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Cultural Capacity FAQ

Cultural Capacity FAQ

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Somerville Cultural Capacity (SCCP) Plan Development Process 

Frequently Asked Questions

How did the idea for a Somerville Cultural Capacity plan come about?

The City of Somerville and the Somerville Arts Council have led innovative planning studies that touch on topics which relate to arts and culture, but haven’t yet produced a comprehensive Cultural Plan. The idea was considered for years and was most recently included in a recommendation in the Somerville Arts Space Risk Assessment Study. This study made it clear that now is the time to create a cultural capacity plan. Prior to the kick-off of the Cultural Capacity Plan, a pre-planning study was conducted which included focus groups and a survey in which 219 people responded. The survey sought to gauge constituents’ priorities for a cultural plan, understand who might want to support the Somerville Arts Council (SAC) in the planning process, and identify the cross-sector entities that should be included in a planning effort. 93% of respondents believed it was very important or important for Somerville to have a cultural plan. Respondents also preferred a city-wide plan over a municipal plan, which would engage stakeholders beyond government. The city brought in consultants Forecast Public Art and Solomon Office to help shephard process.

Why are we kicking off the SCCP by hosting a series of community conversations?

The planning team is kicking off the process with a series of community conversations in order to: co-create the plan with Somerville residents by setting up multiple opportunities for people to add their voice engage a wide variety of stakeholders through targeted outreach that meets people where they’re at network and build relationships to heal from COVID and increase capacity to carry out the Plan’s eventual recommendations experiment in implementing strategies as the Plan is under development The community conversations will be facilitated by Cultural Ambassadors, aka people who live and work in Somerville.

Who are the Cultural Ambassadors, and how were they selected to facilitate the meetings?

Cultural Ambassadors applied through an open call for participants between December 2022 and early January 2023. Ambassadors were selected based on their stated interest, availability, and how they represented diverse constituencies as a cohort.

How are the themes for each conversation decided?

Each community conversation will follow the same open-ended format based on the Innovators’ Compass, contextualized for different cultural communities. Themes were identified by survey participants, SAC, and consultants to ensure that all voices - especially arts and culture workers who are most vulnerable and traditionally marginalized - would be represented in the Plan. Because people engaged in each artistic and cultural genre face different barriers to success, conversations are being set up with the intention to elicit a nuanced understanding of the issues and opportunities.

What if I have an idea for a conversation on a different theme?

The Participation survey will remain open throughout the planning process. Please fill it out to indicate how you want to be involved, pitch conversation topics, and to get on the email list to receive notices about the planning process.

What will happen with the information from each session?

All the recorded notes from each session will be published in full in the Appendix of the Plan. Furthermore, the findings from each session will be synthesized with other groups. Through this process the team will identify major issues facing each group, themes that connect issues and opportunities across groups, as well as outlier issues that can alert the team to strategies to help those who are most vulnerable.

Why are there two rounds of community conversations, and how will they be different?

The community conversations will develop the content for the plan and also provide opportunities for people to meet each other again after years of isolation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first round of community conversations will be organized based on genre and/or thematic cultural group. These meetings will take place in the spring of 2023. The goal of these meetings is for participants to:

Network and build relationships.
Develop a shared understanding of what is happening in Somerville today.
Envision bold ideas that can transform people’s lives

The second round of conversations will operate like working groups to help refine some of the big ideas that can help build capacity across multiple groups.

What will happen at the City-wide Forums?

At the City-wide forums participants will learn the outcomes of the conversations, and will help validate the major findings. At the first Forum on Cultural Preservation, a particular focus will be to discuss the existing cultural networks in the city and the strategies that are ensuring their success, as well as the gaps that are creating barriers for their continued existence. By the end of the first Forum, we hope to have developed a shared understanding of the existing conditions in the city, and to develop consensus on a few strategies that need further refinement in working groups. The second Forum on Cultural Development will look towards the future to programs and policies that can be put in place to help grow the arts and cultural sector in the city, and to better integrate it into everyday life. At the end of this forum, we hope to have your help in prioritizing the recommendations for the Plan.

Where will we go from there?

The community conversations and Forums will drive content for the Plan and its eventual recommendations. It will also establish a practice where Somerville residents network with each other to articulate initiatives to work on in concert with the City. The Plan will document these outcomes, and will synthesize them into a multi-year strategy that may build capacity at the city and its cultural organizations to achieve the multiple objectives identified through the planning process.