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STAGE ONE: ALIGN is all about your stakeholders—specifically, finding and reaching them in your community. Stakeholders are those individuals and organizations that will benefit from, contribute to, or in some way be impacted by your creative district. Finding them in your community, including them in the dialogue about your creative district, and building relationships with them are key goals of Stage One. Read through all four steps in this stage before beginning. Elements of Steps B, C, and D all have relevance to Step A.

Stage ONE Checklist/Reminders:

  • Find and record contact info for artists, creatives, arts supporters, and other stakeholders in your community

  • Ask for help to find creatives from like-minded individuals and organizations

  • Seek creatives who self-select (or opt-in) to willingly roll up their sleeves with you to form a “Working Group”
  • Engage with stakeholders, share your goals, and communicate near-term next steps
  • Continue to build stakeholder contact list throughout the entire DIY process

See tools and/or samples at the end of this section.

 

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Identify & develop a contact list for stakeholders in your creative community

Stakeholders come in all shapes and sizes; they’re not just artists and creative enterprises. They’re leaders of other arts and culture agencies, business owners, community leaders, elected officials. policy makers—and art lovers, too. Finding them and connecting with them takes an ongoing effort. Don’t be disheartened if stakeholders do not engage at first contact. It’ll take time for you (and those helping you) to break through the rigors and routine of every-day life. The process will take more than a few emails and meetings. It will be an ongoing outreach campaign—morning meetings, lunches, evening gatherings—posters, post cards, newsletters and every flavor of social media you can muster. Do everything you can to find and engage those who want and need to have a voice in your creative community. The more inclusive you are, the better!

See a sample starting list of people to contact in Step B.  Also, before you begin your outreach, take a moment to consider your core purpose. See Step C if you need help developing goal-oriented messages. You will want to adapt these to circumstances in your community and reinforce them all along the way.

Give some thought to prioritizing your outreach. You know your community: Who are the influencers that can help spread the word? Who needs to know early so you have his or her key support? Leaders of existing arts and culture organization may be a good place to start. Elected officials, too, can be strong advocates for your cause. It’s worth the time and effort to consider this. Discuss it with colleagues . . . and make a priority list for your outreach efforts.

 
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Ask for help from like-minded groups & individuals to reach more creatives

Community outreach isn’t easy — it’s hard work. Remember — it’s a campaign! Unless your community is very small, its likely that you will hold more than just one or two meetings. Often, it is best to start with small targeted groups first and build momentum from there.

In most cases, outreach will take weeks or even months--particularly if you take the time to prioritize your target list. With some planning and collaboration, you don’t have to do this all on your own. There’s power (and joy) in numbers!  Ask for help from other organizations that already have an outreach capability, that already have a constituency of artists and creatives, or both! Leverage organizations that already have a following — whether the organizations are arts focused, business focused, or community focused.  Most organizations will recognize the value of your endeavor: a rising tide lifts all ships! You can broaden your outreach ability through other organizations' group meetings, newsletters and social media campaigns.

Here’s a starting list of groups of people to contact.  Build on this list.

  1. Local Artists and Artisans
  2. Art Teachers and Students in local schools and colleges
  3. Local Creative Business Owners
  4. Local Mainstream Business Owners
  5. Local Art Lovers / Patrons
  6. Members of local arts and culture groups, councils, guilds, leagues, organizations, agencies, and nonprofits (public and private)
  7. Members of local civic/service groups, including Kiwanis, Optimists, and others.
  8. Members (and leaders) of local homeowners’ associations
  9. Leaders and staff members at your Chamber of Commerce
  10. Staff members from your local jurisdiction(s), including City Manager, Public Information Officer(s), Planning Director, Head of Economic Development / Travel & Tourism, Public Works, Community Resources, Parks & Recreations, Public Safety, Police Department, etc. All departments in your municipality should know about your community effort.
  11. Elected Officials, including your Mayor, Council members, Commissioners, etc.
  12. Local media/reporters who cover arts, culture, and related community activities

All the groups referenced above are important; however, those already involved with arts and culture programming are essential. They will not only help you identify and reach creatives, but also will be integral in STAGE TWO and STAGE THREE of this process. Also, give special attention to developing a productive relationship with your local municipality. Strong, well-aligned relationships with senior management, elected officials, and staff members will serve you well throughout the entire DIY process. Seek out "champions" at every level in your municipality. They can help align local government resources and capabilities with your efforts.

 
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As you engage stakeholders, share your goals & communicate next steps

Remember — don’t expect to be able to reach your diverse group of stakeholders in a handful of large community meetings. While large, open meetings are a part of the mix — small gatherings can be more effective, particularly early in the campaign. Be prepared to meet in a variety of locations and forums, from community centers and church halls to clubhouses and living rooms . . . and everywhere in between!

As mentioned earlier, reinforce your core purpose with goal-oriented messages, such as the following:

We are working to . . .

  • Heighten the awareness of arts, artists, and creative enterprises;
  • Showcase the diversity of creative arts in our community;
  • Increase/coordinate arts and culture activities here; and
  • Foster greater support for artists and creative businesses.

Adapt these “general” goals/ messages to your specific community; these answer the “big” question that gets to your core purpose: why do you exist? You may have goals/messages that relate to economic development and revitalization that improve commercial vitality and quality of life in your focus area. Adapt and augment as needed. This a precursor to your visioning activity in STAGE TWO: CONNECT and planning activities in STAGE THREE: ACTIVATE.

In these stakeholder meetings, your strategic goal is to build excitement and momentum. Your key tactical objectives are to share your core goals, listen to others’ ideas, communicate next steps, and recruit support for your campaign (including the formation of a Working Group—see Step D).

 
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Seek creatives who “opt-in” to form a productive working group

Whether your meeting stakeholders in person, by telephone, or via Skype or Zoom, always reinforce your core purpose, but be sure to share your needs; some stakeholders will want to know how they can lend a hand—whether its contributing resources, making phone calls, writing emails, managing social media, or helping plan and facilitate meetings. Give everyone an opportunity to help. This builds community and demonstrates a culture of collaboration. It will also help identify the next group of leaders. And as mentioned, always reinforce your overall goals for the community, but also remember to clearly articulate near-term next steps (date for next email update or next community gathering), so stakeholders know what to expect. Thereafter, continue to build credibility by making sure to follow through to meet those expectations! 

Don’t rush through this stage. Take your time . . . it’s not a race.  Depending upon the size of your community and your readiness and capabilities, it could take several months or more to work through this stage. The more stakeholders you reach in this stage the better. That will serve you well in STAGE TWO and beyond.

When you leave this stage, be sure you have identified a working group that is representative of your community/district. While not every one of your target groups will have a representative who “opts in” for hands on work, try to have as many of your groups represented as possible. Working groups can be as small as 5-6 people or as large as 20.  It all depends on the size of your community and scope of your goals. This working group will be the “champions” of your overall effort; they are critical to the activities in STAGE TWO. This assemblage of champions is called a working group for a reason. These are people of action who are passionate about moving your creative community forward. 

Working groups meet as often as weekly (ideal), but at minimum monthly to keep momentum moving. This working group is not designed to be a bureaucratic committee operated by Roberts Rules of Order--far from it! It's not a place for figureheads who just want to be present. This is an action-oriented group of doers! This needs to be a highly collaborative group that gets stuff done--not just at meetings, but in between meetings as well. (Make this very clear in your organizational meetings--working group members will do work!)  Once you have your working group organized, a meeting typically starts with checking in on current status of action items and addressing any hurdles or problems encountered since the the last meeting--and then drills into the "Things to Do" list, either as a group and in smaller subgroups assigned to specific tasks. Not all members need to be at every single meeting, but each member should be accountable for his or her assignments. Consider using a "buddy system" that assigns key areas of responsibilities to two people as collaborators, so each has a a back-up group member to cover responsibilities and report on progress.

And remember . . . continue to build your stakeholders list through this and all the stages of the Call Yourself Creative DIY Process. And . . . take time to celebrate successes along the way.  Enjoy the journey!

 

Resources For Stage One: Align