The project kicked off with a needs assessment process with Southside Cultural Center staff, board and partner tenants. The learnings developed through this process informed the capacity building efforts and work plan. There were several areas in which our earlier understandings regarding relationships among partner tenants, external partners, and staff capacity were challenged. Our learnings from the needs assessment brought discrepancies to light. For instance, our original understanding was that SCC partner tenant organizations had strong organizational ties, collaborative programming, and interpersonal relationships. In fact, many partner tenants did not know each other personally nor understood one another’s work. Partner tenants have varying schedules and were not often in the building at the same time, which lead to a sense of isolation within the building. Thus, instead of diving into a visioning process with partner tenants to think through the future of SCC, we instead slowed down and took time to facilitate relationship building.
Partners now share a deepening understanding of one another’s work. A glaring learning about general operations was SCC’s problematic scheduling, pricing and booking policy; which created tensions and scheduling conflicts amongst partner tenants and external renters. Assessing and redesigning (with facilitated partner tenant input and staff recognition of the problem) a new scheduling policy and online shared calendar system became a central capacity building project. Partners find this system to be more efficient and have an overall better sense of what is happening in the building on a daily basis. At the same time, the SCC website, which will include a calendar for external audiences, is being also rebuilt as part of this project. The needs assessment informed a running tally of operational activities that need strengthening; it has also helped us develop a prioritized list with considerations related to upcoming construction planning and the emerging capital campaign. This will help us with meeting local match requirements, partner tenant activities and programs and board development. Operations consist of reorganizing office space and systems management, information and technology, marketing, facilities, HR and production support for artists.
At the beginning of Artplace activities, we learned that SCC was undergoing a board development and strategic planning process. Partners met with SCC and their consultants in order to synergize efforts and ensure that our capacity building support was in alignment with the goals and processes of a transitioning board. As such, capacity building benchmarks were adjusted to account for changing timelines and stakeholder input. Partner tenant cohesion and development continues to be parallel with board development efforts, and our project manager works closely with consultants at any and all points of intersection.