THE ART OF OPENNESS is a continuous professional development and positive change programme for cultural organisations, where:
The Art of Openness programme is unique in its methodology of creative connections, perfected through working with hundreds of cultural and educational organisations. Employee competences are developed not just theoretically, in isolation, but in the workplace, as they cooperate with colleagues to solve specific problems and challenges. The organisation’s team learn by examining its activities, by finding answers to specific questions and challenges, by identifying and exploring its audiences and community, and by designing innovative solutions: new work processes, tools and experiences. A process for building competence and implementing change is created within the organisation, tailored to its specific needs and activities, with equal participation from various departments and functions in a team of employees and managers alongside Kūrybinės Jungtys practitioners.
The programme creates new competences, concepts and resources and establishes a new way of working in the organisation, enabling positive change.
Cultural organisations are invited and selected for the programme if their leaders and staff show a clear desire and motivation to tackle their challenges and achieve tangible change in their organisation. During the process of experiential learning and development that spans several months, the participants are accompanied by Kultūros Jungtys practitioners – professionals from various fields of culture and art, who put their creativity and experience into practice to implement change and innovation in cultural and educational organisations.
Cultural organisations can choose between two programme modules: THE ART OF OPENNESS: DIAGNOSTICS and THE ART OF OPENNESS: CHANGE.
THE ART OF OPENNESS: DIAGNOSTICS
Programme duration: 4 sessions (3 hours each), spread out over two months.
During the programme, the cultural organisation team, aided by the Kūrybinės Jungtys practitioners, explores and evaluates their activities using a tool called the Creative Organisation Map. The organisation’s performance is examined from various perspectives, identifying key areas for improvement and making plans for change.
You can read more about the tool and how to use it here.
THE ART OF OPENESS: CHANGE
The programme consists of 4 stages:
Programme duration: 10 sessions (3 hours each), spread over 3–4 months.
First, you bring together a team of 6–12 managers and staff representing different departments / functions of your cultural organisation. Most importantly, everyone should be united in their will to change.
At the opening event, you meet other participants and the Kūrybinės Jungtys practitioners who will accompany your organisation in the programme. We can discuss the processes of the programme, its context, your expectations, and challenges that have led you to the programme.
Using a unique tool – the Creative Organisation Map, we examine your activities, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and set out priority areas for improvement.
After evaluating your performance, you can choose a relevant problem or task to tackle.
We look for solutions to the problem at hand by coming up with new ideas.
We put the ideas and prototypes into practice, testing, refining them and experimenting with them.
We draw up a follow-up action plan on how you will continue to develop the ideas and solutions beyond the programme and how you will continue to improve your performance.
We discuss what happened during the programme, how you felt and what you learned and experienced. We take stock of the outcomes of the programme.
Experiences and insights are shared among participants.
In our work with dozens of different cultural organisations, we have found that a large part of their challenges and professional development needs are related to creativity and the creative side of the functioning of the organisation. This competence, capacity and practice is essential for an organisation to be able to rethink its mission and goals, identify and respond to challenges, design and implement new ways of working, build strong connections with audiences and mobilise communities. These insights and experience have led us, together with our partners in the UK, to develop a tool for exploring and developing creativity in cultural organisations – the Creative Organisation Map. The map was created by an interdisciplinary team of professionals and practitioners Milda Laužikaitė and Rita Naujokaitytė (Kūrybinės Jungtys association), and Greg Klerkx (Nimble Fish, UK).
In the first phase of the programme, with the help of this new tool, the team of a cultural organisation methodically examines and evaluates its performance in different aspects. After 4 sessions of such investigation, the organisation can clearly identify its strengths, challenges and problems. This helps make a reasoned choice regarding which issue the team should tackle in practice during the programme.
We have observed the need for creativity emerging as organisations shut down during the pandemic. They had to rethink how the world was changing, how much they were needed by the people who were no longer able to come and experience them. What can a museum or library do to become the place that people miss the most? Not a sports club or a shopping centre, but a cultural venue. These were the questions that led us, together with our partners, to create the Creative Organisation Map for cultural organisations. It helps review activities and consider how a creative organisation should operate.
The map provides a broader view of the organisation. By answering the questions of the tool, we were able to see where our organisation was strong and where we needed to improve. Employees are often focused on their own roles and issues, so the map is a great way to see your organisation from a different perspective, see the bigger picture, see which connections and processes work and which do not. This self-assessment tool is a great starting point, a framework that reveals the overall spectrum of challenges and guides the search for solutions.
We ask targeted questions to help you grasp the real challenge your organisation faces. We encourage the team to reflect openly on its activities and to discuss the value it creates, its purpose and its effectiveness.
When I discuss the action plan with the organisation, I ask provocative questions, such as ‘What is the value of this?’, ‘Who is it for, you or the people, the visitors?’
Visitors and representatives of other cultural organisations are invited to leave feedback for the participating organisation (theatre, museum, cultural centre or library). We analyse the information received.
We started at the entrance to the building. We invited visitors to experience the exhibition for half an hour, and agreed where we would meet afterwards. We handed out observer sheets and invited the visitors to freely explore what the space had to offer, and to note what was attractive and what was not.
When we met again, we asked the participants in groups of 5 to review and analyse their observation sheets, and highlight on them the ‘criteria for success’, i.e. what made them feel comfortable and welcomed (e.g. smiling staff in the ‘people’ category). Afterwards, the whole group shared their stand-out observations, focusing on what was important to them as visitors. An exercise like this focused the visitors’ attention to what comprises the gallery experience, what a visitor tends to notice, while the gallery staff had the hardening experience of accepting feedback and gained a very useful source of information that opened up unexpected perspectives.
We organise meetings with the representatives or management of the organisation’s other departments, or institutional partners who have an effect on the planning of the organisation’s activities and its performance assessment.
An eye-to-eye conversation with a representative of the municipality showed the organisation that it had much more freedom to plan its activities, including their content and nature, than previously thought. It was decided to draw up a shared event calendar for all of the city’s departments, allowing them to see the big picture and plan their events accordingly, taking into account the overall intensity of events.
Simulated activities, where the organisation’s team is asked to deal with unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable situations, allow for a creative, fresh look at possible solutions to a problem, and to come up with new and unexpected ideas.
I use creative tools to plan my organisation’s activities that are not directly related to the problem and its context. For instance, the team is given a random book in which they have to find a sentence that matches certain numbers, a reference. The random sentence is now the theme of a new event the team has to create. The participants must think outside the box and find a different, untested solution. Most importantly, the specific theme imposes a clear definition of the audience that is likely to be interested in it. Typically, organisations are not used to working in such a way. So now we have encouraged the team to identify a specific audience, listen more closely, and understand their needs.
Participants are given a two-fold task: 1) buy an item (food, clothing etc.) in a supermarket for the price of a successful performance or event, which the organisation’s target audience might want to buy; and 2) buy, for the price of one ticket, one item that best represents and reflects a successful performance.
When participants return with their purchases, we discuss what our audience is and what the product is. Why are the purchased items different? Does this mean that the product we are developing does not met the audience’s expectations? How can we address that?
We constantly stop and discuss what has happened, what we have done so far. We encourage participants to continuously reflect on their own work. We help the organisation’s team learn to arrange, implement and carry out meaningful reflection sessions. It allows for targeted rethinking, reducing inertia and creating deeper connections between the organisation’s team and employees.
Reflection is the purposeful rethinking of an experience or process that has taken place. It completes the cycle of the creative process of exploration, idea generation and action. It is an important part of the development, creation and growth of a developing organisation. It is important to understand that reflection is not an impulsive act: you cannot be reflective when called out on the street. It takes time, it takes space, it requires certain conditions, there can be no hierarchy in reflection, everyone should be able to be themselves and say what they think without fear of judgement or consequences.
Reflection, when done well, allows everyone to speak and be heard. When you don’t listen or directly ask what one thinks, everything remains at the level of hunches and guesses. You’re trying to be a wizard who reads people’s minds. Reflection within the organisation is a different kind of wizardry that shows us how things really are.
Achievements of programme participants
The ART OF OPENNESS programme saw a wide range of Lithuanian cultural organisations overcoming issues and developing their competences: theatres, museums, libraries, cultural centres etc. We would like to share some feedback from the participants on unexpected discoveries, achievements, changes, and take-aways at the end of the programme.
The organisation’s team takes a step back from intense activity and routine, pauses and sits in a circle to take stock of their activities, their collaboration, and to discuss the challenges ahead.
We realised that there was a lot of inertia in our work: we rarely discussed the audience that we worked for, or the goals we pursued in our activities. Working with the map brought together staff with different competences to work in a joint, efficient manner.
Oftentimes you can become lost in your routine, but the tool [the Creative Organisation Map] and the programme made us stop and analyse ourselves. The biggest challenge and advantage was that it shook us from the inside.
The Art of Openness is an opportunity to pause an learn to listen and talk, evaluate yourself and your colleagues, uncover your secret dreams, realise that anything is possible, and give yourself an answer as to why you are doing this, what you could do differently, and how you can move forward. It is a time when you can be honest, open and creative. It is an activity where you give a lot and get a lot in return.
Employees learn to work together as a team. By working together, they get to know each other as team members and creators, see how points of view can differ, and learn to better understand each other’s motives. A space is created for open communication, constructive feedback and experiential learning.
The participants felt the joy of cooperation, and saw the potential in each person working. Employees tried switching roles, saw and appreciated each other’s work in a new way, discovered each other’s skills and talents. For example, it became clear that the security guard was excellent at hosting educational activities.
One of the most valuable features of this project is that it helps create a productive, creative atmosphere in the organisation with an effective feedback system. The staff from our organisations worked together to implement the project and realised they had many common goals. People who previously rarely worked together were able to develop stronger relationships. The programme helped refresh the colleagues’ attitudes towards each other and the organisation’s environment, which, I think, is vital for cultural organisations.
Practical team-based activities develop important competences in cultural workers: creativity, cooperation and teamwork, openness to change, critical thinking, a culture of reflection, learning to learn, interculturalism and interdisciplinarity.
Active participation is more productive than hearing a lecture, so several competences are developed at once. Weaknesses and strengths in competence are easier to spot when faced with challenges in the moment. A push towards critical thinking is a powerful stimulus for improvement.
I learned to work in a team, listen to everyone’s ideas without criticising, discuss ideas in a tolerant manner, accept other people’s opinions, even when I myself felt differently.
During the project, I learned to work in a team, got to know my colleagues better, and acquired a deeper insight into the organisation’s processes, planning, organising and structure. I not only learned about new tools and techniques, but also got to try them out in practice.
The organisation rethinks its identity, vision and priorities by answering the question: who are we and who would we like to encounter?
The Kūrybinės Jungtys team quickly becomes an internal motivator for the organisation it works for. They raise questions that we are not always able to answer. But we always learn something new about ourselves and our audience. We realise that the process is as important as the result. And the result is much better when we learn to cooperate.
Thanks to the practitioners of the programme, by working as a team, the organisation rediscovers each other as team members, evaluates its own activities, goals and problems, discovers opportunities for improvement and pursues them enthusiastically, even after the project ends.
After evaluating its performance, the organisation’s team identifies a specific goal or problem and develops practical solutions and tools to address it.
It’s a great push to evaluate your performance, pay more attention to your audience, and a real opportunity for the management to talk to the developers, clarify individual goals and formulate common goals for the team. We use specific tools in our day-to-day activities, and also regularly review our key objectives and how well we are staying on track.
This year, we have been analysing the library’s internal issues and challenges and looking for solutions. During the programme, 17 participants learned and practiced various feedback methods with library staff. Working in groups, we drafted a preliminary process for the functioning of the Library Mentor Network. In order to motivate the staff to do the things that are important to the library’s activities and internal culture, we began formulating proposals for a staff motivation system. We plan to draft it, get it approved and implement it in the near future.
Even after the programme ends, the organisation’s team keeps its priorities in check, analyses the effectiveness of the means it employs and seeks out new opportunities to understand and expand its audience.
Stepping back from the daily routine and working on joint tasks has made it easier to communicate with each other and see the common goals of the organisation, as well as to agree on how to achieve them. At the end of the project, we continue to use the tools we have gained during the project.