When you hear the phrase, “the new normal,” do you ever stop and wonder what exactly that means? It certainly has become one of the most often-used phrases that we hear today. Everything has a “new normal.” However, there is something important in these three words. Important enough that it’s the theme for this year’s Annual Convention of Americans for the Arts.
Just this past week, the Dow took a dive or a dip (however you want to look at it) because the country isn’t creating enough jobs. Already, analysts are saying that we might be heading toward another recession—just as we are beginning to see daylight from the last one. So what is “the new normal?” Are we in a period of recovery or are things about to look bleak again?
The answer, quite simply, is yes or no—to both or neither. My point being…it doesn’t really matter what the national economy is doing on a daily basis. There are good days and bad days. However, our jobs as nonprofit arts education administrators and providers go on. And we have to find ways to make it all work. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes! So we do it—we move forward for the good of our organizations and the people and communities that we serve.
To me, “the new normal” is a reminder that every day is a new day, full of possibilities. Whatever we did yesterday, it’s done. We can’t change it. We can learn from it, but then we have to look to the future. What can we bring to the table today that will make a difference in our community tomorrow?
One of the key phrases that we tout in nonprofit circles is adaptability. Relevance is another key term. For our organizations to survive and thrive in “the new normal,” we are going to have to be adaptable to changing demographics, evolving funding streams, etc.
So that means that the programs we offer are going to have to really meet community needs. We need to partner everywhere we can so that we aren’t duplicating services, and we can demonstrate to funders that we are providing the highest level of quality service for every dollar that they give us.
We live in a very philanthropic country—and I’m fortunate to live in a city that truly values the arts and what they add to education, economic development, and overall quality of life. However, in “the new normal” you can’t take any of that for granted. Every day we have to send out the message that alongside social services the arts play just as vital a role in the community.
“The new normal” is a recognition that the old ways of doing things may not work any longer. However, everything compounds. We shouldn’t throw out what has been working just for an opportunity to do something in a new way. Common sense has to play into “the new normal.” Just like financial analysts don’t have a crystal ball to really predict whether we are heading toward another recession, so we can’t say for sure exactly what our communities will need tomorrow. We look to past successes and failures, develop a road map, and move forward with our best effort.
To me, ‘the new normal” is just normal. There’s nothing “new” about it. Day in, day out, we raise money to provide arts education services and meet community needs. Period.