May 16, 2006
Executive Director's Column
I look forward to seeing many of you at the Leadership Institute in Anchorage. In addition to the learning and networking opportunities, we’ll be provided a wonderful cultural experience by our hosts, the Alaska State Council on the Arts. There has been strong member support for NASAA continuing to present these smaller Leadership Institutes. Past Institutes in Scottsdale and Orlando were among the most highly-rated convenings ever offered by NASAA, and members appreciated the intimacy, focus and depth of learning that the Institute model affords. As you know, the Maryland State Arts Council will host the NASAA annual meeting in Baltimore in December 2007.
The board’s decision to forego the larger annual conference this year was guided by several concerns including the staff’s capacity to manage two major meetings during a year when we are completing our multi-year strategic plan, the ability of member agency budgets to support participation at multiple convenings this year, and the preferences of prospective host states for subsequent years. Let me assure you that learning and networking opportunities for SAA staff are not going to disappear.
We know how important and valuable NASAA meetings are to SAA staff and volunteer leaders. As we launched our new strategic planning process two years ago, members sent a clear message to take a hard look at our meetings–to plan them in the context of our overall leadership development services and to re-envision them in terms of their outcome goals, cost to the membership, and administrative demands. Subsequent meetings in Charleston (2003), Orlando (2004) and Boise (2005) incorporated many good ideas and suggestions. The meeting designs have received increasingly positive evaluations. In particular, members have strongly endorsed NASAA’s focus on providing more valuable and relevant learning opportunities.
As we look to future meeting sites and programs, the NASAA board believes that maintaining flexibility in our decision making process will be critical to sustaining this value and relevance.
Based on the best information available, the NASAA Executive Committee will assess conditions (including the learning needs of the field, state budget circumstances, NASAA’s capacity, and host state interests) at least two years ahead. Taking all these factors into account, the board will make strategic decisions about the scale and location of convenings. With this approach, members can expect:
Year round opportunities: During our strategic planning process we have been able to view our meetings as part of a broader and more diverse learning program–one that will more systematically deliver year-round education not just through convenings, but also through Web training, self-directed learning tools and a variety of other strategies for creating state arts agency learning communities.
Variety: To meet the needs of the field as it evolves, NASAA meetings will vary in size, scope, format and topical focus. Our leadership development and learning goals may lead us to experiment with new convening designs.
Opportunities for everyone: While providing “position specific” professional development training to various peer groups on a regular basis is beyond NASAA’s capacity or mission, we expect to increase the learning opportunities available to all staff members by focusing our energies on leadership development–universal skills and knowledge that everyone in SAA service–regardless of peer group–can use to serve the public and make their state arts agency strong.
Adequate lead time: We understand the budget constraints and forecasting needs of members, so providing the information you need to plan for participation in NASAA convenings well in advance–two or more years out for our larger meetings–will always be a foremost consideration.
Our strategic interest in meeting planning is to achieve the membership’s priorities as expressed in the new NASAA plan. As we consider sites, dates, agendas and likely participants, we need to be sensitive to state agency budget forecasts, which impact the membership’s ability to plan for travel to attend meetings out of state. We need to “right size” each meeting to ensure we are getting the optimum return on the investment of human and financial resources. We need to be open to the interests of those members who can benefit from the various opportunities being a host agency affords, but who may lack the resources–or the appropriate venues–required to host a meeting on the scale of our recent Boise meeting or the December 2007 meeting planned for Baltimore.
In a week or two you’ll be receiving a communication from our meetings and events manager, Sharon Gee. We want to assess your interest in hosting a future NASAA convening. And importantly, we want to emphasize that there are a number of different opportunities for you to consider. Our previous host agencies will attest that although it can be a lot of hard work, there is a valuable–and unique–return on investment that these events can achieve for your agency and state.
Your continuing feedback–observations, suggestions, concerns–is not only welcomed and encouraged, it is a critical part of our strategic process as we look ahead and make plans for future meetings.
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