There are times on my blog when I am critical of people’s practices or state/imply that there is action that needs to be taken to improve a situation. With that in mind, I also think it important to acknowledge when people do act to rectify a situation. Such is the case with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. As I have mentioned, I am involved with their Emerging Leadership Institute and have been one of the initial forces behind making the experience worthwhile for the once and future participants.
A number of alumni (including those who had just graduated) met during the conference to discuss what where we wanted to see the program go and how the APAP leadership could help. In attendance was newly hired Education Specialist, Scott Stoner who had declared before a room full of people on the previous day that if APAP didn’t make significant inroads in developing a significant knowledge base, thinking strategically and making use of the people that they have on their team, he wouldn’t be working there next year. So we knew we were dealing with someone who was quite serious about effecting change.
So two days ago I had a conference call with the other two people who helped spearhead the effort to get the ELI alumni together and advance our agenda with the APAP administration. (Laura Kendall, Lied Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Joe Clifford, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College. Smart, passionate people. Give them fulfilling jobs with good pay!) We spoke about involving more people in planning and programming for next year. We also divvied up responsibility for talking to different people at APAP to remind them about the changes and additions we would like to see implemented.
Imagine my pleasure when I got an email yesterday from APAP sent out to all alumni signed by Scott Stoner and others essentially committing to address all the issues we had discussed at our conference meeting. My partners in crime and I pretty much don’t have to do any reminding.
Among the the things they have committed to do are:
Send a letter from Arts Presenters’ President/CEO Sandra Gibson to recent graduates’ chief administrator – acknowledging the value of participation in the program and you as a member of the ELI network (done)
This was actually very important to the alumni. I am thrilled to see it has already been done. The ELI alumni feel the experience is valuable but don’t believe the chief administrators feel the same. Frequently, they won’t send new people to the conference or resend the program alumni. We felt the letter would help reinforce the value of participation in the administrators’ minds.
But we also know that conference attendance involves a considerable investment of time and money. While the ELI alumni are committed to finding ways to help finance or reduce the fees for returning alumni, we are also dedicated to providing opportunities for interaction between the annual conferences which is where the next three goals APAP has come in.
Identify links to online and other information and resources to assist with building knowledge and skills.
Identify opportunities for ELI members to meet on-site at state, regional and national arts meetings and conferences (links to meeting calendars and suggested events will be forthcoming in the near future)
Create a home for ELI on the Arts Presenters website and an online facility for peer-to-peer networking
This last item was actually fairly important to the ELI alumni. We had been frustrated with the Listserv as a communication tool. Until Scott Stoner mentioned that they were going to try to create an improved communication system, one of our agenda items for the meeting was to decide on an alternative mode like Yahoo Groups.
One last thing related thing I want to say. I was very impressed by how thoughtful and perceptive my colleagues in the ELI program are. In addition to all the aforementioned items we felt were important, there was also well considered conversation about where the ELI program fit into the greater process. People noted that in two years the student volunteers at the conference would be ready to apply for the Emerging Leadership Institute. It was also noted that since the first ELI class was 6 years ago, those early attendees were moving beyond the emergent portion of their careers.
By the end of the meeting a loose framework for three stage track starting with greater focus on improving the conference experience of the student volunteer and grooming them to apply for the ELI program a couple years down the road. Then would come the ELI experience and the aforementioned improvements. Finally a person would transition into an Advanced Leadership stage with a slightly different system to support their needs and goals.
It was a little strange to be organizing a group for the first time, turning to some of the members and telling them that they should make plans to leave and start their own group. Fortunately, those people were already of the same mind. They were happy the effort to organize was going forward, but they suspected they were moving past the scope of the group.
Yes, I know it all sounds very self-congratulatory. Frankly, having left a lot of meetings in my time feeling good about the future when the discussions came to pass and then having nothing actually develop at all, I am a little dazed to be involved with an effort that is apparently bearing fruit. (Though I am still realistic enough not to count my chickens.)