Thursday, April 28, 2016

Field Leadership Fund: Equity - The Balancing Act

By Rajeeyah Finnie-Myers

The Field Leadership Fund’s (FLF) Opening Retreat took place back in December 2015. Following the retreat the Fellows took part in the FLF 8-week Workshop Intensive. When designing the Intensive, I had hoped that it would foster a feeling of community among the cohort and set the stage for strong collaborations. I think it successfully accomplished those goals.  But perhaps just as importantly, it also brought up valid questions around creating a safe space that supports the work of disrupting systems of inequity. There is a balancing act that needs to happen when designing such a space. On one hand The Field wants Fellows to feel that the space is theirs to create, explore, question and own; but on the other hand if there isn't enough structure people may be less willing to take risks. Trust, responsibility and accountability are all two way streets and it can be challenging when both sides don't necessarily see eye to eye on what these aspects look like in our day to day interactions.

Kendra Ross & Aya Lane
There were practical ways that both sides met the challenge. I made it a point to prepare each guest facilitator ahead of time so that all involved understood the kind of environment we were creating at the workshops. I also shared the facilitators’ intended outcomes for each workshop with Fellows ahead of time. The FLF evaluation consultant collected feedback from the Fellows after each workshop and we were able to use some of that feedback to adjust our approach along the way. Fellows took it upon themselves to come together and form clear and tangible ways that The Field could give them what they needed. They asked questions and made requests as a way of making this experience work for them. The Field was always willing to consider requests - sometimes saying yes and sometimes saying no. 

Eric Lockley & Bryan Glover foreground;
 Sydnie l. Mosley & 
Azure D. Osborne-Lee background
On the last day of the Intensive, the cohort went through what we called the “pairing process” which ended with each Manager Fellow being paired with an Artist or Arts Organization Fellow. These partners would then set out to work together for the remainder of the Fellowship (through April 2017).  Artist/Arts Organization Fellows expressed their desire to make the decision about who they would work with and Manager Fellows expressed concerns about their potential partners having unrealistic expectations of them. The Field took both sides’ concerns into account by having each Fellow rank with whom they’d prefer to work. The rankings weighed heavily in The Field’s decision making process. And though there was pushback about The Field making the final decision of who would work with whom, overall Fellows expressed that they are really happy with their FLF partner. 

With the ultimate decision-making power being in the hands of The Field, an important question arose: what is the difference between trusting someone and surrendering your power to over to someone?  This question can come up in any relationship, rather it be with donors, presenters, critics, board members, collaborative artists or staff. Additionally, what happens if there is money (or any other resource) on the table? 

At The Field we are left reflecting on what true equity looks like in these instances.  Weigh in with your thoughts and look for more from The Field on this topic as we continue to learn from FLF.

Photograph from the pairing event.*

All photographs by David Flores

*Azure D. Osborne-Lee, Kyoung H. Park, Goussy Celestin,  Rachel DeGuzman, Aya Lane, Bryan E. Glover, Eric Lockley,
 Kendra Ross, Jehan O. Young, Sydnie Mosley and Alexis Convento. Not pictured: Emily Berry 

No comments: