At the fifth IDEA — inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility — Listening Session, Chautauqua Institution administrators heard from a new perspective: young people.
The session, held last Tuesday afternoon in the Hall of Christ, was attended by a vocal group of students from Arizona State University’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, who were in the first 48 hours of their week-long Chautauqua experience.
Several of the students alluded to discrimination or lack of inclusivity, specifically in Chautauqua’s programming. They pointed to the lack of religious diversity and underrepresentation of non-Christian faiths, as well as a lack of diversity among Institution employees and intergenerational dialogue.
Additionally, Chautauquans suggested mentorship programs, scholarships for college students or young families, better remote working conditions for young professionals and adding better signage on the grounds.
IDEA is one of the 150 Forward strategic plan’s four cross-cutting imperatives — themes that underscore the plan’s vision and four key objectives: optimizing the summer season, broadening Chautauqua’s convening authority outside the season, improving the health of Chautauqua Lake and growing and diversifying revenue.
“We say we curate the great conversations of the day,” President Michael E. Hill said at last week’s Strategic Plan Information Session. “I say, if we’re being truly honest with one another, we’re having a wonderful conversation for a homogenous group of people. … We are not fully doing our mission.”
At the weekly strategic plan session, held Thursday in the Hall of Christ, Hill, along with Board of Trustees Chair Jim Pardo and Strategic Planning Working Group Chair Laura Currie, honed in on the Institution’s financial sustainability.
Chautauqua, unlike most business models, has one, nine-week business quarter per year, Hill said; in those nine weeks, the Institution earns nearly all of its yearly revenue. Based on current financial ebb and flow, even maxing out ticket sales isn’t enough to make up for the natural rise of expenses surpassing the Institution’s revenue.
In part, to counterbalance this eclipse, the administration is considering strategic partnerships — another of the plan’s four cross-cutting imperatives — with corporations or organizations during and outside the summer season.
“You’re used to a business plan that has stated goals, has measurable metrics, has timelines for execution, assigns responsibilities and runs fairly short; three to five years,” Pardo said. “That is not what this strategic plan looks like and … that’s not what strategic plan looks like in the modern world.”
The next IDEA Listening Session will be 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Hall of Christ; the Strategic Plan Information Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Christ. Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the strategic plan through the online forum at