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Innovation Bootcamp: New Approach to Chronic Challenges

“If you don’t change the process, the outcomes will never change.” George Aye, Greater Good Studio

Innovation Bootcamp, a partnership between the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Alphawood Foundation of Chicago, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), began as a conversation in December 2013. Each of the funders in the partnership, which is now called by the acronym AD3, have supported small arts organizations for many years and know that the staffs and volunteers of small arts groups are creative, adaptive thinkers with a wealth of on-their-feet experience. But, many of these same inventive groups face chronic operational challenges that plague others in the field, such as scarcity of resources, lack of administrative infrastructure, and pressure to solve problems on a too-short timeframe.

AD3 is pleased to announce that the second cohort of Innovation Bootcamp includes 6018North, the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP), Fifth House Ensemble, Opera-matic, Shattered Globe Theatre, and South Side Community Art Center. The cohort will begin meeting in May 2017.

Reaching outside the nonprofit arena, AD3 partners with Greater Good Studio, a human-centered design firm, to create Innovation Bootcamp, a three-month intensive where these six small nonprofit arts organizations participate in group workshops and individual coaching sessions. Emphasis is placed on finding solutions that fit group’s needs and resources and that can be put into practice immediately.

After researching their challenge, teams rapidly prototype a variety of new operations ideas in a supportive trial and error environment, and then pilot their strongest idea over a subsequent three-month period beginning in August 2017. By learning this new process, participants leave with the skills and confidence to replicate the approach on their own as they address other operational challenges in the future.

Part of the Gen Ops Plus strategy, Innovation Bootcamp brings an additional resource to Chicago’s small arts organizations supported by the Foundation with general operating funds. Other Plus components include Technical Assistance Grants to attend organizational training workshops and Cash Reserve Challenge grants to help ready organizations establish or build a cash reserve.

To hear about the first Innovation Bootcamp cohort’s experiences, watch this short video.

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