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(APAP + RCLA) ^ DC = LDI x 2

3 months ago, I provided some riveting coverage of the first convening of the second cohort of the LDI program. It is about time to revisit our progress. But you probably already concluded that from the title of this post because you are very good at theoretical computations of acronyms and place names.

When I last left you, I was about to depart for the District of Columbia for the second meeting of LDI. While there, we spent a fair amount of time debriefing the action steps we’d committed to taking in the aftermath of the first round in Austin. Remember…the LDI group is doing a collaborative inquiry to understand how an organization can come to know and connect with communities…a process which requires a repeated series of actions and debriefing sessions. The actions included a bunch of readings, an audit of current organizational community engagement practices, interviews with community members broadly identified as either currently engaged with our organization or not, and for some of us, either a mapping exercise of our choosing or an interview with someone we felt was an exemplar in the area of connecting with communities.

As a result of the debriefing sessions, we started to notice some themes developing. Many of our conversations started to fall broadly into several areas (which may or may not show up in some form in our final report. I make absolutely no promises.). These are Knowing/Understanding Community (i.e. a list of strategies and best practices), Shaping Internal Culture (i.e. a recognition that an organization must actively embrace community engagement as part of its mission if it wants to be successful in Knowing and Understanding) and Evaluation (i.e. how do we know when we know and understand community and how do we communicate this?).

These headers ultimately informed the next round of actions we’ve been working on and which we will debrief starting this Wednesday in DC. All 14 of us worked on the Shaping Internal Culture bit by developing a staff action/knowledge building experience around our topic and documenting what happened (here’s a sneak peak for you the reader that the rest of my team doesn’t know yet…I failed to deliver on this one. YIKES. Summer time proved too tricky to get all of our staff together in one place for this exercise. I will try again, though! ). Also on this front, we were asked to grill the management teams at our home organizations about their impressions of engagement work happening at those organizations. For the other two areas, we split off into groups. I was on team Evaluation, aka “The Immeasurables.” We read. A lot. Assigned readings and some that were self-selected. We did an audit of current organizational evaluation tactics and practices. We were also asked to conduct expert interviews with folks outside the arts sector about their evaluation strategies. Luckily, being situated on a major university campus this wasn’t hard. I went deep into Public Health land and learned that they’re dealing with the same questions we’re grappling with in this exercise.

Yes. I’m glossing over things here, but think of it like you do the anxiety-inducing (super annoying) season-ending cliffhanger of your favorite JJ Abrams cable television show. I’m dangling what is clearly a LOST-esque carrot in front of you. But instead of asking you to delay your understanding of why there are polar bears living on an island, I’m asking you to hold out for our final report and presentation at the APAP conference in January for the full story. Yes. It is going to be that huge.

Outing fun facts about my LDI colleagues was so fun last time, that I’m going to do it again. This time, you’ll get to hear about what they thought their summer plans might include at the time of our last meeting in late June:

• Bobby Asher, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, MD (newly married and poor as a result. Only solid plans include remembering to wear his wedding ring)

• Brad Carlin, Fusebox Festival, Austin, TX (going on a New Orleans swamp trip)

• Rachel DeGuzman, Rochester City Ballet, Rochester, NY (crossing the border for a family vacation à Quebec City)

• Shirley Elliott, Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust, Tulsa, OK (cruisin’ on the Vespa and a whole lot of gardening)

• Sharon Fantl, Redfern Arts Center/Keene State College, Keene, NH (jet setting to Copenhagen. With a one-year old. )

• Emily Harney, MAPP International Productions, New York, NY (Wedding planning and camping in a tent in her NYC living room)

• Brooke Horejsi, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University Fine Arts Programming, St. Joseph,MN (dining at a Dutch oven dinner party. She assured us that this is a real thing)

• Rebekah Lengel, Miami Light Project, Miami, FL (hangin’ with her brother and sister-in-law’s new baby)

• Mollie McFarland, AXIS Dance Company, Oakland, CA (celebrating her son’s pre-K graduation and taking their first trip to Disney)

• Judy Oliver-Turner, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia, WA (concert-hopping and checking out Journey, Pat Benatar, and Loverboy)

• Andre Perry, The Englert Theater, Iowa City, IA (going on vacation to San Francisco)

• Liza Sacheli Lloyd, Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT (breaking the rules and playing in a Middlebury College men’s only golf outing; assured us she will not be using a hockey stick)

• Elizabeth Snodgrass, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (celebrating her sister’s marriage in Wisconsin; also mentioned that Carnegie gives all their staff paid vacation every Friday between the 4th of July and Labor Day!)