Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blog Forum on the Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA - Day #5

Good morning
"And the beat goes on…………………"

Note:  For bios on the Forum participants, please see last week's blog post (or, if you are on the blog site, scroll down).

Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA - Day #5

What are the innovations in association management that the leadership of NASAA and its incoming staff leader need to consider emulating and embracing, and why?  And what kinds of skills and vision ought NASAA be looking for in its new Chief Executive Officer? 

Randy Rosenbaum:
I think we need to find a new CEO for NASAA who can, first and foremost, build effective relationships designed to promote the growth and development of the field.  That person needs to be visionary and passionate about the arts, and the role that state arts agencies can play in advancing the arts in our country. I'm less concerned about new innovations in association management, but I would expect our new leader to be aware of these innovations and think critically about which might help move NASAA forward.

Anthony Radich:
When I think of organizations that NASAA could be, I think of two very different models.  One is the labor union model that spent so much effort fighting for rights and share of funds that they largely missed the movement toward collaborative work and joint interest in product and company success.

Ra Joy:
NASAA is a crucial and necessary organization for the arts sector and I see tremendous opportunities for its next leader to build on organization’s legacy of achievement. The new CEO should bring not only programmatic and policy experience to the position, but a proven track record of building cross-sector partnerships.

A few bits of additional unsolicited advice for the search team and NASAA’s new leader:

Go Global – In addition to learning from cultural leaders across the country, NASAA should consider going global by hosting conversations with the world’s foremost thinkers and visionaries on topics at the intersection of the arts and public policy.  In addition to showcasing how other countries are addressing shared challenges and opportunities, bringing in international leaders could also reinforce the exclusive benefits of NASAA membership.

CEO/Digital Director – To keep up with the breakneck pace of change in technology, new media and digital tools are critical to the success of all institutions. Recognizing that digital integration is a core aspect of every function, NASAA’s new leader should also serve as its “digital director.”

Diversity & Inclusion – Issues of equity, diversity and inclusion continue to challenge leaders in the arts sector.  In order to stay relevant and thrive, we need to get better at recruiting, retaining, and managing a diverse workforce at all levels. To foster an environment of inclusion within the organization and throughout the field, NASAA’s new CEO should have a clear and proven commitment to diversity.

That's my two cents and I'm sticking to it.

Arni Fishbaugh:
I’m not up on the innovations in association management, frankly.  I can’t wait to read what others have to say about this!

As to skills and vision NASAA ought to look for in its new executive director, the board of directors of NASAA has developed a list of attributes it would like to see, which will be included in the search announcement for the position later this month.  I’m not going to scoop that list here.  But here are skills most important to me:

  • Understands the whole arts industry culture and a vision for how to address the mission of NASAA, which is to strengthen state arts agencies
  • Understands the political challenges that face state and federal arts agencies
  • Knowledge of the arts and their benefits to the economy, education and community revitalization, as well as the importance of government funding and resources in advancing these benefits
  • Understands that NASAA is a member-driven organization and its central work is to meet the needs of its members
  • Successful public policy development and hands-on advocacy accomplishments
  • Understands that the key to almost everything is relationship-building
  • Fund and entrepreneurial development
  • Non-partisan approach to all NASAA’s political and advocacy work
  • Maintains a strong state arts agency voice in partnership development, including the partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts
  • Strong diplomatic skills and an effective negotiator 
  • Committed to diversity and inclusiveness
  • Ability to balance 50,000’ visionary thinking with the hands-on reality of our world in the trenches and provide meaningful leadership in both milieu
  • A good sense of humor and a glass half-full approach to life and work

Mark Huffland;

Would it help to consider a rotating leadership model, as opposed to trying to find it all at once in a single individual?  Might individuals emerge through rotation, visitation, sabbaticals from other positions in the field?  …the way publishers, diplomats, and other major heads circulate more frequently?

Kris Tucker:
NASAA’s CEO must be a national leader while making sure the home office is well managed. She/he must have (and deserve) the respect of other national players as well as SAA staff, as well as a deep and well articulated understanding of the context, challenges and frameworks of SAAs. And she/he must bring new perspectives to innovation in the SAA field. 

With this new leadership, I hope NASAA can more visibly and actively embrace innovation among SAAs; this requires a NASAA role that goes farther and deeper than showcasing and spotlighting efforts. Can NASAA broker partnerships across state lines, perhaps related to technology or communications – or for a no border initiative with “makers” or the DIY movement? Can NASAA build a coalition of academic partners in a handful of states to provide multi-year cultural policy analysis on behalf of the field? Can NASAA help a SAA develop a multi-year, iterative plan to experiment, explore, advance? Can NASAA secure Federal funding (not NEA) for a focused multi-state initiative connecting the arts perhaps to housing, Veterans affairs, or other issues?

It’s now been a decade since the Wallace Foundation invested in 13 SAAs – and the field as a whole – through the START initiative that introduced us to smarter conversations and better conceptual frameworks for understanding the public benefit of state arts agencies. What’s next? NASAA could set the table for the next decade. But they won’t get there if they are focused on troubleshooting SAA problems with grantmaking and strategic planning.  

Laura Zucker:
The NASAA board is going to have an interesting challenge in searching for a new executive director. First of all, they’re going to have to find someone who wants to live in Washington, D.C. and with that humidity-- not easy! Then there’s the question of a competitive salary. As reported in NASAA’s 2011 990, the CEO made $158,340 plus $16,076 in benefits. Many heads of large urban LAAs make more and the president and CEO of AFTA in 2012 made $544,178 plus $262,455 in other compensation and benefits. Five other staff members at AFTA made just about, or more, than the CEO of NASAA in that year.

What to look for in the new CEO at any price? Vision, passion, tenacity and experience in that order. I define vision as the ability to see what a future version of the world can or should be. Passion is the will to make that vision a reality over time—sometimes a long time. And the more experience you have the more quickly you can make it come to pass. But we’ve all seen people without a lot of experience learn along the way and get there all the same.  So it needs to be someone at their sweet spot— just enough experience to manage the politics and not enough to keep them from trying crazy wonderful things!

Scott Provancher:
A few thoughts for the search committee for the CEO of NASAA:

If the search committee believes that the SAA sector is changing and the role of NASAA will require new ideas and strategies to support its members and strengthen the Arts in America, then they should hire someone who has proven experience in developing, designing, executing and realizing new ideas, organizational change and social innovations.

However, if NASAA, believes that the model is not broken and only needs someone to “sell” the existing value proposition of NASAA harder, the worst thing that they could do is to hire a proven innovator or change agent.

I recall a personal experience of mine when I was hired as the CEO of an orchestra.  The Board’s selling points during the search process was the need for a “new model” and someone who could “revolutionize” the role of the orchestra in the community.  Drawn to the opportunity to design a new path forward for an art form that I loved, I eagerly accepted the charge to be the leader of this exciting transformation.

From almost day one, it became clear to me that the organization envisioned ‘change’ as revenue going up and expense going down, but programmatically, culturally and structurally everything else remaining exactly the same.  A disconnect between the Board and me on the definition of change and, more importantly, the cause and effect of changes to the organization, was a recipe for disaster.

Expectations and honesty are key in making any relationship successful, whether it’s a marriage or the Board /CEO partnership.  The Board needs to be honest about what success looks like and make these expectations clear during its search process.  The candidate needs to be honest about their leadership style and proven strengths and communicate those clearly to the search committee.

If the relationship between the Board and the CEO begins with mutually agreed upon expectations and a shared vision for the success of the organization, this partnership can provide a meaningful opportunity for both the organization and the leader to grow and prosper.  For NASAA, choosing the right person for the CEO role and setting he/she up for success is the most important determinate of the future success of this organization.  

Forum continues tomorrow………………..

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