Small Enough to Succeed

Posted by Doug Borwick On December - 6 - 2012

Doug Borwick

I have, for most of my life, been suspicious of the “growth is good” assumption that we often make in this country or did as I was growing up. (Sometimes when I replay in my mind the famous Gordon Gecko speech from Wall Street, it’s not greed I hear him praise but growth.)

At the risk of appearing to trivialize something that is incredibly serious, cancer is a demonstration (an extreme one to be sure) that not all growth is beneficial. Less hyperbolically, the quest for resources to support program growth as well as the need for expanding infrastructure to sustain it often creates a situation in which the mission out of which the program sprang gets left in the dust. The attention required to amass funding and personnel gets in the way of focusing on the reason the program was created. But that is a systemic (and management theory) issue that I am sure others participating in this Blog Salon will address.

Some in the for-profit world have been questioning the merits of “bigness” for years. Right-sizing, just-in-time production, and Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept (for focus on a core) and “Stop Doing List” (one of my favorites) all address the issue that big is not necessarily better, even in financial terms. In the not-for-profit arts world, the recent University of Chicago study, Set in Stone arrives at a similar conclusion about the dangers of facilities creep.

My principal interest is in effective community engagement in the service of creating healthier communities. This work is relationship driven and relationships cannot be mass-produced. However, as I discussed in a blog post some time ago–The Magic of Small Groups–megachurches, in creating and nurturing small subsets of the whole, have discovered a volunteer-labor-intensive path around that problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Taboo Discussions for Artists & Arts Organizations

Posted by Christy Bolingbroke On May - 27 - 2011

Taboo Cards

Some artists, if you mention the word “business” at all, they recoil, but let us play a field-wide game of Taboo, and have a brainstorm discussion about the future of the arts sans these words or any derivation of them:  “innovation” and “business models.”

Could the private sector keep itself from using all the jargon accumulated in business school and really talk about what they want to accomplish and how to do it?

So often, organizations of all kinds create job descriptions or individuals write their resumes hiding behind platitudes of these perceived “good” business skills without being specific. That or trying to identify a new direction for one’s organization can feel like when we were little kids and played “office” or “school” or “house.” You weren’t exactly sure what you were supposed to be doing, but you emulated what you saw and played out whatever notions you had about working in such a place.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Blurring/Vanishing/Missing Line Between Commercial & Nonprofit

Posted by Diane Ragsdale On May - 20 - 2011

Diane Ragsdale

People have been talking about the blurring line between the commercial and nonprofit arts sectors (and related mission/market tradeoffs) for decades. Some see this line blurring and become concerned; others seem to see it as a natural progression and even a step forward for nonprofits. I’d venture to say that Patron Technology CEO Eugene Carr is in the second camp, based on his recent blog post, “What’s the Secret Sauce Today?”

Here are a few excerpts from his post:

“… more and more, Artistic Directors need to realize they must balance audience needs with the financial needs and mission of the organization, and in these economic times, the mission may have to bend a bit.

Frankly, it’s always a balancing act, but if you’re too mission-oriented, you can end up with something like what we’re witnessing at the City Opera, which essentially abandoned any vestige of its old mission … and instead decided on a radically new approach with nothing but daring new operas.  Read the rest of this entry »