Sunday, September 11, 2011

When to be the host, when to be the guest?

Good morning.
“And the beat goes on……………………….”

Sitting at the tables where decisions that affect us are made

I have been spending much of the summer working with the people in Arizona as they continue on an extraordinary journey to try to build a real foundation for statewide collaboration and unifying the arts and culture sector to leverage its strengths and potential.  I hope to continue to follow their efforts, and report back at some point next year on their progress in community building on a very large and ambitious scale.  I think what they are doing may well constitute a replicable model with lessons learned and best practices that other states might follow  to finally build a coalition collaborative effort that can both protect us and move us forward.

One of the issues that Arizona will have to grapple with – much as the rest of the national sector continues to face as well – has to do with our outreach to stakeholders and other sectors whose support we need and with whom we absolutely must establish relationships, intersections, common ground and goals of mutual benefit.  These are the special interest groups,  spheres of influence and the people who populate those other worlds with whom we need to work closely  – because consciously or not, directly or indirectly, they make decisions or have influence on decision making that directly impacts us.   We need to sit at their tables or have them sit at ours.  We need to influence them, and have them understand why we are important to them.   For too long they have made decisions about us without any input from us.

And therein is the question about strategy that we need to spend more time addressing.  Because whether we try to get invited to their tables or invite them to ours is a critical strategic decision and it deserves some serious thinking.

There are times and places where it will be easier for us to try to get invited to sit at other tables than it will be to get those people to accept our invitation to sit at our tables.  Conversely, there will be other situations where invitations to sit at their tables will never be forthcoming, and we will need to figure out how to get them to be part of our deliberations.  In either situation, we will be tasked with convincing these other people that we ought to be part of their deliberations and that they need to be part of ours.   This is largely a strategic question that will depend on a lot of different variables depending on the particulars of any given situation – but as a strategic decision we need to spend more time considering when it is in our own best interests to try to get that invitation, and when it will serve us better to extend that invitation.

Whichever strategy we decide on in any given case may very well determine whether or not we are successful in being part of the decision making process of some other sector that directly and profoundly impacts us. Certainly it will bear upon the timing of our moving forward, because if we pick the wrong strategy, it will take us longer to get where we want – which is to have all of us – and them – at the same table – whomever the “them” is in any given situation.  And we really don’t have the luxury of wasting more precious time as we continue to try to both survive and thrive in ever tougher circumstances.

So I hope this is a topic that we might spend some time thinking about and discussing among ourselves so we can best figure out when it is best to be the hosts and when it is best to try to be the invited guest – and how we might go about each of those tactics in different situations.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit.