Organizational Change and Evolution

The combination of arts and cultural strategies with community development can lead to serious differences in styles and boundaries. The nonprofit sector builds affordable housing with government support or provides healthcare for low-income residents according to a massive and arcane set of rules and financial constraints that have conditioned its practitioners to pay close attention to detail, track deliverables from every contractor for each dollar of expenses, and commit only to authorized transactions. The creativity in this scenario is in maneuvering that system for optimal results. In contrast, artists who care deeply about being engaged with society and local communities are experts at freeing their own imaginations and those of the people they work with to encourage free expression unrestrained by convention, to envision a radically different future.

What happens when these two very different approaches to transforming communities are brought together, with the time, resources, and support to create something new and advance the mission of community development organizations through arts and culture? The Community Development Investments organizations’ array of diverse experiences reflect this journey in interesting and instructive ways. The projects and partnerships were challenging to design and execute, but this integration of arts into community development has taken root. Changes in many areas, from the immediacy of staff assignments and budgeting to the breadth of strategic planning, have altered and strengthened these organizations and offer guidance for groups seeking to bring about a similar fusion.

In April 2020, we published a brief that explores how these transformations came about and what this means for other organizations that may wish to follow a similar path.