This short video on demographic change is as fresh and needed today as it was a decade ago when I created it. The questions I posed for the performing arts have only become all the more urgent in this ongoing COVID pandemic reality – and in may ways they still beg to be fully answered by the live arts – as well as other sectors, like health care, housing, social services, technology.
Also, it should be obvious that the labour shortages we see now across almost every sector aren’t merely a COVID effect but largely a demographic effect. The COVID part seems more specific in that people who need to work are working but they aren’t as willing to earn low wages, and want reasonable working conditions. In fact, labour market participation is up in younger age groups as COVID recovery has advanced.
This primer has come about from a series of projects I have worked on in the last few years for clients in the arts, as well as board of directors outside the arts.
In early-stage societies, the board is often a working board, developing and providing services and programs directly to its membership, without any paid stuff and often relying on the deep involvement of the broader membership.
As organizations grow and mature and their scope increases, they tend to require increased capacity to deliver on their mandate. Capacity comes in two ways predominantly: money and people. As revenue streams are developed, and budgets increase, boards can hire their first paid staff person. The board begins to delegate some of their responsibilities to this person. As the staff complement grows, the board tends to move to being a management board that complements staff activities, and, eventually, to a “hands-off, nose-in” governance board concerned with strategy and policies that govern the organizations.
At each stage, the governing documents should be reviewed and updated to ensure they meet the needs to an evolving organization. As an employer, policies and procedures must be developed and updated to satisfy a wide range of legal obligations emanating from the Employment Law and Labour Standards, Tax legislation, Human Rights legislation, Occupational Health and Safety and any other relevant provincial and federal laws. Any delegation of day-to-day financial management should be explicitly defined to ensure the board’s fiduciary obligations and oversight are fully met. Evolving social obligations to serve a diverse membership and the community at large as well as practical considerations to provide standardized, reliable services and programs require a set of clear policies and procedures.
Up-to-date, transparent delineation of lines of authority, responsibility and accountability are crucial, in order to avoid legacy behaviours from an earlier stage of organizational development – such as maintaining the committee structure of a hands-on working board while having evolved to a governance board – and to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations that become detrimental to the health and vitality of the society.
This graphic shows the basic organizational dynamic: the delegation of powers (authority and responsibility) moving clockwise from the membership toward front-line staff, while accountabilities and reporting are moving in the opposite direction from staff back to the membership of the organization.
As staff delivers programs and services directly to members, their relationship with membership can and should be trusted and respectful. Notwithstanding that closeness, accountability from staff never goes directly to the membership or the board; staff members’ authorities and responsibilities are delegated through the executive director. Therefore, staff is accountable and reports to the executive director who in turn is accountable and reports to the board who in turn is accountable and reports to the membership.
9 years ago, in March 2013, I wrote a call to action for the performing arts presenting sector. It was an adjunct to the seminal Value of Presenting Study that I wrote to instigate sectoral action to secure the relevance of the sector in the mid- to long-term.
These Reflections and Recommendations were: 1. Strategy and organizational design to nurture capacity for change, strengthen relevance and resilience, come into the 21st century organizationally, in terms of marketing, programming and so forth 2. Building Meaningful Statistical Frameworks – Culture Satellite Account and Mapping the sector 3. Strengthen / Role in Communities – invest in competencies and professional development as a community leader, design for community impacts, ongoing awareness raising of value and benefits of the performing arts 4. Demography and Access – Know your community and your market; Access for seniors (technology-enabled), Partnering with Indigenous peoples, Partnering with recent Immigrants (EDI) 5. Digital Technologies – embrace online and mobile distribution of live arts, create a cross-functional working group to explore digital distribution in the live arts 6. Redefining Competition (focus on non-arts industries) – Define competitive value proposition (relative to non-arts competitors) 7. Experience Design – Brand-first relationship building (not merely transactional), secondary markets (digital impact)
Most of these feel as relevant as ever to me, showing how much more progress the live arts sector needs to make to join the contemporary world with all its complicated dynamics.
In light of COVID and the early stages of – and the vagaries of – COVID recovery in 2022, I have been talking about these 9 trends requiring urgent attention in the sector if it wants to rebuild better:
1.Mental health impacts
3.Loss of expertise and talent – COVID
4.Digital transformation of society
5.Climate change and touring
6.Need new business models re: return to gatherings
7.Ways to support local artists
8.Digital Dissemination platforms
9.Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion
In part it feels like the more things change the more they stay the same. It also feels like perhaps some of us have learned enough to really tackle the big issues. https://lnkd.in/gJRdUyVx
I’ve been speaking at two in-person conferences recently (Contact East 2021 in Moncton and Pacific Contact 2022 in Coquitlam) on the hot button topic of Rebuilding Better. I have been proposing this Radical Intent (aka vision) for the Performing Arts as the sector tries to emerge from the worst of the COVID restrictions. The presentation has been called inspiring and has been generating much hallway conversation. So here it is.
1. Stop doing more with less. Breathe. Go for a walk in the woods, on the beach, in the mountains. Educate your funders to help them see how your effectiveness as an arts worker matters more than pushing out sheer volume.
2. Do less with more! Good pay, reasonable hours, improve mental health, improve working conditions. Take care of each other, be there: we are in this together.
3. Embrace digital connection. It is real and it is rapidly growing, if you like it or not is immaterial! Go ahead and assess digital opportunities in your context, your community and your organization and build digital business lines if it makes sense. Think about what it looks like to meaningfully disseminate or present live arts digitally. Learn about and adopt industry backbone application (The Pitch, I want to showcase, block booking, PPN, Side door)
Act, don’t leave it at paying lip service; when its just words and intentions without action, folks see right through it – always.
5. Engage the public through the arts, not merely in the arts. Climate change, housing availability, precarious employment, living wages/guaranteed income, fear-based politics / elections, dis- and mis-information, online bully pulpits – so many topics that could be made better for the majority of people as well as systemically marginalized people through creative and artistic interventions
6. Make a big difference in your community. What are the conversations that need to be had locally? Hot button issues? Get involved and convene people in conversations, curate shows to reflect on the issues, host solution summits.
I have been using the Alpha Strategies framework advanced by Alan W. Kennedy and Thomas E. Kennedy, after taking a Strategy Certificate executive development courses with Alan at Schulich School of Business about a decade ago. It has been a great vessel to place assessment and planning tools like research-based SWOTs or Business Canvas tool into a broader strategic narrative. Kennedy’s eight Alpha Strategies framework has held up well and has been a useful tool in my practice. It covers eight areas to consider in its strategic management: 1) Business Definition, 2) Production/Service Delivery, 3) Infrastructure (Intellectual, real and digital properties), 4) Financial Management, 5) Marketing and Communications (Audiences and Channels), 6) Organization Management (People), 7) Growth, 8) Risk Management.
With the COVID discontinuities, a heightened focus on serious climate change impacts and major social movements and their mid- to far-right-wing backlash, I will be adding “environmental” and “social” impact strategies in my practice from here on. (Political considerations play in each of these 10 realms, so I am not adding political as a dimension of strategy.) It will be interesting to see where solutions will go from here for my clients.
Thanks to host Kari Johnston who interviewed me as part of her Yukon Entrepreneurs Podcast series. Kari has been talking to Yukon business people about how they are deploying, leveraging, changing or transitioning their business models during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the case or Strategic Moves, demand skyrocketed as a result of our reputation for digital expertise and having championed digital adoption in the live arts sector in Canada over a decade. COVID simply unleashed the urgent demand to make sense of the digital world, as well as advancing on key organizational pressures, from equity, diversity and inclusion to elevating strategic planning work to a far more actionable, meaningful level.
On November 20, 2020, 31 Yukoners gathered via Zoom to talk to each other about big ideas from the starting points of:
How can we build a true Yukon digital platform to put our collective foot forward to the vast online population?
What would Yukoners and Yukon businesses have to build together to achieve such an awesome, global online presence? What kinds of content would we need to have, what kinds of digital technologies would we use to create awesome digital experiences, and what kind of visionary web presence would we create to be a global online force?
Here is the full zoom recording with annotated chapter markers as well as a written summary report:
https://yukonorganics.ca/ – sharing food orders to get high quality foods into remote locations at good prices (Scott McKenzie, Yukon)
Creative Lab North (Melaina Sheldon & Jayden Soroka, Yukon) – in development
ThePitch.ca: Online Showcase for the Performing Arts (Debbie Peters, Yukon) – in development
Yukon Transportation Museum – developing digital products and services (Janna Swales, Yukon) – in development
Guest speakers also contributed greatly to the conversation by expanding on approaches to digital technologies and opportunities: Tammy Lee, Culture Creates (Montreal), Margaret Lam, Bemused Network (Waterloo, ON)