Whenever we plan an event, an in-depth meeting, a social gathering, or virtual experience Reach Partners will always argue for the same thing. Every time.
This thing is the most important detail for every planned interaction. It is the life blood of our work and what drives us to do better every day. Most importantly it’s the power, the energy that fuels the work at hand.
How do you tap into this energy? How do you make it work for you? Draw the right audience? Craft the right marketing activities? Align stakeholders? Create value?
You start by defining purpose.
A new year – and possibly a new decade?! – will be here before we know it.
As we celebrate Christmas and New Year's with our family and friends, we also will spend some time reflecting on all that happened in 2019 and all we dream of for 2020.
No year is perfect. Frustrations and disappointments often walk hand-in-hand with beauty and exhilaration. Tears and laughter become close neighbors.
And yet, each new year stretches with the promise of possibility. Below are some of the possibilities we discovered in 2019. May you find your own in 2020.
Here’s your challenge for the month: Take on the difficult project that nobody else wants to do.
Or volunteer to handle the assignment that has been kicked back-and-forth between team members and do it with gusto.
Whoa … what?!
That’s right. Next time someone makes a request that nobody else wants to take on, make eye contact with the person and say, “yes.” Become the go-to person who solves problems and has an enthusiastic attitude.
Here’s how you can be the hero when facing a tough project:
In case you hadn’t noticed, we LOVE the color purple.
Since we began, our Reach Partners identity has been represented by shades of the color. We think purple perfectly represents our values of gratitude, integrity, beauty, possibility, and empathy. Plus, it makes a powerful, but accessible statement.
Which is why we were super excited when Pantone revealed its color of the year for 2018: Ultra Violet.
Each year color experts from the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for the color influences that best define our times. This year, those experts chose Ultra Violet because it “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us to the future.”
It joins previous Colors of the Year: Greenery, Serenity, Marsala, Tangerine Tango, and Radiant Orchid.
A color may not seem all that important, but it evokes emotions.
What sets Ultra Violet apart from its colorful peers is that it is simultaneously rebellious and calming (or so we hear).
Enigmatic purples have long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance, Pantone says. (Think Prince, Claude Monet). The color also has been closely associated with royalty and spirituality (Think Queen Elizabeth II and meditation rooms).
Ultra Violet also symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity while it inspires connection.
Granted, those are deep messages to attach to one color. But at Reach Partners we’re thrilled to be associated with a color that seems so aptly descriptive of the work we strive to do every day.
We’re certainly no Prince or Queen Elizabeth II, but we make every effort to make sure the work we do is individualized and creative, that it opens paths of possibility for our clients. We believe in the power of connections, that together we’re stronger.
On lighter notes, we’re anticipating that there will be lots of ultra-violet-inspired items in stores this year. We suspect we’ll be adding to our décor and wardrobe.
In addition, as lifelong residents of the upper Midwest, we also have to wonder if Pantone was making predictions about our region’s purple-clad football team: the Vikings. Could it be their year?
Either way, go purple!
PHOTO CREDIT: Art by Dean Johnson, Fargo. His work can be found online at Fargo Stuff.
We never stop planning and setting goals. (We are project managers, after all).
We do it for our clients, our professional selves AND our personal selves.
This year, we’re even doing it for our summer.
We’ve been inspired by Anita’s son, Ian (one of our Reach Partners kids), who came home one of the last weeks of school with a wish list for summer. This summer he wants to take swimming lessons, have a stick fight, go to the beach, go on a vacation and play outside. (Thank goodness Disneyland did not make the list, although that may be his idea of a good summer vacation.)
Anita posted the list in her home’s front entry. This way the family won’t forget to do some of the activities.
We decided we could do the same: a Reach Partners summer wish list, now posted for all to see.
Summer is fleeting, and by writing these goals down, we will hold ourselves accountable (and we hope you will, too!):
We love Christmas.
The lights. The celebrations. The holiday wishes from partners and friends that arrive in our mailbox daily. Everything feels a little happier this time of year.
For us, it’s also a time to pause and reflect on the joy we experience year round. We are blessed and grateful, and delight in brainstorming ways we can share that joy with others.
In recognition of this, last year we decided at add a holiday tradition at Reach Partners.
Anita and Rachel each took two $50 bills and challenged each other to make somebody’s day a little brighter, a little better. We wanted to give back. It was our small way to pay it forward.
It was so much fun.
Rachel anonymously tipped the hard-working baristas at a coffee shop she frequented often and an office building employee. Anita stopped at a local school and slipped cash (tucked in envelopes) under windshield wipers of cars in the staff parking lot.
We don’t know how the surprise gifts were received, but giving them sure made us giddy. We felt like Santa – (we play the role of his elves often) -- sneaking around and spreading some holiday joy.
This year we’ve expanded the tradition. We’ve given our team members $100 to pay forward over the next few weeks. There are no restrictions or expectations. Just encouragement to share Reach Partners’s blessings with our community.
We expect that part of the fun will come from thinking of different ways to spread the joy: Pick up the tab for coffee drinkers at a favorite coffee shop? Purchase snow pants for kindergartners who don’t have appropriate winter wear? Hide $1 bills among the shelves at a local dollar store?
The opportunities really are endless.
Want to join Reach Partners in spreading some unexpected Christmas joy? Try one or more of these ideas:
My favorite conversation of this summer, by far, has to be the allusion that was drawn between what we do at Reach Partners and the support that Santa’s workshop provides him.
I measure success by growth. Success is less about accomplishing ‘x’ number of goals, but it is about being a more competent and capable person after the fact. It’s about being a dependable and reliable member of the team. This summer, especially my time as a project intern, has been successful.
I entered the summer with, what I would consider, marginal project management experience. Over my time in the office I took on tasks that appeared too large for me and committed myself to ideals that were definitely larger than me. I was awarded the opportunity to audit meetings and lead conversations. I contributed to ideas and decisions that will impact the community for generations to come. I took far more from this opportunity than I was able to give back and I am incredibly grateful for that. Thank you for taking me in, teaching me so much, and supporting me as I spread my wings.
Project Intern - Reach Partners, “We’re the elves.”
Artists, community organizers, program directors, designers, urban planners, large community developers, small HUD offices, mayors, directors, university fellows converged in Phoenix at the generosity of ArtPlace America to explore, share and learn from the observations of those involved in creative placemaking across the country. I was one of the grateful 250 to inquire and learn from the exquisite experts, poets, social organizers and disruptors who shared space.
Artplace America is 10-year collaboration of private and public funders with a focus on community planning and development with arts and culture at the core. I attended because of involvement as Communication Manager with The Fargo Project, a 2014 grantee of the National Placemaking Fund.
I don’t want to forget. So what follows is the summary of the connections I made from notes, conversations, and speakers at the 2016 ArtPlace America Summit. With openness and vulnerability each was willing to share their pieces of discovery and the passionate well of curiosity from which they draw and apply to the work (or is it play?) within their place. Together we learned some of the characteristics of great creative placemaking, the challenges, sources of discovery, the advocates, and distinguished the markers of success.
Creative placemaking projects shows the human condition.
Through a myriad of actions, the communities of creative placemaking cry, “We are beautiful. We are deserving.” Many (all?) iterations of creative placemaking seems to illustrate art as social change. The absent narrative is revealed. Through art as social change, and the process of creative placemaking we strengthen our community’s muscle for advocacy. Art gets to separate issues from people. Beauty is a basic service and need, even in places where people are at risk, in poverty or forgotten.
Art is the language. Art is the voice of place.
The most basic characteristics of great creative placemaking projects include communication, relationships, authenticity, a community-driven response (we grow most from the exposed conflicts), and organization. Through creative placemaking we honor place – what’s real and what exists in the minds of our community’s past and future. Meanwhile, the present is for discovery, connections and within the present lives the Process (cue the angelic ‘ahhh’).
It’s not about the art, or the outcome.
The process of each creative placemaking project includes the delivery of questions, an oral, visual and spatial inquiry, deep intentional listening, followed by a response. The process uncovers the values, secrets and shows the coded language of that community. The artist serves as the pivotal translator of the coded language. The artist and the art builds bridges. Bridges of communication, bridges for translation, bridges built of trust (and play).
In some session or conversation, it was said, “progress happens at the speed of trust.” I learned each activity of a placemaking project begins and ends with an intent to build trust and follows through on the promises made through listening, even if it’s not the predicted outcome. It’s the slow build of trust that produces the response/output/objectives/needs of the community; while the artist’s response coupled with the community’s is transformative to reveal the riches of the place, people and hope, the realized potential of future.
It takes time.
To build trust, the artist acts early, consistently and over time. The transformation of creative placemaking does not happen quickly. It takes time to uncover the pain of isolation which seems to be indicative of each project to various degree. And it takes time to build the thin cord of trust to which each player adds to strengthen and build. Time to prove the actions of outsiders are authentic, encouraging. Time to prove possibility.
Artists are everywhere.
There is little to limit who plays actor and advocate in the creators of place. It’s the neighborhood pastor, mayor, grandmother, long-time volunteer or those long-gone who once called the place home. Each place and project has its critics. While artists may be successfully imported into a placemaking project, they do so with an attitude of listening and engaging the community; it’s the difference between working with and working for. Yet artists are in every place: in the police department, at city hall, next door and those artists in place can and should be validated and empowered to carry on.
Pay the artist, pay the players.
The artist learns from the people of place and draws from the knowledge of the experts within. Each community has in-place experts with lifetimes worth of knowledge and deserve a compensation for their time in the artist’s process of inquiry and discovery. It may be a $200 stipend for each month a neighborhood kid shows-up to learn the skills to interview the elder they’ve never spoken to, or a gift certificate to participate in multiple community meetings and conversations.
The benefit of ArtPlace America funding is the acknowledgement this special inquiry takes time, it takes skill. We agree the artist’s time is valued and through the experience working in a creative placemaking venture she continues to grow and expand her work and passion. Whether the artist fills a fulltime position in city government, is the owner of a film studio, yogi, or has a fulltime gig outside her artwork, creative placemaking strives to grow the capacity of artists and contributes to the care and feeding of those artists as a means of work and compensation.
Where there is disconnect, creative placemaking strives to connect. The act of breaking bread with people exemplifies the most basic, universal of human interactions to build trust and intimacy. To break bread or provide a meal is a ritual of many cultures so deeply ingrained into a social fabric it is considered holy, an offering, an act that builds connection and community. Over and over people told stories of breaking bread, sharing a meal to engage and begin to build trust. Over and over It was illustrated the tower of isolation began to crack over a shared meal.
I made fast friends with intense people passionate about their place, who’ve identified a community need and solution as intuitively as breath, who pull from the well of their experience an overlay of hope to create some gem. The artists, planners, organizers, poets emerged in front of me as mystics –ushers of possibility, beauty and goodness. They speak love. They shed light on the beautiful and acknowledge that our human experience is part broken, part beautiful, and utterly exquisite. Thank you ArtPlace, for the encounters, the foray into delight of place.
In part to serve my memory I’d like to thank the porters of work done across our country, to continue to explore and learn from them. Following are the people who shared their stories with me during the social hours of the Summit, over dinner, dancing, twirling on a spun chair, drinks, walks, at breakfast, in workshop, and at play. Thank you all.
(Jen) Relocate Kivalina, AK
(Justin) Sunset Bridge Project, San Jose, CA
(Sarah) Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership
(Searle) Jamestown Art Center, Jamestown, ND
(Kevin) Common Ground, Montgomery, AL
(Keith) Tucson Audubon Society ART | ECO: Placemaking Patagonia, Arizona
(Ramona Lisa) Fairmont Cultural Corridor, Roxbury and Dorchester, MA
(Tony & Angie) 303 ArtWay - Northeast Denver Art, Health and Heritage Trail, Denver, CO
(Tamara & Sophie) The New Buchanan Mall, San Francisco, CA
(Tiasia) Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY
(Big Chief & Matty) Foundation for Louisiana, The Mardi Gras Indian Campus: Eyes on the Park, New Orleans, LA;
(Kate) Department of Play, Boston, MA
(Dawn) Art Shanty Projects’ On—Ice Program, White Bear Lake
(Meg) Western Folklife Center Ranch Lines – Moving Rural Verse, Elko, NV
(Ian) Reading Terminal Market Streetscaping Filbert Street, Philidelphia, PA
(Shelly) Uniontown Creativity Center, Uniontown, WA
Best for last…TheRUExchange Team (pictured above)
(Adam) Lanesboro Arts Campus, 2013 | Lanesboro, MN
(Caran) Main Street Creative Corridor, Little Rock, AR
(Aya) UChicago Arts & Public Life, Chicago, IL and Haji Courture, Oakland, CA
(Rachel, me) The Fargo Project, Fargo, ND
Are you waiting to start that next project? Have you been thinking, next week, later, tomorrow, or someday? Or is your project simply at a standstill? We can help. Reach Partners can help you develop the plan to get the project done.
We know a plan without action is meaningless, so we deliver with efficiency, effectiveness and passion.
We act nimbly, execute what the plan demands and complete what we promised. This is what we do.
We take responsibility seriously; we monitor actions and hold all parties accountable through open and timely communication. We stay focused so you can too.
Through the end, we work with you to earn your trust and confidence as a ready reliable partner. Call today to find out how we can help you get your project moving.