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Arts and Culture Public Officials Breakfast 2015

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On the Subject of Navel Gazing

What’s one of the best ways to find out what someone needs? Ask them.

Community conversations are a bit on trend these days, which we think is a good thing (asking people what they need instead of telling them what they need seems like a super idea for obvious reasons). Back in February of this year, we launched 4 public planning conversations to help inform our organizational direction. But CPAC isn’t the only organization going out into the field recently to collect community feedback on organizational work and practices. We’ve seen Gordon Square Arts District, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and the Cleveland Foundation all using similar methods to direct what they do and how they do it.

Community Dialogue at Cleveland Public Library Main Branch

I believe that any good service organization takes the time to reflect internally, evaluate its own work and communicate closely (and openly) with the people it’s designed to serve. Though I think sometimes people in the community can get frustrated by observing this process (wtf, you spent a year “navel-gazing” instead of working on stuff or solving problems – actual comment from one of the discussions.) But as a non-profit service organization, this type of self-analysis is critical. The reality is, we need to continually consult and re-consult with the arts and culture community to stay on top of and adapt to the ever-changing sets of challenges and needs. You’d be surprised how long it actually does take to review everything you’re doing as an organization and ask yourself what’s working and what’s not. And to ask that hard question of whether or not we’re even relevant. CPAC’s entire existence is based on an on-going dialogue with the community and continually reevaluating what we can do more effectively to support arts and culture.

Consulting directly with the arts and culture community is really an exercise in returning to our roots as an organization. This was essentially the foundation for CPAC’s operation starting in the mid-90s. Our goal for these newest conversations was the same: find out where the community’s pain points are and uncover more information on where we should focus as an arts research and advocacy collective. In the simplest terms: What do you need? How can we help? The discussions in February centered around one of the four priority areas that surfaced out of our strategic planning process (which took place over the course of 2017): arts learning, arts and culture funding, arts participation and engagement and cultural policy. While It isn’t CPAC’s first rodeo in any of these focus areas, the arts and culture landscape in Cleveland has changed significantly since we first showed up on the scene 20 years ago.

Our findings coming out of these discussions were a mix of surprising and expected. It is really important to us to get the widest, most honest set of feedback we can. So now, we’re sending out a survey (everyone loves surveys), which of course we would love for you to take. The survey contains access to summaries our findings, some additional questions and open format response areas so you can tell us what you think. Regardless of whether you came to one of the discussions, we want to hear from you. 

Categories: advocacy, audience, connections, Education, funding, partnership, public policy, strategic planning

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