Community Call 1: Beginning to Work Open

EmcArts is committing to a “working open” approach and sharing learning about innovation projects in real-time. Last week, we held our first Community Call with a group of arts leaders interested in exploring these ideas together.

We are starting to create a community where arts and culture leaders can "work open" and explore how the values of transparency and collaboration can influence their organizational processes. Image courtesy Erin Brown-John via Flickr.
We are starting to create a community where arts and culture leaders can “work open” and explore how the values of transparency and collaboration can influence their organizational processes. Image courtesy Erin Brown-John via Flickr.

On December 10, we gathered with our three Working Open Fellows and the members of our growing Working Open Community for our first Community Call.

During the hour-long call — which took place by phone and a shared, interactive notepad — we explored together the ideas of “working open.”

What did we do?

Together, in a community-based learning space, we:

  • Explored what “working open” means and what it might look like to practice it in the arts and culture field
  • Learned from our three Working Open Fellows about their own perspectives on “working open” and about the innovation projects underway at three organizations in EmcArts’ programs: Monica Valenzuela (Staten Island Arts), Hana Sharif (Center Stage), and Sherrine Azab (Network of Ensemble Theaters)
  • Shared questions and topics to explore in the future with the three Fellows and Working Open Community

What learning happened in the call?

First, we explored the question: What is it in your own work that brings you to this conversation about working open?

One call participant said,

“[I am] increasingly convinced that many arts institutions are close to maxed out on how much improvement they can achieve alone; that the best opportunities for improvement are in the realm of collective action.”

Another said,

“Ideas are best formed through collaboration and cooperation. By sharing successes and failures along the way, we strengthen our overall abilities and capacity.”

Next, we heard from the three Fellows about what drew them to the Fellowship, what they see as the greatest opportunity for working open, what they’ve learned about the process of innovation in their EmcArts program experience thus far, and what they identify as potentially limiting in their efforts to work open.

Some of the call participants were curious about the Fellows’ perspectives and process with working open; one asked,

“Have you faced skepticism and resistance about this process from your peers and partners? How do you create real buy-in?”

Then, we brainstormed our responses to the question: What might the practice of “working open” look like in the arts and culture field? 

Some of the ideas generated by call participants included: Participatory budgeting, “getting organizations together to help build an understanding of what our arts community needs to thrive,” and “regular open hours for constituents to meet with staff and board.”

Finally, we heard from Rafi Santo, a guest speaker from Hive Research Lab who reflected further about the applicability of a working open process.

At the end of our call, we generated a list of questions and topics to guide our explorations in future Community Calls, which will continue in 2015.

Join us for future Community Calls

We’ve already heard back from several participants about the exciting idea generation and exploration that took place on the call. For many, this Community Call was an affirming space where idealism, transparency, and imagination about the arts and culture field’s future are welcome. We hope to continue in this spirit!

Are you interested in exploring the ideas of working open around innovation in the arts, and learning more about innovation projects as they unfold in real time?

Do you want to access the notes from our first Community Call? Sign up below to join us in future Working Open calls!

About
Karina Mangu-Ward is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.