Plus/Delta is a popular format for formative evaluation and organizational learning. What are we doing well (the “plus)? And what should we change (the “delta”)? Used summatively, the questions are similar: What went well? What should we change for next time? It is in the plus/delta spirit that I offer initial reflections on the 4th Biennial Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts: Creativity and New Venture Creation, which finished just 48 hours ago.
Overall, the event exceeded my expectations, but that overall assessment needs to be broken down into specific chunks to be 1) useful organizationally and 2) interesting to the readers of this blog.
Active engagement. Traditional academic conferences can be dry and, most problematically, often result in small groups of people talking within their small groups about things they already know. We (and the “we” here is me and the small cadre of terrific graduate students in the arts entrepreneurship and management program as well as members of our steering committee) wanted to host an event that included active engagement and interaction. This was an area where the symposium truly excelled. From the icebreaker activity over breakfast (participant super-bingo) to the small groups working collaboratively and creatively during Elizabeth Long Lingo’s workshop, participants were actively engaged. They listened to each other empathically, shared ideas openly, and even got out of the building for some physical stretching led by Jessica Rajko to complement the stretching of our minds.
Creative interaction across many spectra of expertise. Again, the symposium met or exceeded expectations. There were students, faculty, and administrators from ASU, students and faculty from other universities (to name just a few: UT Austin, Millikin, University of Missouri, Seattle University, Colorado State, American U, Pratt Institute, New England Conservatory, Peabody, Indiana U and more), arts industry leaders such as key note speakers Ruby Lerner of Creative Capital and Diane Ragsdale, policy actors from the Arizona Comission on the Arts and Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, independent artists such as Rick Noguchi and Chris McGinnis, people who work in artist support like Beth Flowers of Arts Incubator of the Rockies and Kristine Maltrude of ArtSpark, funders [big THANK YOU to the Women and Philanthropy Program for making the event possible], and others. It wasn’t just that these people were all in a room together – they were meeting each other and working together. One graduate student wrote in social media: “It was amazing to be with such passionate, gifted, beautiful people. This very much felt like a wonderfully intimate gathering with friends.”
[speaking of social media, you can search hashtag #paveASU on twitter]
Knowledge sharing. In addition to the programming we created, an open call had gone out for workshops or presentations on arts entrepreneurship theory, practice, and pedagogy related to Creativity and New Venture Creation in the Arts. We received numerous outstanding proposals that constituted the “concurrent sessions” that ran on Friday afternoon. This segment was the most like an academic conference, but since by then we had mostly all met one another and because of the mix of backgrounds, interest, and expertise, the sessions avoided the pitfall of the academic conference: spiraling inward with the same people who attend such conferences. Especially given the attendance by undergraduate students (not too many, but some), I feel confident that new knowledge was disseminated.
Between Plus and Delta is “wait and see.” It’s too early to know if the pedagogic techniques and research presentations will have impact, but presenters are being encouraged to 1) share their presentation materials with attendees and 2) consider submitting material for publication in Artivate, Pave’s peer-reviewed journal.
Diversity. The room was packed; conversations about art, policy, business, and design thinking were taking place between people of different ages and backgrounds. I walked up to the podium to deliver my introductory remarks and knew immediately what the theme of the Fifth Biennial Pave Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts would be: Minority Arts Entrepreneurship. There was a lot of diversity in the room, but not of the observable type one usually associates with the word “diversity” (with the exception of the observable age diversity). Of the almost 90 people in the room, I observed that less than 10% were people of color. This homogeneity does not reflect my personal or professional values. Neither does it support the growth and development of he field. So, before I uttered the first words of the Fourth Biennial Symposium, the Fifth was on my mind.
Students. Approximately 20% of the attendees were ASU students. I want to increase that to 30% and to do that, we need to more clearly articulate why the event is important to them. We should also get a student sponsorship program in place well ahead of time so that price is not a barrier to entry (this year the student registration price was $50, inclusive of meals). Timing is tricky for students, but sandwiched between finals and graduation, we’re probably going to keep it where it is as a “best compromise.”
Programming costs. This iteration of our symposium was only possible because of a generous grant from the Women and Philanthropy Program of the ASU Foundation. We have already taken steps to reduce the 2017 cost by using our own theatre spaces and will need to be strategic about both fundraising and expense reduction for 2017.
So, although I am extremely pleased with what happened here May 8-9 2015, there is room for improvement. We are sending out our formal evaluation to attendees this week, which will give us data for a more formal plus/delta evaluation. For now, I’m just going to thank the support team of graduate students: Shelby Maticic, Mollie Flanagan, and Kara Chesser, and our sponsors: Women & Philanthropy; Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; School of Film, Dance, and Theatre.
And this quote from an attendee:
I loved the diversity of the arts that was represented, as well as the various ways the attendees were engaged – thinking, creativity, networking, etc. I’m still thinking about all that transpired and wishing for more…
… more to come May 5-6, 2017! [and watch for our 2015-2016 speakers series too]