To Scale or Not to Scale, There Are Many Questions

Posted by Kathie de Nobriga On December - 6 - 2012

Kathie de Nobriga

In the last 15 years or so, I have worked as a consultant to many nonprofit organizations as they undertake strategic planning, and if there’s one mantra I repeat, time after time, it’s “bigger is NOT (necessarily) better.”

Everything in our culture tells us otherwise: to children we approvingly coo, “look at how big you’ve grown!” To youth we say, “when you’re big you can do what you want…,” and so on. Size is equated with success: big houses, big cars, big everything—livin’ large.

Of course growing bigger is not always healthy: witness Hummers and cancer, both products of unbridled growth.

The pressure to grow organizational budgets and programs is unrelenting, but I think it’s a crass and easy measurement of success. So I’d like to speak for staying small, for finding a sustainable and healthy size. Growth then can be measured by impact, how much difference you can make in a community, how deeply your organization is connected to the tapestry of social order, to what degree your organization can work collaboratively with others. What if we said to ten-year-olds, “wow, look at how wise you’ve become!” ?

My thinking about this subject is influenced by the work of Margaret Wheatley. In her book, Leadership and the New Science, she posits that change happens in more than one way. The way we are most familiar with is cause-and-effect: I do one thing, and something else happens as a result. Often the ‘doing’ is made more effective by mass, weight, velocity, i.e., size—tangible measures of existence. Read the rest of this entry »

Creating Access: Defining Neighborhoods As Destinations

Posted by Felix Padron On December - 9 - 2011

Felix Padron

I am excited about San Antonio in that it feels like the conversations are finally leading to a collective common ground.

For the past ten years or so, San Antonio has had its share of independent strategic planning efforts related to art and culture, and their relationship with inner-city revitalization, economic development, and tourism. Most of these plans have had little return on investment, in part because of a lack of clear vision and dedicated resources.

Now, however, the mayor’s SA2020 initiative may help jump-start strategies that had never seen the light of day but are still relevant in today’s cultural environment. SA2020 has also signaled a new political willingness to shift from a passive planning mode to a more proactive “Just Do It” mindset. This is a good set of circumstances to pave the way for real transformation.

More important, the arts have reached credible acceptance throughout the community. Together with its various art & culture partners, the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) maintains a productive working relationship with city departments and agencies such as the Convention Visitors Bureau, Economic Development, International Affairs, the county, the San Antonio River Authority, and the Metropolitan Transit System. This level of engagement has given cultural organizations and artists a place at the table as the city and affiliated agencies all move forward with new, tangible initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the Arts into Planning

Posted by Tom Borrup On November - 10 - 2011

Tom Borrup (center) and friends

While the mystery of how emotions are evoked or how synaptic connections get sparked may never be fully understood, we know artistic practices have capacities to do these things. Some wonderful Twin Cities artists demonstrated this to me well over a decade ago.

We were bringing people together to find solutions to neighborhood challenges, addressing things that might be known by the mundane terms of community problem-solving, strategic planning, and urban design.

Engaging people on expressive levels using visual art-making, movement, as in dance, and storytelling, these artists tapped imaginations and provoked different ways of understanding physical environments and relationships.

As my professional work has taken me into cultural and community planning and partnering with architects and urban planners and designers, I’ve had multiple (although not enough) opportunities to bring artists into the mix to enrich, and sometimes to completely reorient, the thinking of people and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

Posted by Valerie Beaman On April - 11 - 2011

Valerie Beaman

It’s National Volunteer Week and time to celebrate all those volunteers who help keep the doors open and the wheels turning in nonprofit arts organizations across the country.

With funding cutbacks and staff layoffs, volunteers are more important than ever.

Pro bono volunteers are filling in the gaps providing CEO coaching, marketing, financial services, and legal services among others.

On-call volunteers are ushering, painting sets, making costumes, helping with mailings, copying scripts, and sweeping stages.

And let’s not forget our board members who volunteer their expertise, funds, and influence in the community. Read the rest of this entry »