I have had many engaging conversations with Chautauquans this season that have centered around the ethical, moral and values-based reasons that warrant our current efforts and focus on making Chautauqua more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible (IDEA, for short). Many of these reasons are articulated in our strategic IDEA plan (available at idea.chq.org) and are supported by Chautauqua’s shared values. However, some have offered complimentary thoughts on why this work also makes good business and strategic sense for the long-term vitality of the Institution. I couldn’t agree more.
The IDEA Strategic Plan supports many of the strategic priorities outlined in the Institution’s larger 150 Forward strategic plan (see 150fwd.chq.org). A few examples of how 150 Forward’s goals and objectives are envisioned in the IDEA plan are provided below.
• The Institution has a stated goal of increasing census (i.e. number of people attending the summer assembly season). Part of this increase in census will come from the strategies to recruit and retain new, diverse patrons to the grounds. This work will be especially important for our future as each successive generation of Americans is more racially diverse.
• The Institution has a stated focus on labor and talent solutions. In a highly competitive job market, our IDEA work will help us create a more equitable and accessible workplace and will help us achieve our goal of becoming an employer of choice. Advancement in these areas will also encourage more applicants, including diverse applicants. Strategic growth in this area could help us address some labor shortages happening on the local and national level.
• The Institution has a stated objective to “optimize the Summer Assembly Season on the Chautauqua grounds to provide a first-class experience.” The IDEA plan outlines several strategies that will enhance the Summer Assembly Season for all existing and new Chautauquans, including enhanced dialogue offerings, ethnic food options and greater accessibility for all. This, in turn, will help with our census goals listed above.
• The Institution has a stated objective to grow and diversify revenue. There has already been evidence of significant support for IDEA-related philanthropy to start this work, and we will continue to engage Chautauquans who are interested in funding this work — especially so around accessibility. Additionally, the IDEA plan provides pathways for the Institution to serve as a convener of professional organizations interested in IDEA work, which could lead to new conferences, online programs, etc., all which could generate new revenue streams.
The Institution has a stated objective to “expand Chautauqua’s convening authority year-round to broaden its impact beyond the Summer Assembly Season.” The IDEA plan envisions partnerships with businesses, professional organizations and nonprofits (e.g. inviting organizations with “employee resource groups” to participate in our online and year-round offerings, including CHQ Assembly, Mirror Project, book reads, etc).
The select examples presented here show the interconnectedness of the IDEA plan to the Institution’s larger strategic direction. When a plan makes good ethical sense, is consistent with our values, and makes good business sense, then it makes it all the more worthy of our collective attention and support.
Senior Vice President & Chief IDEA Officer