interface they have affects your brand It is I suggest worth a few minutes of your and your staff s time to talk about how your brand is affected by the behavior of all those associated with your organization in all the little things from being on time to writing personal thank you notes to returning phone calls in a timely manner to dress to smiling It s your brand after all and it may not be to other people what you think it is Have a great week Don t Quit Barry Posted by Barry at 4 28 PM 1 comment Melba LaRose Artistic Administrative Director June 17 2013 at 6 44 AM I agree completely with the 10 minute max rule for appointments After that I leave or don t answer the door Lateness without calling with a legitimate excuse is arrogant rude and inconsiderate of my time It is also unacceptable for rehearsals and actors are informed of that at first rehearsal In that case it s inconsiderate of everyone s time Reply Delete Add comment Load more Newer Post Older Post Home Subscribe to Post Comments Atom Creative Vitality Suite Defined by the 59 SOC codes used in CVSuite Subscribe via email Enter your email address Delivered by FeedBurner Subscribe via Reader Subscribe in a reader Barry s Blog is a service of the Western States Arts Federation WESTAF The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of WESTAF Followers Buy Barry s Book HARDBALL LOBBYING FOR NONPROFITS Barry learned political advocacy the hard way convincing the California legislature to multiply many fold its investment in arts funding In his new book Barry extracts the lessons of his long experience into a readable and impassioned tutorial that has broad application throughout the nonprofit sector John Kriedler former President Community Initiative Fund This is a powerful provocative and daring look at the ups and downs of fighting for beliefs The book straightforwardly mixes together simple clear definitions strong opinions new ideas and in your face strategies all designed to help the good guys win Robert L Lynch President CEO Americans for the Arts Hardball Lobbying is an essential tool

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/06/your-other-brand.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: Survivorship Bias
    to psychologist Richard Wiseman luck bad or good is just what you call the results of a human beings consciously interacting with chance and some people are better at interacting with chance than others Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends They look through newspapers determined to find certain type of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs Lucky people are more relaxed and open and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for Richard Wiseman in an article written for Skeptical Inquirer When we talk about risk taking we are talking precisely about being more open to possibilities about altering our behavior to seeing more around us about doing things differently than we have always done them so as to come up with different results Perhaps what we are really talking about is opening the door to what we think of as luck McRaney concluded his blog post with this As best I can tell here is the trick When looking for advice you should look for what not to do for what is missing as Phil Plait suggested but don t expect to find it among the quotes and biographical records of people whose signals rose above the noise They may have no idea how or if they lucked up What you can t see and what they can t see is that the successful tend to make it more probable that unlikely events will happen to them while trying to steer themselves into the positive side of randomness They stick with it remaining open to better opportunities that may require abandoning their current paths and that s something you can start doing right now without reading a single self help proverb maxim or aphorism Also keep in mind that those who fail rarely get paid for advice on how not to fail which is too bad because despite how it may seem success boils down to serially avoiding catastrophic failure while routinely absorbing manageable damage Perhaps we ought to heed that advice Have a good week Don t Quit Barry Posted by Barry at 6 27 PM No comments Post a Comment Newer Post Older Post Home Subscribe to Post Comments Atom Creative Vitality Suite Defined by the 59 SOC codes used in CVSuite Subscribe via email Enter your email address Delivered by FeedBurner Subscribe via Reader Subscribe in a reader Barry s Blog is a service of the Western States Arts Federation WESTAF The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of WESTAF Followers Buy Barry s Book HARDBALL LOBBYING FOR NONPROFITS Barry learned political advocacy the hard way convincing the California legislature to multiply many fold its investment in arts funding In his new book Barry extracts the lessons of his long experience into a readable and impassioned

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/06/survivorship-bias.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
    Of course this is hindsight but that s exactly the idea We can t eliminate future risk of course but we might make it less risky Unfortunately there doesn t seem to be any model in place that allows us to debrief those who were at the helm when things went wrong no way to deconstruct the decisions and actions that in hindsight turned out to be bad moves Certainly we can learn from our successes but very likely people learn as much if not more from their failures And we the nonprofit arts sector need to figure out some way to learn from our past mistakes including the most recent ones in the face of all the challenges now on our plates Where is the workshop that teaches us how to do that as individual leaders Where is the model that will allow us as a sector across the whole country to systematically consider what might be learned from analyzing what went wrong At the AFTA Summit s Visionary Panel New and Emerging Business Models there was almost no discussion of fundamentals in approaching the issue what criteria we ought to consider and how we ought to analyze both good and bad past practices in the attempt to move forward to those new and emerging models we might adopt As Glenda said to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz It s always best to start at the beginning I guarantee you that the most sophisticated of enterprises around the globe do exactly that We do not There is nothing inherently wrong with making mistakes and despite anyone s best intentions and savvy planning failure sometimes happens how stupid is the saying failure is not an option Failure is not a goal not something you choose but as a possibility it is always on the plate We must spend more time understanding risk and how to take calculated risks balancing payoff and downside Can that be taught If we have enough information and analysis available to us I think so If we really believe risk taking is part of the creative enterprise then some failure is inevitable But to fail and learn little from that failure seems a colossal waste of experience Cookie cutter approaches are inadequate What is a Best Practice in one set of circumstances may just be a Worst Practice in another But knowing why something worked in one place and something else failed in another would be enormously helpful in figuring out what you might want to try in your situation Obviously small individual organizations cannot themselves develop this kind of analysis and thus this is the kind of information that funders and national organizations should try to help provide I think the problem is partly because we simply lack the resources available to government and the private sector to spend time and energy looking at failure with an eye to learning from it that often times we don t dig deep enough in the development

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2010/07/early-bird-may-get-worm-but-second.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: Other Perspectives on the Role of Entertainment in the Theory of Audience Engagement.
    how we communicate and clarity is not always dependent on unanimity or uniformity We can still understand what we mean by them and if necessary through further defining and limiting cases we can narrow down just what sense of the words we are employing There are many ways to be entertained and some may be more appropriate than others If entertainment is a virtue then it isn t simply one thing but many it isn t something with clear boundaries but has blurred edges it isn t inspired by any consistent source but can be found in all the nooks and crannies that humans are capable of looking and even then it springs forth differently in different people all the time It seems that the issues of entertainment and engagement in the arts can be viewed both in terms of what they aim at and what they reflect It can be an arrow in a quiver and also the target In a sense entertainment is more concerned with presentation and engagement more with representation And as you noted they are not mutually exclusive If we look at the role of the arts as a form of entertainment we can see that the value is strictly presentational that the arts are then a means to the ends of entertainment the arts present themselves as a form of entertainment or as useful for this or as good for that They serve some other goal Its easy to view the arts then as being yet one more commodity in a consumer society Rather than having intrinsic value it matters more for its extrinsic qualities as the means to certain ends The same statements can be made for taking art as edification art as inspiration art as provocation etc Not to disparage the capacity of art to entertain but if that is construed as its primary role then art stands on a level playing field with all other forms of entertainment and is in direct competition with them for how well it is able to sustain an audience s interest It needs to be more entertaining or suffer the consequences End of story And I know you are not even remotely claiming that art is only good for entertainment Your post seemed to suggest however that the main reason for you to personally attend art events is sometimes purely its entertainment quality and so I will treat that extreme version as a thesis to explore A straw man I know but possibly also illuminating One question is whether if we value art as entertainment we are potentially subverting other qualities and values By framing it as entertainment are we changing the nature of the public s perception and expectations for art Are we essentially changing art itself Changing how it is made and exhibited Rebranding art as possibly something more trivial and accessible for the folks who might get it in this easier more palatable form rather than as sometimes challenging and difficult If we are selling the arts as entertainment are we potentially motivated only by its capacity for appeal Will artists be swayed by aiming at this other goal Puppies and flowers Dulcet tones and the color blue Passing on a high caloric and tasty soufflé with little or no lasting nutritional benefit Easy on the eye easy on the brain Puff pastry If on the other hand the arts are viewed more as representational then we can see that their value lies in what they represent a point of view a way of looking at the world something more integral than a choice between things that merely entertain Rather than simply the means to consumer ends the arts then are the noble ends in themselves They are virtues in themselves They represent what things matter to us in a deeper sense than mere transitory extrinsic worth a good laugh entertainment If the arts have value in themselves then one example is not just as good as another so long as it entertains us We can be entertained by anything almost and if that is our goal then whatever does the job fits the bill The playing field is entirely level in that regard And art isn t necessary to entertainment There are plenty of other non art alternatives And there are persuasive reasons people would choose things besides the arts to be entertained by Arts as intrinsically valuable means something different and the question is how personal engagement in the arts differs from being entertained by them I d like to suggest that entertainment is sometimes often importantly passive and therefor something that happens to us rather than something we necessarily do We are acted upon rather than acting out The things that we actively do are things that reflect our autonomous self identity Its how we are engaged Its how we manifest in the world It expresses who we are They are intrinsic rather than extrinsic qualities We are farmers and so we farm We are mothers and fathers and so we mother and father These are not passive entertainment values but actively engaged qualities So in a sense engagement also offers us the representational view of who we are And if we think of activities as playing out between things that we are entertained by and things we are engaged by then sure we often choose to be entertained Who doesn t like to occasionally kick back and soak it in But if a new thing comes along that entertains us better or our tastes change then we may also choose to move in different directions Our commitment to the things that entertain us is brief and impermanent Its variable It is purely instrumental and therefor doesn t extend very deep The things we are engaged by are the things that we have already and more deeply committed to They are ends in themselves in the sense that they reflect something about who we are And while the qualities

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/06/other-perspectives-on-role-of.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: Want to Engage Me? - then Entertain Me
    very often but sometimes it is Yoda s remark to a young Luke Skywalker as he mentally levitates Luke s spaceship out of the muck when Luke says I can t believe it and Yoda replies Yes and that is why you fail was as profound an epiphany to me as was my first viewing of Van Gogh s The Harvest Movies are entertainment and I think qualify too as art indeed we include film as part of the wider arts But as an industry the movies wouldn t fare well at all if the only concern in green lighting a project were that it engaged the audience on deep levels or that it addressed the concern of specific communities How do we make the arts more entertaining I don t know but it ought to be a goal Here s one example The Rijksmuseum in Holland had an idea Let s bring the art to the people and then hopefully they will come to see more at the museum They took one painting of Rembrandt s from 1642 Guards of the Night and brought to life the characters in it placed them in a busy mall and the rest you can see for yourself here We seem to rely too much on the classics be it theater or opera or symphonies or whatever Unless you are a Thorton Wilder devotee or your son or daughter is in a high school performance how many times can you see Our Town and still be entertained I saw the Godfather again for the first time in years and it was a joy to watch again but if my local movie cineplex offered it every week I wouldn t be going Where is the original programming We do lots of studies with our audiences We survey them put them in focus groups query them on why they don t come more What we ought to be doing is spending more time with those who are not in our audiences ever asking them why they don t come at all My guess is that beyond issues of convenience time and cost one of the primary reasons is that their expectation is that they won t be as entertained as the other options available to them This is part of the crux of our challenge People aren t going to eat carrots if they don t like them even if they are good for you The Arts are good for you argument is a precarious foundation on which to pin our future at least as a strategy to expand the audience Even if we can keep every audience member we already have and it appears we aren t it simply won t be enough for the future of our sector Another assumption of engagement as related to our audiences seems to be that people want to be more involved participate more in the experience I m not sure what that means exactly Do people want to have some role in the creation process Do they want to have some extra in theater role as a play or dance piece is presented While I believe in the theory that people want to act as their own curator in the process of experiencing art or the arts and that certainly applies to the employment of new technologies I don t know if that means they want something more than having some art presented to them from which to choose I go to the theater or a dance performance or a music concert to have artists present their vision to me I want it to be entertaining on some level More often than not it is I am perfectly satisfied with that role I don t necessarily want an expanded role or relationship If it addresses some critical community or societal need ok Great But it doesn t have to If there is a transformational aspect for me personally great But that is a bonus Does that mean I am now an aberration Even if people who do not really want a much deeper and higher level of involvement is a declining percentage the question is whether or not that percentage is still large enough that we ought to take into consideration their preferences Engagement means as many different things as there are people Do we pick an approach and just go with it to the exclusion of those that aren t within that cohort Risky business that In a wonderful Op Ed piece written by Notre Dame Professor of Philosophy Gary Gutting puts forth the view that the real purpose of higher education ought to be engaging students in certain intellectual exercises Thank you again to Thomas Cott s blog What would I do without his unearthing so many thoughts for me to access But college students are a captive audience and the higher education setting allows for engagement to be somewhat controlled Not true for our audience development efforts to attract the people who never come to our offerings Even if engagement with communities to embed the arts more in their concerns is a valid approach to audience expansion to those who never come to our events I think we can t ignore the value of being entertaining to the success of those efforts If we aren t entertaining not by our definition or standards but by the definition and standards of the people who don t come to see us then I think we are in deep trouble WE have to do the adapting not those we want engaged with us We have to give some credence to what engagement means to the people we are trying to engage And on many levels a large portion of those people simply don t care about how we relate to our communities whether or not we play a meaningful role in addressing the challenges of social justice health care or any other purpose we may want them

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/05/want-to-engage-me-then-entertain-me.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: Fundraising - Even More To Think About
    don t think like that We think more in general and generic terms of what we look for in a new hire Wasteful We eschew realistic job performance measurements in evaluating Development Directors And we make the mistake of thinking that the more we can offer in compensation the better candidate we will attract Irrespective of how much they are paid an increasingly higher percentage do not meet expectations which is very likely not entirely their fault as those expectations are unrealistic A false belief that the pool of talented Development Directors is ample to meet the demand Look at the Jobs sites endless seeking of Development Directors too few to meet the demand The belief that the pool of Development Executives is actually more skilled and talented than in fact it may be Two or three years experience a degree and all the enthusiasm in the world does not make for a successful performance High turnover and long term vacancies in the post and increasingly dissatisfied and frustrated people in those positions How can we expect to have happy satisfied performers in these positions when essentially we say Here Sisyphus push this rock up to the top of the hill No actually push it over the hill Boards of Directors are unclear on their role as fundraisers and frequently unwilling to accept that role in any event We need to look at the whole and big picture in order not to come up with band aid piecemeal solutions We need to question every component in the whole food chain of the fundraising process We need to take a new and different approach to Development Directors How we train them How we support them How we recruit and retain them Defining more precisely where each of our organizations has the greatest potential for adding revenue streams and hiring to those challenges rather than hiring to some nonexistent generic ideal What we look for in a candidate How we measure their performance How we integrate the fundraising function into the whole fabric of the entire organization and into the process of raising funds How Boards can finally accept a fully responsible role in the process We need to look long and hard at Our historical dependence on both public and foundation support Our advocacy efforts have at best kept us alive and not much more Whether or not we can reliably count on our past earned income sources as audiences and donor giving declines How we manage competition within our sector and what unbridled growth vs managed shrinkage of the sheer numbers of our organizations may mean We can t just continue to allocate an inadequate pie to ever more people in line Whether or not real collaboration in fundraising efforts has a place or is a waste of time If we aren t willing to work in concert to address some of these problems and everyone is to be essentially on their own let s just say so and stop

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/05/fundraising-even-more-to-think-about.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Barry's Blog: Interview with Arlene Goldbard - Part II
    act radically changing the way we and our fellow citizens see the public interest in art You and I have debated this point before My contention is that we the arts are one of the very few interest groups that is actually capable of achieving that vast economic power by our sheer numbers and by virtue of the fact that we could do benefits for arts lobbying and if even 10 of all arts performance groups did one such benefit every two years with the proceeds going to lobbying not advocacy we could raise millions of dollars We don t do that But we could And that would allow us to compete with the other special interest groups that have that power On the other hand mobilizing a significant number of citizens to radically change the way we see art and thus move us towards the paradigm shift seems to me a much more difficult endeavor If we as a sector can t even raise the money that we could how can we possibly move the public to see the value of art Or do you think engaging in the same tactics others who are successful in getting what they want from government would corrupt us and make us too much like the Corporate Nation that is part of the problem Arlene I m not so interested in purity as practicality Most of the major successful lobbies are driven by huge economic benefit for their supporters Oil companies tank and missile manufacturers Big Pharma have vast sums of money to invest in persuading votes their way These efforts are capital intensive rather than labor intensive they aren t driven by mobilizing popular support but in effect by buying candidates You don t have legions of citizens showing up in Washington to lobby for drug companies The cultural sector doesn t have comparable funds unless you lump in Hollywood and Hollywood is notoriously indifferent to support for other cultural sectors In the absence of millions to spend on lobbying we can t buy votes Arts advocates have trouble activating huge numbers of people to support existing arts budgets precisely because of the elitist coloration of the whole discourse about the arts People don t see themselves in it They don t see their own real lives needs and interests at stake To up the impact that has to change Barry You describe The Wave your fictional work that complements The Culture of Possibility as follows The Wave is speculative fiction In 2023 a young journalist Rebecca Price writes a series of articles describing an emergent cultural change that has been gathering force over the previous decade even longer some of her informants say She draws on a range of examples unfolding in New York City where she lives The Wave her name for the Zeitgeist the rising spirit of the times catches on entering common usage In 2033 she is asked by an editor to revisit her findings and report again The text includes notes to her editor excerpts from the 2023 series and new material she writes in 2033 Who can know how the future will unfold I claim no predictive powers But I have been careful not to include anything in The Wave that could not be enacted in the next twenty years My hope is that a glimpse of this possible world will spark other social imaginations and that readers will be inspired to add to our collective dream of a future worth pursuing one that can override the dystopian self discouragement that has become our daily fare I must tell you that I was caught up in the work and it brought to life some of your concepts in The Culture of Possibility and for me anyway was a plausible description of how we might actually get to the paradigm shift that is the core of that book Did you conceive of The Wave as always being a companion piece to the first book or was it an afterthought One of the catalysts that brought on the wave of new thinking about art and culture in the novel was Dr Feelgood s flagship store an emporium nee kind of new spa therapy almost wherein people were helped with challenges in their lives by working directly with trained Virtuosos who guide them through the process of using various art pathways to deal with issues important to them I love that Why isn t that approach included in the education of our children K 12 Arlene I m with you Barry it should be Actually I d originally thought of the two main sections of The Culture of Possibility as small freestanding books three little books in a slipcase maybe But I wanted the work to be accessible and that would have driven the price up My early readers thought that The Wave should stand alone as a way into the ideas for people who love to learn through stories so I decided to do it that way But it was always part of my concept to offer many doorways into this material precisely because we are different and have many different ways of learning and understanding If I were an entrepreneur instead of a writer I d have opened a Dr Feelgood s store Someone is going to do it I bet Barry One character in the book Lulu the roommate of protagonist Rebecca works in hospitals and has dedicated her professional life to working with hospital patients You describe her thusly She works at New York s Bellevue Hospital After seven years on the job she s a senior member of the hospital s storyteller corps charged with patient interaction If someone you care about has been in the hospital the last few years you know what I m talking about The work of Lulu and her colleagues is conditioned on the understanding that every illness is in some sense unique to the person and that every

    Original URL path: http://blog.westaf.org/2013/05/interview-with-arlene-goldbard-part-ii.html (2016-05-01)
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