The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation in conjunction with The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture commissioned a learning experience design project for their 2017 MacArthur-Driehaus grantees. When they first approached LimeRed they were looking to conduct professional development trainings but as we dove deeper into our early exploratory phase, we found out that there was much opportunity to innovate and design a program that met their needs.
“We found that the workshops were extremely efficient and well managed, and a great deal of material was covered in a short period of time. We left each session inspired and exhausted—a good combination! With the help of Demetrio and LimeRed’s strategies, we were able to take a step back and look at CFA with fresh eyes.” – Chicago Film Archives
Just like the tenets of Human Centered Design, our approach to designing for impact with our client was specifically created for and with them. We led the Driehaus Foundation through a process that looked at their team’s strengths and made research-based decisions to accomplish our project objectives. Although the final program we were to design was “grantee-centered”, we wanted to make sure Driehaus Foundation was not exhausted of their capacity and resources. We considered the experiences of both the grantees and our client to ensure that this program would be an effective way to engage with the grantees. That’s why we involved them in the process from research and planning to execution.
Prior to designing the program, LimeRed studio surveyed 102 grantees to uncover their needs and their thoughts on the state of art and culture in the City of Chicago. Through our research, we found that the arts organizations wanted help in optimizing their brand so that they could differentiate in the market. They were not only interested in developing marketing plans, but also how to conduct research and analysis to make more informed decisions that would make impact in future work. Also, due to constrained budgets and capacity, the grantees wanted to understand how to best manage their communications and measure their success.
We discovered that these arts organizations are pillars of their communities and bring people together by addressing complex inequalities and the underrepresentation of arts, culture, and life in Chicago. The ultimate goal of our program became to enable arts organizations to be more self-sustaining and improve their efficiency with their lean staffs and budgets while communicating their value and brand.
We engaged members and staff of Chicago arts nonprofits and organizations in a cohort style learning experience that addressed the various needs in branding, marketing, and communications and ultimately informed grantees on how to properly market and grow their organizations. To create a common space and identify for learning, we developed and design the program under the name ArC: Arts Communication.
ArC had 40 participants ranging from dance troupes to theatre co-ops to children’s creative writing workshops. These 40 organizations had access to trainings and techniques to enhance their message and improve community awareness and outreach. What made ArC unique was the flexible and customizable nature of the program, which was intentional based on our research. Participants were allowed to choose their level of engagement whether they wanted to attend all sessions or just one.
This multi-platform program allowed the participants to enter at their own level and work at their own pace. ArC consisted of workshops and one-on-one sessions that scaled the organization’s’ reach and knowledge, an online community group with the members of their cohorts with unfettered access to LimeRed experts, and many opportunities to customize their experience and provide feedback.
Naming the program and developing an identity was a method we decided early on to build familiarity and affinity among the cohort and with LimeRed. Given the diversity of the cohort, whether it may have been geographical or genre of art, we wanted the organizations to feel equal, welcomed, and inspired to actively participate. Careful thought was not only given to materials but also the experience when learning and collaborating with peers.
This concept provided support for an online community developed to allow participants to engage and interact with each other in their learning experience, but also provided LimeRed a space to engage with them directly, monitor conversations, and provide access to resources and materials.
To further build context and provide attention to each organizations needs, we also provided direct one-on-one sessions. Each organization was given an opportunity to dive deep with LimeRed through two-hour sessions.
Upon completion of our workshop and one-one-one sessions, LimeRed spent time writing, compiling, and curating all the various resources developed in our sessions into a 50 page guide and workbook.
The book includes both essays and activities that cover the three key areas covered in the program, including; Branding, Marketing Communications Strategy and Research, and Communications Management.
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