At 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, July 14, the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees held its first Institution Leadership Open Forum in the Hall of Philosophy, where members discussed in detail the several prongs of the new strategic plan and listened to comments and concerns from the community about the future.
The chairman of the board, James A. Pardo Jr., opened the discussion by describing the opportunities for advancements at the close of the 2010-2018 strategic planning period.
“We are still dedicated to the Institution’s mission,” Pardo said. “And we are thinking about what should be in the future.”
Pardo explained that the process of gathering comments and concerns through these open forums, the Chautauqua Institution Leadership Porch Discussions, the online portal and the strategic planning listening sessions held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the Hall of Christ will help to inform the new strategic plan.
On top of the open forums created to gather comments, the board has set up 51 one-on-one interviews with a variety of demographic groups from the Institution, including people who visited once and never returned; lifelong Chautauquans; people who had never heard of Chautauqua; and many others. There will also be sessions during Weeks Four and Six in which eight people will be randomly chosen to discuss their hopes for the future of Chautauqua.
Based on the comments gathered through recordings at each of the sessions, Pardo explained that “the expectation is that the board will receive a detailed evaluation by our November meeting” from the hired strategic planning consultants Bernuth & Williamson. He said the board intends to have a final strategic plan ready for adoption by May 2019.
After the brief introduction by Pardo, President Michael E. Hill discussed his intent for these sessions and his hopes for the future of Chautauqua, which includes increased diversity and community involvement.
“We are trying to ask ourselves how we can join the national thought conversation and how we can bring in new perspectives,” Hill said.
Some of Hill’s other goals for the new strategic plan include expanding youth engagement opportunities and “deepening and expanding revenue resources that will allow us to sustain Chautauqua.”
After the short speeches by Pardo and Hill, former trustee and chair of the strategic planning working group Laura Currie posed to the audience several questions the board is specifically interested in, including “What barriers do we need to overcome as a community to reach our potential?”; “What are your aspirations for Chautauqua?”; and “What other questions should be asking you about this process?”
Audience members were then invited to the microphones at each side of the stage. There were many concerns and comments raised, most of which were particularly interested in retaining the current essence of Chautauqua as it embarks on a new set of goals.
Some of these concerns included increased support for the Institution’s art schools, inviting the local Farmers Market vendors at the Main Gate to the Bestor Fresh Market on Wednesdays on the plaza, and creating a system in which information about Chautauqua and community members can be compiled.
Concerns, comments and general remarks are gathered and used for the research for the strategic plan. Members of the board, as well as Pardo and Hill, urged Chautauquans to add suggestions at one of the open forum meetings or on the online portal at essence.chq.org.