University of North Carolina: Lessons Learned

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Lessons Learned

Photo from UNC's production of "Parade"

Photo from UNC's production of "Parade"

Resources: The addition of a full-time project manager was a critical component of the project. Given the diversity of partners and programs, it was difficult to track all aspects of multiple projects. The additional burden on the business office due to increased responsibilities associated with vetting and managing was significant. Since this was the first major grant the organization received, it was also the first time the office had worked with the UNC-CH Office of Sponsored Research (OSR), which added an additional level of administration to the budgetary aspects of managing the grant. This increased administration, combined with CPA being a new organization on campus, required new processes and procedures to be defined and implemented.

Tracking/Management & Diverse Stakeholders: With multiple stakeholders and project ‘leads’ there were many events that occurred on campus under the umbrella of Carolina Creative Campus. This created a challenge in maintaining consistency and identity. The partnership model did raise questions of visibility and accountability. As the lead organization, Carolina Performing Arts had to address how to deal with projects or events that occurred under the Carolina Creative Campus umbrella, over which CPA had no control. CPA ensured that anyone receiving funding directly from us was aware of the associated requirements for grant and name recognition, and requested they participate in an evaluation feedback mechanism we had created. This was successful to varying degrees.

Ultimately, the fact that events were claiming the Carolina Creative Campus moniker in promoting their events, with or without the knowledge of Carolina Performing Arts proved to be one of the successes of the project, and with that came a certain accepted decentralization. So while Carolina Performing Arts did have a direct association and recognition as leaders of the overall project, for individual events or activities the role was often   less that of driver and more that of supporter.

Clarifying CPA’s Role: There was a demonstrated need to clearly define organizational roles between partners and CPA, particularly in projects that CPA was the primary financial supporter. The project was the first time CPA had collaborated in this way with campus partners, and the process forced a clarification, both within CPA and between CPA and artistic partners, as to what CPA’s role was in the collaboration. This is most strongly reflected in feedback from partners regarding the role of project-specific marketing and certain production elements, and has led to clarification of this role organizationally within CPA.

These and other questions also forced a re-examining of the relationship and structure of Carolina Performing Arts (CPA) and the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts (EDA). Technically, CPA is a presenting series, which is run by EDA. Up to this point, however, the distinction between the two had rarely been made within the organization, and almost never externally. The conversation on the identity of CPA versus EDA began at the end of the project, and resulted in a clear distinction being made between the two entities.

There were several critical components that CPA feels propelled the success of their project:

Theme – A theme creates a common thread, tying diverse stakeholders together to investigate different perspectives around a single idea or issue. The framework around the theme, and the balance of specific versus general, play important roles.

Arts – The arts form a cohesive element that is the core component of some projects, but touches all the pieces in some way. The arts give permission to ‘think outside the box’ and creatively engage conversations. They are approachable and accessible and provide alternative frameworks, welcoming diverse engagement and participation.

People – Without students, staff, and faculty, community members nothing happens. Creating an open and welcoming invitation to participate is paramount, as is ensuring that the conversation is relevant. Learning to listen and encouraging dialogue versus monologue creates ownership and diversity.

Visibility – in order to invite as much of campus as possible to participate, visibility is crucial. As a presenting organization, CPA has that visibility and the understanding of how to create and increase that visibility for the project. CPA engages faculty, students, staff and community members in our on-campus role, which gives access to invite people to participate. CPA’s role also speaks to a form of neutrality, as it is not necessarily aligned with any one group.

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