A seminar offered by National Arts Stabilization

Karen Masaki and Kathleen Cerveny

National Arts Stabilization (NAS) offered the first course in its executive education program in 1997. Originally called Strategic Leadership in a Changing Environment, Strategy is a three-day seminar that, according to the NAS website, provides arts leaders with "a framework for understanding how to:

- analyze the competitive environment,
- identify alternative strategies, and
- integrate mission and strategy."

To date, the course has been presented seventeen times in fourteen communities across the United States. Grantmakers in each community underwrite the cost of the seminar. Participating groups are encouraged to send at least three representatives and to include a mix of staff and board members.

Through lectures, case studies, discussions, and a final practice exercise, the faculty covers the following: identifying strategy, analyzing the environment, strategy with increasing competition, integrating mission and strategy, integrating artistic and economic choices, and synthesis. Faculty members are from Yale University's School of Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Strategy had been presented in both Cleveland and Hawai'i and we, as grantmakers in these communities, wanted to review the program. Because funders cannot attend a seminar in their own community, we attended the seminar held in Boston this January.

Due to high demand, NAS presented the seminar twice in Boston. The fourteen Boston-area organizations represented at the January seminar ranged from the very large to the very small, including American Repertory Theatre, Boston Ballet, Boston Symphony Orchestra, First Night, Klezmer Conservatory Band, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, and The Theatre Offensive.

In July 2000, Hawai'i Community Foundation sponsored a follow-up to Strategy for the Hawai'i culture and arts community. Fourteen groups had participated in the original seminar in July 1999 and requested the follow-up. Their purpose was to better understand the seminar concepts and apply the concepts to their own organization. In advance, each group submitted their strategic plan in a format provided by NAS. All plans contained the following information: organization profile, mission, industry analysis, strategy (sustainable com-petitive advantage, scope), resource allocations (which resources support competitive advantage, which don't, and which need to be adapted).

At the follow-up, each group was allotted about one hour for discussion of their plan. Discussions were lively and interactive, with input coming not only from the faculty but from other groups as well. As with the original seminar, participants valued the input from their peers, commenting afterward that both seminars provided an invaluable opportunity for networking and learning from each other. In addition, they all benefited from the mainland faculty's national perspective, finding it instructive to put their own organization into a national context.

In Cleveland, the follow-up to the seminar was built into a five-year capacity-building program (BASICs — Building the Arts' Strength In Cleveland) designed to help seventeen at-risk organizations strengthen their ongoing capacity to manage risk specific to their art forms. The Cleveland Foundation engaged NAS in 1999 to help design the BASICs Program and to be the lead consultant. The Strategy seminar was the first professional development requirement of this program. Two sessions were held, and more than one hundred board and staff members from thirty-three Cleveland area organizations attended.

NAS developed an extensive series of smaller group workshops, to be delivered over the life of BASICs, to target the particular and shared technical assistance needs of the program's diverse group of organizations. In the first year (1999-2000), NAS is building on concepts presented in the seminar through these workshops as well as through individual technical assistance. The program has three more years to run, but Cleveland organizations are already beginning to use the language and concepts they learned in the seminar.

NAS has just introduced the second course in its executive education program — Leading and Managing Change. Over the next two years, courses on governance and strategic alliances will also be developed. The Cleveland Foundation has already made a commitment to offer Managing Change and the seminar on governance to its cultural community. If Strategy is any indicator, these will be high-level courses taught by top-notch faculty that will bring great value to arts leaders in communities where the courses are offered.

Kathleen Cerveny is senior program officer, the Cleveland Foundation, and Karen Masaki is program officer, Hawai‘i Community Foundation.