Project Connect: Future Conversations with Convening Network
Project Connect, a new web platform, has been launched as part of this website. It represents an effort to promote conversation and collaboration among Initiative members post-convening. Ways to utilize this new tool are welcomed in this discussion, along with suggestions for growth and constructive ideas about the future of the Initiative network.
Led by James Bewley, Warhol Foundation.
James Bewley: Introduction
This is an amazing network of people and that’s what is so great about convening…we’re taking a moment to look at the initiative and ask if it is the best way to serve the field, following the current foundation model of being responsive. Is 190 people eating goat the best way to provide support? Or should we move to regional meetings?
Throughout the structure of this convening, there have been moments for regional convening and collaboration; early on there was an idea that you would come away with tangible collaborations. There’s a place on the website that is a kind of placeholder for what might happen. For instance, Mark Allen posted a project he’s been doing, the Confusatron. He’s interested in decentralizing his model and having his project get out there in new ways.
I want to hear from you about the ways you feel we could support you, and about things that have come out of the convening. We heard that some folks have been developing open source board materials and strategic plans that are open enough to be adopted by other organizations. Sometimes you need a model for an artist’s contract—would it make sense to make the website a container for paperwork that could be shared and build a model of best practices? I’d like to open it the discussion now.
George Scheer It would be helpful to see other organizations, perhaps within a region. Support for travel to visit organizations would be good. A lot of people have said I’d love to come to Elsewhere, perhaps we could try to figure out ways to make that possible.
Participant The U.S is so oblivious to stuff going on in the rest of the world, it would be really useful to get an international dialog going on as well. The Dutch will fly curators to Holland to see the work of Dutch artists—you know that works. The U.S. art scene, particularly the regional, local organizations, need more dialog with the international art scene. It would be good to talk with folks from Shanghai, Rotterdam, and other places.
Stacey Allan Technology is an extreme anxiety for me…most of us don’t come from a background that makes it easy to learn about all the things available to us in terms of technology. Information about industry standards and best practices for archiving, how things should be put on Website, what makes it easy for people to search…
James Bewley Perhaps a list of web creators/developers?
Stacey Allan Lauren brought up something about metadata. Even if we agreed on certain tags and terms that could be passed to whoever we worked with, that could be helpful…
James Bewley Internal systems as well…
Steven Vroom The Dublin Core Initiative has standards for categorizing images…The art library association came up with the standard for visual images, now we’re seeing standards for other media platforms, audio, video…even the codex of file formats is still being negotiated at the W3 conference for basic web standards. Everybody here is ahead of the curve, but the research isn’t going fast enough to meet our needs. What you brought up is the classic database problem. We all know how to use the Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal systems that have evolved over the years. It’s the same with this stuff, you have to think of it as a new form of information. There is going to have to be a standard and that issue is larger than this Warhol Foundation group.
Stacy Allan Even on a small scale guidelines would be helpful…as we invest time and money in developing our Websites, we could use a field guide as to what needs to be considered as you embark on the project.
James Bewley Is that provided by a technology consultant who is available to talk to you or do you share that with us and we put it on the website?
Stacey Allan I’d like a report from people who have a more extensive and wider view of digital technology.
Steven Vroom We’re developing a template for nonprofits to use as a way to run your organizations. What we’re going to be doing, which will save us staff time, is when someone signs up to renew their membership it will be automated and we’ll get a report. We’re developing an open source database that will keep track of your class registrations, your inventory, your donor profiles, your member lists, and cash flow. It’s called civiCRM. It was originally developed for Amnesty International and will interface with a Drupal Website. It will probably be ready in July.
Stacey Allan We need to know what to keep in mind and discuss with people to develop our own individual projects.
Participant Is the goal of Project Connect to extend the conversations from the convening?
James Bewley I don’t know if that’s the goal of Project Connect, because the sessions will be posted. Project Connect is take that up and keep going…I thought it would be more for practical concrete projects and ideas, sort of like what Stacey is talking about. If you were initiating a big Web overhaul you could talk to other people who have done it.
Participant Maybe Project Connect is defined by areas. One might be contact information, one might be internal documents, maybe some are fundraising ideas…parsing out the intentions it seems like some are practical and some are conversational. It seems like the goal of the project is to continue this discussion in an online space. When one of us comes up with something really terrific they want to share with the group, people can receive alerts in their e-mail that the discussion is updated.
James Bewley Does that seem like something people would use?
Participant A lot of us are not technologically savvy. We need recommendations, definitions. What is Ruby on Rails? What is Drupal?
James Bewley What form does that take?
Participant It changes so rapidly it’s better to have someone you can talk to than a document. If you have a trusted source, they’ll have the most up-to-date information.
James Bewley Maybe we’re taking some things for granted, things that we should have in there so you can interact.
Stacey Allan Part of the hesitation in rethinking or moving programs along has to do with adherence to older models that are no longer sustainable. It’s difficult to move into the technology side.
Participant There are so many organizations and so many different types of needs…maybe in the beginning a forum categorized by subjects that people can go to would be best. A report seems like a lot of energy, so maybe we should start out with something general like an online forum where we can connect.
Participant In many ways a public school seems like an ideal model for what we’re discussing. The classes are developed through an online forum, marrying that with a file upload system.
Participant To throw in a disclaimer, I think the public school works in the context it works in. I would worry that one person would say they’re interested in the post and then it wouldn’t go anywhere…really what is it that would get people to check in on something.
Participant Do we want to talk to each other? That’s important to know. People do it out of need. They want to exchange but as soon as no one gets back to them it falls apart.
James Bewley That’s why I wanted to have an actual discussion about it. Is it just one extra thing that you have to do? The last thing we want is to saddle you with extra things. That’s not the way we do things, we try to listen and provide something that makes it a little easier for you to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Maybe what is needed is not online at all.
Participant I’m interested in knowing about other artists and knowing what other people think. It’s art, not infrastructure.
Participant There are a lot of consulting practitioners, but for those of us outside metropolitan centers, it’s one thing to get a sense of what a process is, but to get to the level of finding a consultant…I want to vet some national possibilities and that’s a little bit hard from Greensboro. I don’t know if that’s continuing education or if we reconvene for a Skype-style online session.
Participant There’s an idea that has been thrown around for a peer consulting exchange. People who have been through a particular thing sign up; you give freely of your time but when you need help you have a network of people to call on. It requires a simple database of things people feel they can offer some beginning counsel on.
Participant …Something that we talked about was how we can share material. Having a space that we go to…a Warhol “corner” that highlighted certain things. It’s not creating another space but using our infrastructure to create things we can share. That would be the best way to channel the relationships.
James Bewley Perhaps some way to embed a Warhol tag or key marking an item as of interest to the initiative…
Participant You become bigger by highlighting things that are interesting…taking the people that come to us and realizing that we are well connected to others who are working with good ideas.
Participant It’s interesting to me to listen to all of your brains, how they work. Working for a funder in healthcare as I do, it’s definitely different. But there are models in healthcare that could help you design Project Connect for technical assistance. The model centers around shared learning or quality improvement, best practices, in health. You have listservs around topical areas so people can work together on learning and communicating with one another. You have to identify the areas, but it’s worked very well to improve clinical systems.
James Bewley What becomes the mechanism? That leaves it for you to search through the Initiative website.
Participant Perhaps a Web page for the initiative, a calendar where we could post one event a week maximum…that’s a system of communication. What are we really using? We all have Facebook accounts and get those updates. Maybe we just need to create a Facebook place that would keep us informed. I’m not sure we need a serious piece of infrastructure, as it might not get used. What is important is to ask questions.
Participant Maybe it’s obvious that we know who to go to when we have questions or maybe it’s not.
Participant I have a couple of ideas. With the Warhol Foundation funds we hired the first staff person in nine years, and I think “Shoot, we don’t have a contract…so I co-authored one with the person. On the simplest level, it would be awesome to have some of those documents. Like the reimbursement form you sent for the convening—we’re now using your reimbursement form! What if there was some really modest support for us to get to the next stage of working together… I guess I disagree a little bit with Nato. I’m really interested in how you produce these enormous projects. Is there a way to learn from each other’s models? How would that organization do it? Could we commission white papers? Of course we want to work with consultants, but we want to see practitioners as consultants…can we be each other’s consultants?
Participant It sounds as if there are three facets: knowledge share, artist exhibition share, and materials share. What if we were able to survey the group, touch on the main topics, to see who we could go to to talk about selling a building or a capital campaign?
James Bewley Perhaps a profile with logo buttons?
Participant Material share can be done fairly easily. An artist and exhibition share can be the hardest. There’s a lot of us and we do a lot of stuff. How does it get distilled to be digestible?
Participant We just did a curated part on Kickstarter where we chose a number of different projects plus our own projects to put on our curated page. We used just a few things out of all the things we’re doing.
James Bewley You pick from your own and other organizations? So there could be an Initiative group? I don’t know about a Warhol Kickstarter Page…[laughter] A lot of these things could come from the group itself. There could be a suite of organizations that offer projects in search of funding.
Participant It’s an example of what it could look like, I didn’t mean asking other people for money.
Participant I already get a lot of e-mails from everybody…getting everything is not realistic.
Participant If I’m going to spend more time at my computer looking at stuff I want it to have an element of chance. Maybe you can only talk to the person who arrives before or after you and otherwise you just listen.
Participant How important is getting together? We’ve been talking about electronic means of staying in touch. How important are they?
Participant I work a lot with technology and one of the things that’s true with video technology is that it’s taken a long time to catch on…that’s not a good technology to replace in-person visits but it provides high quality contact in between. You can’t replace in-person but we need to be good stewards throughout this whole ecosystem, which means we need to make good use of the resources. We don’t want to turn the Initiative into some operational entity. The bottom line is why it’s worth trying to solve this problem—we’re more alike than we’re not, which is why this group is good to draw from. It’s easier to get to the bottom line. Just having accurate contact information and a profile of experience is good. I do think the document share is a good idea because it can be a big waste of time recreating those things. Another good use of technology might be a Webinar a couple of times a year based on survey feedback about what the burning issues. For example, if 90% of us say we have board problems or new building, that would be a Webinar topic.
James Bewley If we pursued profile of experience, we would have to decide between a public or password-protected site …is there consensus that it could be public?
Participant If we want it to be a profile that shares accurately how we can help each other it should be private. What if, for example, we want to talk to someone who has had a terrible Board Chairperson?