Chicago Arts Funders Pool Resources for Innovation Bootcamp

Alphawood Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (collectively known by the acronym AD3) have selected six Chicago non-profit arts organizations to participate in their Innovation Bootcamp program.  Now in its second year, the goal of the program is to cultivate unconventional thinking to address chronic, often common, operational challenges to an organization’s capacity and sustainability. The 2018 cohort includes 6018 North, Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP), Fifth House Ensemble, Opera-Matic, Shattered Globe Theatre, and South Side Community Art Center.

Scarcity of resources, lack of administrative infrastructure, and the risks that come with experimentation are some of the barriers small organizations face. Greater Good Studio, a design firm focused on social impact, will provide a series of group workshops and individualized coaching sessions through which the selected organizations will learn to harness and apply their inherent creativity to an issue they wish to address. Through Innovation Bootcamp, the selected arts organizations will develop a process to identify their own unique needs and assets and then create tailored solutions that they can immediately put into practice.

In order to apply, organizations had to be current Chicago-area arts or arts education grantees of one of the participating funders and have a budget under $1.5 million. The six successful applicants best articulated a specific question they are trying to answer and demonstrated an openness to new solutions and approaches. They also demonstrated their organization’s capacity to support staff participation in the rigorous six-month program.

Innovation Bootcamp began on May 2nd and culminates in a public event on November 6th at the Chicago Cultural Center where the six participating organizations will share their challenges, solutions, and Bootcamp experience.

Reflections from participants in the program’s pilot in 2017 can be found at

Participating Funders:

Alphawood Foundation is a private grant-making foundation working for an equitable, just, and humane society. The Foundation awards grants to organizations primarily in the areas of advocacy, architecture and preservation, the arts and arts education, promotion and protection of the rights of LGBT citizens and people living with HIV/AIDS, and other human and civil rights.

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.

The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and collections in the Chicago region and Lowcountry of South Carolina. Through the Gen Ops Plus program, GDDF supports over 160 small, professional arts organizations of all disciplines with general operating grants and an array of other support programs to help small arts organizations sustain their work and support their operations.

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation benefits individuals and communities by supporting the preservation and enhancement of the built and natural environments through historic preservation in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, encouragement of quality architectural and landscape design, and conservation of open space. The Foundation also supports arts and culture, investigative reporting and government accountability, and organizations that provide opportunities for working poor people.

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