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Cultural Planning in Edge Communities

A large metropolitan united arts fund found that explosive growth in edge communities of its service area was shifting the cultural equation. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates created cultural plans for each of the area's suburban communities and linked those plans to the programs, structure, and approach of the united arts fund. Today, each of these communities has a plan adopted unanimously by both the town board and the united arts fund. Outcomes have been striking and include the development of municipal systems for cultural development, increased investment in arts and cultural activities, integration of creative interests into broader civic concerns, and increased giving to the united arts fund. New services for local artists, local arts programmers, and citizen consumers have been created. New corporate partners in the arts have come forward. Both the number of workplace giving campaigns in the towns and giving to the united arts fund has grown. Three artists’ organizations, a festival, a marketing campaign, an art fair, and a suburban children’s discovery museum were initiated. A new commercial newspaper was launched to help address the lack of communication infrastructure identified in one suburban town. An historic arts facility was targeted for renovation as a community cultural center. The towns’ cultural offerings have come to be included in the united arts fund’s electronic cultural calendar. An electronic database of artists has been launched to reduce artists’ isolation and advance their marketing interests. The united arts fund is working with the towns to create public art programs. It has reshaped its grants programs to meet changing consumer needs, added town appointees to its own board, and added staff liaison positions to enhance its ability to respond to the edge communities it serves.

Building a Family Foundation

A newly created family foundation had an interest in developing a program of giving in sustainable food systems, but did not know how to proceed. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates was engaged to provide foundation management and consultation. In order to design a giving program, we researched key NGO’s, units of government, and foundations working in the field, and designed and facilitated invitational discussion groups at the leading national conference. Experts from across the country provided detailed information concerning key issues, key resources, potential board members, and major unmet funding needs. We analyzed that information, conducted related research, and developed a comprehensive structure and set of giving policies for the foundation. Then, we managed the foundation through its first years. Today, the foundation continues its work successfully.

Resolving Conflict: A Funder and a Grantee

A major funder and one of its grantees were deadlocked over the way in which the grantee should provide services. The funder was at the brink of terminating its support to the grantee; since it provided nearly all of the grantee's operating budget, that step would have wiped the grantee off the map. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates was engaged to negotiate a solution. A Funder/Grantee group was formed. We researched alternatives for the delivery of the service in question, identified best practices from the broader field, and worked with a local partner to train the Funder/Grantee group in this information. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates and its local partner facilitated the Funder/Grantee group in designing a model program for their community. Today, services to the community continue uninterrupted.

Communicating with Constituents

A political campaign was flagging under the burden of an exploding number of voter group questionnaires and its policy positions were poorly documented. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates created a library of responses for use in questionnaires and a system of guest editorial generation. We reorganized the campaign’s use of its website for the communication of policy positions and common elements in local civic dialog. The campaign regained its ability to communicate to the public effectively, and its candidate rapidly gained endorsement from both of the subject community’s daily newspapers; over time that candidate was elected to the office he sought.

Resolving Conflict: Charges of Favoritism

In the course of conducting a cultural plan, it became apparent that a particular community’s municipal arts committee faced severe criticism because its management of a public performing arts venue appeared to favor one arts organization over all the rest. Local elected officials were annoyed; access to the venue was becoming a political battleground. In the context of a cultural planning process, Mary Berryman Agard & Associates worked with the arts committee to clarify their priorities with regard to the purpose of the facility, to examine the financial realities surrounding facility use, and to develop a set of clear policies distinguishing between rental policies for tenant organizations and occasional users. Conflict and confusion around the venue and its use was dramatically reduced. Today, the venue is a cornerstone of the municipality's program of arts and cultural support.

Designing a National Network

A foundation wished to have a major impact on the security and transparency of electronic voting systems. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates was contracted to develop the foundation’s approach. We researched the problem, identified and interviewed national leaders on the subject, and chose a design. Representatives of group of related national organizations and a select group of funders were convened to establish shared priorities through a facilitated dialog process. A national network was formed. A strategic plan was developed. A cooperative fund-seeking system was created. A list-serve was established to link participants on an on-going basis. A program of regular convenings was established to continue to nurture the shared strategy. An election monitoring system for electronic voting incidents was deployed nationally. Linkages were formed to the voting rights movement. Legislative and litigation strategies were coordinated. Today, the group continues and counts among its achievements a lead role in the escalation of electronic voting concerns to national prominence, protective legislation passed in the majority of states, and much greater sophistication in public education and discourse around verified voting.

Changing the Funding Paradigm: Advancing Prevention

An association of public and private human service funders wanted to find a way out of traditional funding patterns which were pouring dollars into deep end intervention services while starving prevention programs. Mary Berryman Agard & Associates was retained to conduct a comprehensive, community-based strategic planning process, to research national models for effective intervention strategies, and to facilitate collaborative programming. A public/private funding partnership was developed and a multi-faceted, collaborative child and family services program was designed and launched. Today, hundreds of children and families have been effectively served on their own terms, using their own strengths and the strengths of the neighborhood in which the program lives. The development of a new co-located charter school multiplies the program’s prospects for success. Since its founding the organization has been regularly visited and singled out for recognition by the governors of its home state. The Committee for Economic Development, a leading national organization of corporate CEO’s and academics, views the agency as a model of collaboration between business and government for advancing universal academic achievement.



Mary Berryman Agard & Associates 133 S. Brittingham Place Madison WI 53715 voice 608.257.7809 mobile 608.770.0111