Guiding Principles for Collective Action in the Performing Arts

Apr 15, 2010

Guiding Principles for Collective Action in the Performing Arts

The overarching goal of the 2008 National Performing Arts Convention was to increase the capacity of the performing arts sector to act more effectively as a community. This goal was carried out on multiple fronts. Content was designed to reflect themes that cut across the disciplines and that suggested opportunities for collective action; an extensive deliberative, public participation process (America Speaks) was implemented to develop a shared set of strategic priorities; and the Convention was designed in such a way as to promote maximum interaction across the many disciplines represented.

By all accounts, NPAC succeeded on multiple fronts. Speakers indeed inspired delegates, delivering fresh and challenging insights; delegates interacted across traditional boundaries; and all coalesced around a set of strategies that emerged in the culminating town meeting.

As might be expected, the planners also encountered some of the extraordinary challenges that can occur when working together on a project of such scope, depth, and complexity. Organizing the convention at times tested the planners’ ability to understand and to hear one another; to resolve conflict, to manage the tensions between individual conscience and collective action, and between discipline specific imperatives and sector wide goals.

At the completion of the convention, the planners saw that an important learning opportunity was at hand, and that the planning organizations themselves could improve their own capacity for working with one another. The challenge of strengthening the performing arts community was not limited to identifying common goals and organizing appropriate action. It must also involve improving the very nature of how we work

In a half-day session facilitated by John McCann representatives of nine organizations involved in planning NPAC came together to reflect on this experience, determine lessons learned, and consider future opportunities. Out of this gathering a set of guiding principles for collaborative work among performing arts organizations emerged.

The guidelines that appear below are offered as a set of principles that may be used in any number of occasions where multiple arts organizations come together for deliberation and collective action. They may be of use in the various national coalitions and forums where arts service organizations engage. And, they may be equally applicable in local and regional contexts. We believe this unexpected yet highly important outcome of NPAC will be of lasting value as we work to deepen and expand our work together as community.

Guiding Principles

1. Build and protect trust

2. Acknowledge and respect participants’ dual responsibilities to the group and to the disciplines they represent.

3. Take individual responsibility for commitments made to the group, which are in turn fostered by clarity of expectations and purpose for each coalition member.

4. Practice Good Governance
• Inclusivity and respect for the values of all
• Consensus through deliberation and collaboration
• Transparency and openness of communication
• Clarity of decision making process, authority and representation
• Thoughtful and informed consideration of all voices/parties.
• Clarity of expectations and purpose for each coalition member.

Tags: Guiding Principles, NPAC 2008, NPAC, AmericaSpeaks

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