You Don’t Know You Are In Water

Seth Godin made a post today that addresses the current climate of Black Lives Matter, policing, statues, etc without directly naming any of these things.  (A week ago he mentioned he generally tries to write posts that were evergreen rather than specific to the times in which they were penned, but felt he had to unequivocally state Black Lives Matter.)

Today he points out that when you are part of the dominant culture, you don’t see it around you like the proverbial fish that aren’t aware they are in water. It isn’t until you go to another country that you recognize every small assumption comprising your daily routine needs to be examined closely just to cross the street to get breakfast.

This experience can be part of what is fun and engaging about your visit. But part of what makes it fun is that you know you can return to a familiar environment later where you will have many stories to tell. The prospect of living in that foreign place for a longer time can be more daunting.

When media images, policies and corporate standards tell someone that they are an outsider who needs to fit in in non-relevant ways, we’re establishing patterns of inequity and stress. We need to be clear about the job that needs to be done, the utility we’re seeking to create, but not erect irrelevant barriers, especially ones we can’t see without effort.

Good systems are resilient and designed to benefit the people who use them.

If the dominant culture makes it harder for people who don’t match the prevailing irrelevant metrics to contribute and thrive, it’s painful and wasteful and wrong.

If you think about the above quote from Godin a bit, you might see that there are a good many times when the dominant culture shows little regard about alienating its own members. We have seen it happen often in recent years in both large and small ways. Currently we are in a period where many people are realizing their membership isn’t as secure as they thought or that they are no longer in synch with the terms of membership. The result is, they are finding greater common cause with those who have felt themselves outsiders.

But also, lest it get lost in the macro level big societal questions being wrestled with on the national and international stage, Godin’s admonishment about good systems being resilient and designed to benefit the users is just as applicable on the micro level of your organizational business hours and admission practices.

Lottery With Your Latte

There was an article on Arts Professional UK a couple weeks ago that presented an intriguing idea–the use of receipt lotteries to fund arts & education.

Receipt lotteries started in Taiwan in 1951 as a way to prevent under reporting of sale tax collections. Basically, every sales receipt you receive has a series of numbers printed on it. Every couple months, they have a drawing to determine a winner. A number of other countries have set up similar arrangements.

However, it doesn’t have to be done every couple months. Things could be set up so that there was a drawing for smaller prizes every Saturday and you just needed to go online to check if you won something.

There are many benefits of this. First, there isn’t a concern about gambling or that that lower income people are targeted for participation if everyone is entered when they buy groceries or go see a football game. So if your state arts and education funding comes from the lottery, you may feel less discomfort about benefiting from a problematic situation.

Second, it encourages loyalty to retailers that offer the lottery numbers on their receipts. This can be a boon for states who are concerned that online retailers are not remitting sales tax properly. If consumers prefer to buy their products from an online business that provide them a good chance to win $200 at the end of the week, retailers have an incentive to register, and therefore remit taxes, with each state.

Obviously it would be good to have a handful of lottery services that states used in common rather than requiring retailers to register individually with the 40 or so states that have sales taxes of some sort. Most places who use receipt lotteries have seen an increase in sales tax revenue.

I believe I read that in Taiwan, if you aren’t interested in participating in the lottery, there are collection boxes in to which you can drop your receipt and they will be given to charities.

Obviously, the biggest flaw in this sort of arrangement is that in times like these when no one is buying anything, then the funding available to arts and education drops to nearly nothing. But it is highly likely very little money is going to be allocated to the arts by state governments through the usual legislative process anyway.

The other problem, like with most lotteries, is that there is no guarantee the state government won’t divert the revenue being set aside for arts and education to some other cause on a regular basis either.

Changes To Butts In The Seats Email Subscriptions

Hey loyal Butts In The Seats feed subscribers! This weekend we are changing the service that delivers posts by email. Everyone who has subscribed to the feed will be added to the new system. Since the emails will be coming from a new source, if you don’t see a post from me come Monday evening, you may want to check your spam folders to check things didn’t get caught up in there.

If the post isn’t in there, contact me via the link on the blog and we will get you set up.

You also may get an opt-in email from the blog which you will need confirm before you receive posts.

If you have been toying with the idea of having my posts delivered to you but haven’t pulled the trigger yet, you can sign up using the Subscribe button floating at the bottom right hand corner of your screen. I’d advise waiting until after the weekend so you don’t get overlooked when we migrate email addresses to the new system.

Thanks for all your support.

Perception Is More Powerful Than Money

Today was the big day for our community’s On The Table discussion. If you aren’t familiar with the nationwide program, it is a day different groups in a community host discussions on any topic they feel needs to be addressed–including just leaving things open for whatever comes up. In our community, there were hundreds of tables hosting thousands of people doing everything from having breakfast with the mayor to discussing urban revitalization, homelessness, law enforcement, entrepreneurship, preserving oral history–you name it.

I hosted two separate sessions about Arts Midwest’s Creating Connection initiative. I will probably reflect on that in a future post.  Perhaps the most valuable bit of insight for arts and cultural organizations didn’t emerge from a conversation in my venue, nor do I believe the slated topic of conversation was about the arts.

My marketing director was having a conversation with a woman who is an artist and currently works for a foundation which funds arts initiatives. This woman admitted that she regularly attends performances at a local theater and always see the big sign encouraging her to subscribe. However, she has never subscribed because she perceives that as something old people do. She also admitted she kicks herself later for paying full price when she could be getting a good discount by subscribing.

While this is only a single anecdotal case — notice that she would rather pay full price in order to avoid being associated with her perception of a subscriber. Perception was a much greater motivator than price. That is something to think about when price is cited as the primary impediment to participation.

When she was attending a discussion at my On The Table event, this same woman talked about her previous job working for an organization that had a gallery of work by local artists. Before she started working there, she had never entered the gallery due to concerns about whether she would be allowed to enter and if she was dressed properly.

Looking at the same gallery through the windows from the street, I would describe it as having a welcoming homey quality, but that isn’t what she saw.

Her candid conversations just reinforced for me the research findings that point to just how strong an influence one’s sense of belonging has in whether people participate in an experience or not. It is the invitation to participate, how the invitation is framed, who extends it and what the experience is that matters much more than the sticker price.

Another thing that came to light was just how difficult it is to communicate the existence of opportunities that align with people’s interests. One of our ticket clerks is a law student. Above our lobby are six floors of county offices housing everything from the district attorney, county court officials, and state/local/federal law enforcement.  A number of those offices were hosting On The Table discussions about law enforcement, courts, and sentencing as a resource for the general community.

Not only did the law student not know conversations with people with whom she would be interested in speaking were occurring, she wasn’t aware that the entire On The Table program existed. Other staff felt like we couldn’t escape information about it on social media, television, radio, posters, etc., especially in the last month. Our clerk had no concept such a program existed in the world.

Part of the blame for this falls on our shoulders. Prior to today, we apparently never told one of our most trusted employees in our most public facing office that the events would be occurring across the lobby from where she sat in case anyone asked questions.

Though by the same token, she apparently doesn’t look at the event listings on our Facebook page and website with any frequency to familiarize herself with videos and other content associated with upcoming events. But even that just illustrates how difficult it is to get information in front of people and register with their attention.

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