Expanding the Porch

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I have been encouraged and grateful to all those who have engaged with me through their questions and ideas on how we invite new, diverse communities to become a part of the Chautauqua family. The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Plan, available at, provides some pathways for this work. Objective three of this plan states that we will “build relationships, experimental pipelines and collaborations to welcome more diverse populations to our grounds and programs.”  

What might that look like? We believe that we have an opportunity to build relationships and, a focus area of the IDEA Plan, especially invite “mission-aligned regional community organizations and professional organizations that serve diverse populations to engage with our grounds and programs.” This may range from the national and regional networks of historically Black fraternities and sororities (like The Divine Nine), regional cultural organizations (like the Federation of India Community Associations Cleveland), and professional organizations (like the Hispanic National Bar Association and Medical Society of Eastern Philadelphia, which serves Black doctors in Philadelphia). The organizations listed here are only examples of organizations and networks. If you have suggestions of similar organizations, please share those ideas directly with me at  

It is important to note that my office and the Institution will do its part to make these connections. However, I invite all Chautauquans to help with these efforts. As an individual, are you able to invite a friend or colleague to come and visit the magic of Chautauqua? As a representative of a denominational house or a community group, are you able to tap into your networks to extend similar invitations? I invite your active participation in these efforts. I will also note that we have started the first steps in this direction, and the inaugural Haudenosaunee Confederacy Day is one small example of this relationship building.   

Ultimately, our goal is to connect with individuals and organizations that would be interested in our four formal pillars — Education, Religion, Arts and Recreation. There are many diverse communities in our region, and nationally, that are deeply connected to one or more of our pillars and would readily direct their time and resources to experience Chautauqua. Others might be seeking an additional hidden pillar of Chautauqua — something I affectionately call the “porch” — a euphemism for community and belonging. So much of our connection to Chautauqua is with our stellar program, but the other half of the equation that brings people back year after year, generation after generation is: community. The “porch” is the most visual representation of that sense of belonging.  

Our task ahead then is threefold. First, how do we identify and reach out to the types of organizations listed above to invite them to the grounds or participate in year-round and online activities? How do we build multimedia marketing strategies aimed at recruiting diverse populations to the grounds and beyond; in other words, make an argument for “Why Chautauqua?” Last, but not least, if we are to welcome diverse communities, we need to make sure that we collectively create a fully inclusive experience that leads to a sense of belonging. More on that in a future column.   
Amit Taneja  
Senior Vice President & Chief IDEA Officer 

Tags : ChautauquaCommunityInclusion Diversity Equity Accessibility

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