For the past several months I have labored mightily to give birth to the Arts Council’s next five-year Strategic Plan. This is not an exercise to be taken lightly. In fact, I have come to rue the moment I thought to myself, why pay a consultant when we can easily do this ourselves. Well, I have just four words to say to myself for that thought: What was I THINKING!?
The good news is, we are now ready to share our most recent draft with all of you.
I am going to tell you what is in the document. And then I’m going to tell you how we got there. And finally I will ask you to read it and give us—me, actually—your feedback.
What’s in the document is exactly what you would expect to be in a document of this type only without any of the boring details of exactly how many people we met with over the last 12 months, where we met with them, what we talked about, the questions we raised, the questions we tried to answer. Remember, this is a draft for comment, and some of the research is still being done (surveys to artists and arts organizations, for example) which will help refine future drafts and the final product.
But for now, there’s an Introduction which explains why we plan. Then there is a brief Executive Summary which, at least on the web, will have internal links that will get you directly to the meat of the plan. Next there is a background section which gives information about the national trends and research, and work done here in Vermont around the Creative Economy, the Palettes project, and other items that will give you a kind of “environmental context” for the plan itself, including our all-important mission/vision/values statements.
And then there is the Plan with its three very straightforward goals, two of which are directed outwards towards our constituencies, our supporters, or collaborators, and our Governor and Legislature; and the third of which is directed inward towards the Council itself.
How did we arrive at this plan? I know it seems hard to believe, but it was mainly by listening. The work of the Council is always so much greater than the sum of its parts. But it is the many parts working together that drafted this plan. Among the most influential parts of the planning process was the many days spent on the road visiting about 40 communities all over Vermont in our PaletteMobile as part of the Palettes of Vermont project. Diane Scolaro, herself a former local arts agency director, had the pleasure of doing most of that work, and the kind of information that those site visits provided to us has been so valuable. These visits, combined with ongoing input from grant panelists, from our board advisory committees, and, perhaps most important of all, our public Planning Forums held throughout the state in January, gave us almost more information and input than we could absorb.
I said “almost”…!
Since February, my challenge has been to distil everything we heard, both individually and collectively, into a clear and concise document that, as the Introduction says, “is a road map describing how we expect to engage with supporters and partners who believe in the power of art to change lives and improve the fiscal and social health of our communities. Our plan makes it clear to anyone who might consider collaborating with us, applying for support from us, or giving us funds exactly what we and they should expect in return from that collaboration, grant activity, or donation.”
So what I want you to do in the next couple of days—or even right now!—and click on this latest draft. It’s about 10 pages long, but the really important stuff is on the last two or three pages. Please, read it, and get back to me with your input.
This is important. It’s only been three months of my life so far. But we’re really talking about the next five years!