When You Try To Break Out Of Siloed Thinking, You Suddenly See Them Everywhere

When I was looking at Arts Professional UK for yesterday’s post, I saw an article by Lucy Jamieson about rewiring your thinking.

One of the things she talks about is eliminating silos both within an organization (i.e. development is responsible for fund development, and marketing does marketing work, and programming does programming), and between organizations.  The latter being not only the elimination of duplication of effort by multiple entities but also exploring things like where the interests of arts, social justice and climate change advocacy might intersect.

One section of Jamieson’s piece caught my eye:

We talk a lot at the moment about resilience, about being agile and adaptable, about scalability… Yet sometimes it feels as though the more we say the words (resilience, agile, adaptable), the more we’re convincing ourselves that we’re actually doing and being those things.

Back to the Naomi Klein talk. She spoke at one point about the fairly recent shift from the idea of the individual as part of a collective movement, to the individual as a brand (think social media influencers)…

The parallel I’m drawing here is that if we really do want to be ready for change, and therefore resilient, we should also be prepared to instigate that change. And we’re far more likely to be able to do that by partnering up with someone else, no matter how small the change may seem.

I have been helping review grant applications over the last few weeks. Something that struck me recently was that both here in Georgia and in Ohio where I also served on grant panels, there are some amazing, well-designed after school writing programs targeted at helping kids living in difficult circumstances express themselves.

I get excited when I read about the contexts some of these programs connect with writing. Often these are the type of situations where you’d be grabbing a pen and paper in order to participate, never thinking it was a writing exercise and never raising the common student objection about when you would you ever use this skill in real life. Then there are other assignments that definitely asked you to write with intention and introspection.

Reflecting on this last week, I couldn’t help wondering why these techniques weren’t being used in school or why these groups weren’t being brought in to teach a class and give the teachers a break. Some programs I have come across have been sited at schools, but even those were conducted after hours.

The kids participating in these programs are, almost by definition, not handpicked cream of the crop who have a better chance of exhibiting positive outcomes. So schools can’t cite the programs as being inappropriate for their student demographics.

The only reasons I can think for these programs not being in schools is that either:

1- No one made the logical jump that these techniques or groups might be an effective tool for instruction. Perhaps it is a result of siloed thinking that teachers teach in schools during school hours and non-profit groups conduct their activities at other times or are a special, occasional presence in schools. It may also be that while funders are willing to support the time and labor intensive process of writing programs for non-profits, many don’t consider doing the same for schools (or letting them know they are interested in doing so.)

2- The other reason might be that they have different measures of effectiveness. While some of the non-profit grant applicants reference improvements in grades or behavior, by and large they are focused on helping participants feel personally empowered to express themselves. Schools measure effectiveness in terms of test scores which is a secondary or lower ranked concern for the non-profits.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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