We want our grantees to creatively address their challenges.    

AD3 Innovation Bootcamp

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    Each cohort member was highly creative in its artistic work but needed to apply that same creative capacity to its administrative challenges. At the first workshop, we shared Greater Good Studio’s approach to human-centered design, and how human-centered design could help them work on the operational issues that they care about.

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    Next we led the initial phase of our workshop: framing. The framing process helped each organization identify the challenge they wanted to address throughout the bootcamp, and also figure out the people they’d need to talk to, along the way. Each organization had sent two or three participants, either staff or board members. Often, these folks were working together for the first time. The framing session of our workshop made sure that everyone was aligned and beginning to zero in on their goals.

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    Our next phase: research. Each organizational team needed to learn about the root causes of its challenges, pinpoint resources that they had available, and understand the lived experiences of end users. One team, from The New Colony theater company, wanted to better understand why people were (or more commonly, weren’t) traveling from neighborhoods outside their immediate area to see performances. During the research phase, they interviewed audience members who’d made the trip.

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    During the synthesis phase, each organization looked back at its research, wrote down what they saw or heard, identified patterns in behavior, and started to ask a classic design thinking question: “How might we…?”

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    Next, we worked on concepting. Teams sketched their ideas, prioritizing quantity over quality. Teams brainstormed in groups and created the first seeds of the ideas which they would later prototype and pilot. For example, cohort member The Haymarket Opera Company sketched the concept of hosting an intimate “house concert” event as a way to engage audience members. Another cohort member, The New Colony sketched the concept of a “welcome note” and coupon that would encourage word-of-mouth promotion from audience members to their friends.

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    Next came prototyping. Each team made something tangible, built multiple versions, and tested their prototypes with users. The New Colony tested different formats and content for the welcome note concept. A great side note: although these design skills were beginning to pay off in our Innovation Bootcamp, some organizations were already using them back at their home base. Whereas, fellow cohort member Free Street Theater prototyped their new lobby using what they learned.

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    During the piloting phase, teams brought their concepts into the real world. The New Colony used a professionally designed version of the welcome note at a show in its season, and Haymarket Opera held a house concert.

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Project Outputs

We organized years worth of workshop facilitation experience into a cohesive and holistic human-centered design curriculum for adult learners, complete with presentations, worksheets and posters. Each team received their own workbook to keep track of lessons and materials.

Learning Experiences
We facilitated a series of 6 workshops, with interspersed homework assignments and team coaching sessions. The coaching sessions ensured that each team was on track, feeling at ease with the lessons they were learning and applying.

The bootcamp culminated in a public share-out where members of the arts community gathered for a presentation and panel discussion. In this way, learnings from each cohort could be shared with a much broader network.

It’s not teaching you to fix one problem, it’s teaching you a set of tools that you could use to solve any problem.”

Coya Paz, Free Street Theater

Client & Community Outcomes

By the end of the seven months, we heard a lot of powerful reflection about how these organizations were thinking in new ways. Caroline O’Boyle of Free Street Theater said, “We often thought we knew the answer. We often thought we knew the question. This process has taught us not to make assumptions about either. This process has really allowed us to dislodge some preconceived notions.”

Evan Linder of the New Colony said, “This process taught us to see problems ahead of time, and be excited about coming up with many different solutions.” Although each organization solved a different challenge, the human-centered design process was the heart of each transformation. And Free Street Theater, for its part, has a new office supply in its budget: “I’ve noticed we’ve adopted the methodology introduced in this program. Now we do interviews and prototypes… now we have Post-Its everywhere.” (Sorry, Free Street!)

Overall, our adaptable curriculum created a supportive framework for small nonprofit arts organizations—traditionally weighed down by chronic administrative troubles—to begin moving forward. Artists learned to apply their creative thinking to deeply entrenched operational issues, and the cohort learned from each other about facing some longstanding common challenges.

Watch a recap of our program in its first year: