By Jill Robinson
, CEO, TRG Arts
75 arts and cultural chief executives from the around the world are digging in, planning for recovery through the COVID-19 crisis. There are more than these, of course. But I’ve spent time with these 75 over the past month, from mid-April through mid-May, as the impact of the crisis on our sector has changed, evolved, and grown in its realities. And I’ve been inspired.
A bit of background: since mid-April, my colleague Stephen Skrypec
and I have been leading weekly Executive Recovery Summits
—three-hour intensive sessions with no more than 15 global chief executive colleagues at a time, designed for connection, learning and candor (what’s said in Zoom, stays in Zoom!). Designed to provide inspiration, as well as strategies to help recovery, Recovery Summits have been created to remind executives of evergreen leadership truths, now more important than ever. The summits are also helping imagine and create the operational requirements of our future, based on our unique now
And as I said: I’m inspired. We’ve talked about the people on our teams, and I’ve heard about creative action to support staff and artists and boards. We’ve talked about communities and programs that are responsive: creating specific, practical support to people at this time. I’m hearing about plans that acknowledge the needs for safety while also creatively planning potential operations.
Create. Creative. Creating. That is us: Creative is what we do.
With this background and collective thinking in mind, I offer these recommendations for your thinking now:
- Ensure your organization can speak about its mission in terms of a cause that your community needs to defend. Your traditional mission statement may or may not be enough in the face of near Great Depression-level unemployment and other current suffering. Get focused on this as a leader. Be able to speak to it, clearly and regularly, and ensure your team can, too.
- Get focused on people. This means your internal people, your team, as well as the external people your cause supports. Our Recovery Summit attendees have found that while the former is clear, the latter is harder. On whom are you focusing your limited resources and time? Everyone, with everything, for free? Or are your plans strategic, oriented with your end-game in mind? And at TRG we believe that this end-game must consider diversity as fuel and a catalyst for recovery.
- Plan for a different future and surround yourself with people who can help you imagine BIG possibilities. Everyone is scenario-planning now, often driven by fear. Fear results in a desire to create the one concrete plan, or many options, so that we’re prepared for every potential outcome. Instead: plan now for two or three scenarios and stop there. More importantly, create the weekly ability to nimbly assess how your scenarios require change, and change as needed.
- Finally, let’s CREATE! Regardless of when, we WILL be back in live experience. Let’s plan now for that day and ensure it’s full of the magic and mystery of the creative arts. Our Recovery Summit attendees have imagined extraordinary white-glove, celebratory experiences that are SAFE and CREATIVE and ensure that our audiences and patrons are prepared and confident and heave a sigh of relief that we’re back.
Perhaps you can see why I’m inspired. Let’s create our future together: the “new” normal that actually increases the impact of arts and culture and creativity in our communities. #weareartsandculture
Jill Robinson is CEO of TRG Arts, an international, data-driven change agency consulting with arts and cultural executive leaders, marketers, and fundraisers on a patron loyalty-based approach to increasing sustainable revenue.
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