If you have not already involved key stakeholders during your self-assessment or data review, then it is time to consider who needs to be involved and in what ways you can engage people's assistance and advice. One key principle to effective strategic planning is, at a minimum, the involvement of key stakeholders during planning phases that affect them directly, and at a maximum, during appropriate moments throughout the entire process of planning. Your list of stakeholders might be broad or narrow, and could encompass past, present and potential groupings of people and organizations. At the very least, you will be concerned about the following:
  • individual artists
  • arts and culture organizations
  • your commissioners or council members
  • a representative cross-section of citizens already involved in attending or participating in the arts
  • your legislature
  • appropriate government agencies (e.g., the state planning commission)
  • the statewide arts advocacy organization
  • state arts education alliances
  • other statewide arts service groups
  • arts funders (local and national, public and private )
  • educational institutions involved in the arts and arts administration
  • local arts agencies and their statewide assemblies
  • groups and individuals representing the geographic, economic and cultural diversity of your state
In addition, you may want to include leaders of key businesses and industry, experts in new technology or other issues of concern, recognized community leaders, potential new partners from other government and nonprofit sectors (such as tourism, health, education, etc.). Consider extra efforts to include nonparticipants—those people not usually involved in the arts or with the state arts council. You might try reaching out by using non-arts civic forums (volunteer networks, chambers of commerce, Rotary Clubs and fraternal organizations, for instance).

States have been very imaginative in their methods of securing inclusion. Those methods run the gamut from the creation of steering committees and specialized task forces to participation in public hearings, focus groups, individual interviews, statewide meetings and planning sessions. Even when direct, in-person participation is difficult or impractical, states have devised other creative ways to be sure to get a broad array of opinions from stakeholders, including use of the Internet (through e-mail, listservs, questionnaires on the agency's website and chat groups), mail surveys and placement of documents in public libraries.

Participants in the Strategic Planning Forum offered a number of additional suggestions for improving inclusion and increasing attendance:

  • Organize meetings around topics, activities and agendas that already draw people together. Some states have sponsored grants workshops or meetings of various arts disciplines (museums, presenters, traditional artists, rug weavers, poets, etc.) and then opened the meeting to a public hearing on state arts agency issues.
  • Follow up on your meetings. Keep going back to your constituents to let them know what you have done with their input and where you are in the planning process.
  • Get lots of public input during your draft process. Present interim plans so that people will feel they can have an effect on your decisions before they are finalized.
  • Take advantage of well-established calendars. Find out when interest groups throughout your state are holding their own meetings and ask to be included in their agendas.
  • Make your meetings festive. Involve the arts in your meetings by hosting a brief performance or presentation, or by engaging participants in an arts-related activity. And consider providing refreshments at meetings when possible. People are much more likely to attend a "party" than a meeting.

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