Kara Robbins

Kara Robbins

I work in Newton, a moderately affluent suburb outside of Boston. Newton is blessed with a community of smart, talented, hard-working, and well-rounded individuals and families. Essentially, it’s the target audience for the arts—except these folks are busy!

When the Newton Cultural Alliance (NCA), an umbrella organization for participating arts and culture nonprofits, incorporated in 2009, Newton had 2 orchestras, 2 large music schools, 4 choruses, 3 visual arts organizations, 2 community theaters, 2 high school theaters, 1 nationally recognized ballet school, a museum, 3 colleges, and more.

On the business side, while Newton is one city, it is divided into 13 villages so there is no distinct city center, but rather many village centers. In theory, this is a very endearing idea but in practice, it is somewhat divisive and, until some recent efforts, no merchant association has succeeded in uniting the businesses or the community.

That being said, our local businesses are extremely supportive of area nonprofits and are always willing to donate to auctions, hang flyers, and participate in special events. In and of itself, this is a very helpful stance but it doesn’t build long-lasting or thriving relationships that will truly make a change in the community. That’s where NCA has picked up the ball.  Read the rest of this entry »

Gregory Burbidge

I am lucky enough to work for a service organization in the arts. The Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition is a regional nonprofit organization in Atlanta, and we spend our time collaborating with local governments, business & civic leaders, funders, and arts leaders for the purpose of supporting arts and culture across a ten county region.

The work we do offers us the tremendous opportunity to observe the field broadly, something most of the organizations we serve don’t have the pleasure of doing.

If I add to this lucky breadth of scope to Diane Ragsdale’s lens on community and her call to think big (to be “reaching exponentially great numbers of people” and not just “maintain our minuscule reach”), something new comes into the picture.

Three of the programs in our community that I have spent the most time talking to people about this year have had tremendous success at reaching further by having the right people building connections at just the right intersections:

Sunny and Krista @ On the Same Page

On the Same Page, based in Decatur, GA, is a city-wide reading initiative. There are examples of community building reading programs in other cities, but this is the model that clicked here.

A locally-owned bookshop saw the need to foster a community of readers, and rather than find a nonprofit to handle a reading program or look for their own profit-making scheme, they took the initiative to make a difference on their own. Read the rest of this entry »