Mission/Vision Writing – April 6, 2012

April 6th, 2012
Vision / Mission Task Force – El Sistema USA Working Group
Conference call @ 11 AM (PST) to 12:30 PM (PST)

Nan Westervelt – Rochester, NY
Liz Schurgin – Ft. Worth
Steven Liu – Allentown Symphony
Mark Churchill – Boston
Dalouge Smith – San Diego
Margaret Martin – Los Angeles

Margaret recalls where the group arrived at the last meeting:  Steven and Liz had advocated for drafting a broad, sweeping Vision.  Steven had suggested that the Vision might be something that would appeal to constituencies beyond our own – and that the Mission would be the place where we drill down about HOW – what we plan to do to achieve the Vision.

Steven refers to recent documents drafted about El Sistema.

Dalouge mentions the “end” we seek is “youth citizens who achieve their potential” – or “all children will have access to develop through citizen-based music making”.  He suggests either a specific picture of kids or a picture of the wider community.

Steven talks about what it would look like if El Sistema USA was successful.  He speaks of El Sistema as being about so much more than music.   He says that within Venezuela, El Sistema now embraces other art forms and works with social service and health service providers to help facilitate a wide range of social services.  Music is just the starting impetus to developing a healthy community.  We should express something that refers to a larger community.

Nan asks for clarification.

Steven talks about another Abreu Fellow who said that too frequently we are trying to feed people who are not hungry, rather than feeding people who ARE hungry.  (a metaphor) Music is just the first step.

Dalouge likes this.  Says, “Our vision is more about the alignment of community resources with the larger community.”  Ten years from now there’s a neighborhood, there’s a cohesion of school, social service providers, health providers… and I see music as the cohesive factor, as the glue…

Steven says that everywhere we’re doing our programs in the U.S. we are running them in collaboration with other social services (schools, community centers, professional orchestras).

Liz talks about a nucleo in Venezuela where an eye doctor was brought in, because kids won’t have a chance to develop well if they cannot see.  Good citizens through music is the goal.  Five / ten years down the road – say there’s a community in rural Iowa and a kid gets online and sees this and says “I want to be a part of it.”

Dalouge talks about music being at the center of neighborhood cohesion and healthy communities by drawing a whole lot of community resources together.  Music is the touch-point.  The social services, education, health providers have the opportunity to have the conversations they need to have.  Music is at the center.

Nan recalls what Mark Churchill said about bringing together folks from the national level…

Dalouge says he was there at the meeting that Mark C. had described.

Nan says we would be thinking about aligning with them.

Dalouge says a rep from the String Teachers Assoc at that meeting said that his members did not go into music to achieve social change.  This wasn’t an orientation that his members would be comfortable with.  The flip side – if there’s opportunity to teach more kids violin, and I love to teach, I might want to teach violin there.  There were school reps at the meeting who said “We’ve been doing great work for years and years and years. “ The problem is that it’s not available in the poorer communities.

Nan says – “once a week”.  Nan says we’re immersing kids in music instead of taking a scattershot approach.

Dalouge likes a large overarching Vision (child and community development), with the Mission being about what makes us different.  Without the community buy-in across multiple sectors, he doesn’t think there’s a chance of music going back into the school day.

Dalouge asks Margaret:  What are you seeing, ten years in, within Harmony Project?

Margaret says she didn’t know about El Sistema when she started.  She based Harmony Project on:

  1. Shirley Brice Heath’s 10 year longitudinal study that looked at kids in 124 different after school programs.  One key take home message was that arts-based programs, relative to sports/academic and community service (scouting, 4H, religious groups) programs were associated with powerful and enduring pro-social impact — particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who tended to self-select into arts-based programs in higher proportions than into other types of after school programs when arts-based programs were available.
  2. A follow up RAND study was commissioned by the City of Los Angeles to answer the question:  Are ALL arts-based youth programs associated with a powerful and enduring pro-social impact – or are there SPECIFIC ELEMENTS within arts-based youth programs that may account for the powerful pro-social impact observed in some programs?

RAND’s landmark “Arts & Pro-social Impact Studies (available online at RAND) identified FIVE FACTORS within highest-performing arts programs:

Extended time-in-program.
Programs receiving the highest ratings were more likely to offer ongoing sessions that continued indefinitely.

Complementary program components.
Programs receiving the highest ratings for pro-social impact were more likely to provide youth with additional program components beyond arts instruction, such as counseling, sports, tutoring and computer labs.

Ties with other community organizations.
Programs receiving the highest ratings for pro-social impact were more likely to have ties with other community organizations, such as schools, other arts organizations, youth service agencies and community centers.

Youth mentorship opportunities.
Arts interventions receiving the highest ratings for pro-social impact were more likely to provide formal youth mentorship opportunities.  Youth mentors were often “graduates” of the program.

Emphasis on performance and presentation.
Arts interventions receiving the highest ratings for pro-social impact were more likely to place emphasis on performances and presentations.  These generally involved weeks of preparation and culminated with a performance in front of adults and peers.

Margaret indicates how perfectly these elements from the RAND study, upon which Harmony Project was based, align with the practices and principles of El Sistema.  She adds that with dropout rates well above 50% in LA’s highest crime gang zones (and at 50% in the 50 largest U.S. cities) 100% of Harmony Project students remain enrolled in school.  And over the past four years, 100% of Harmony Project seniors have graduated from high school and have gone on to college.  With outcomes like this, Harmony Project works with and receives support from a broad cross-section of the local and national community.  Harmony Project demonstrates that ongoing access to community-based music programs can be foundational to building healthy children, families and communities.

Dalouge says the word “foundational” is key.  It says that all of the other services are stronger when music is central, rather than being marginalized.  Music participation is bedrock.

Dalouge suggests expressing “music as foundational to youth development and success in learning and in citizenship and service to their family and community.”

Steven suggests “El Sistema USA seeks to build a foundation for strong and healthy communities through the provision of intensive community-based music opportunities.”

Nan refers to the RAND report and mentions community cohesion.  She observes that everybody is trying to stake a claim to that.

Dalouge asks if we want to insert, in the Vision statement, that arts education is foundational to a healthy community.

Nan says we want to ensure we are acceptable to a larger community.

Liz reminds us that we can always revise a Vision.  She is hesitant to add “the arts” to El Sistema USA at this point.  In terms of being constructive – Liz would like to express something that is huge AND something we can shoot for in ten years time.  She would like to keep music central, given that everyone in this conversation – and within the conversations on Wed – is focusing on music.

Nan mentions teaching dance in Syracuse ALONG WITH music.  Liz says she has dance in her program, too, but says the focus of her program is music.

Dalouge suggests that if we come up with a good Vision Statement, the words music or arts education might be interchangeable.  We might want to take this question back to the Working Group.

Margaret agrees.

Nan asks to review the phrases the participants in the call have come up with. Margaret pulls them up.

El Sistema USA seeks to build a foundation for strong and healthy communities through the provision of intensive community-based music…

Dalouge suggests:  El Sistema USA seeks to place intensive music education at the foundation of…  and emphasizes that we’re seeking to change the perception of people about the role of music

Liz says it sounds a little like a mission statement – and less like a vision.

Nan suggests seeing music being viewed as foundational to developing healthy children, families and communities as the optimal goal.

Dalouge:  Twenty years from now people will see it as a no-brainer that you START with music to make a healthy community.  Today music is marginal.

Nan asks to go back to the other phrases.

Music and the arts are foundational to organizing community resources for student development and family and neighborhood cohesion.

Margaret says the right elements are being expressed, but that we will have to find simple, punchy language.  El Sistema USA cannot represent itself well through “wonk-speak”.

Nan recalls our sample questions:  What are the values and beliefs that inform your work?  What would you hope to accomplish?

Dalouge likes the word “health” and would like to include it.

Liz suggests we add a visual… 5 years from now every state has an El Sistema program; 10 years from now every major city has one.  20 years from now every community has one.  If we have a program in every community then we know that every community understands that access to ongoing music is foundational to child, family and community health.  Liz’s vision for the organization (El Sistema USA) is that it serves as a resource to facilitate the development of these programs in communities throughout the country.  It’s about increased access.

Dalouge tests the Vision statement, in his own mind, against the notion that it be something that others who don’t see themselves as El Sistema might embrace.

Margaret sees this as a good point.

Liz:  All children in the United States have the opportunity to achieve their full potential through music.

Nan says there are external visions and internal visions.  She mentions the sample from the AIDS service org:  Vision – A world without AIDS.  Mission is focused on what they are going to do to help make that happen.

Liz says the world would be a better place if everyone had music in their lives.  Whether it’s about parent engagement, school performance, everything would be improved.  Liz’s vision is:  all communities have access to music.

Steven speaks of a larger question.  What’s the goal of a national organization vs. the goal of local organizations? We may be thinking too locally in our scope.  A larger organization might be about going into how to provide resources to the local – and how to tie communities together.

Mark C. joins the call (about 70 minutes into the call).  Apologizes for being late as he had other commitments.

Margaret suggests the larger concept IS appropriate for the Vision for the larger organization.

Dalouge is looking for a changed vision in the future.  He wants to express that access to ongoing quality music be widely seen and recognized within the larger community as foundational to the development of healthy children, families and communities.

Dalouge suggests “A world where music and the arts are widely seen as foundational to organizing community resources for student development and family and neighborhood cohesion.”

Liz offers:  “All children have access to music.  Access to music is a human right.”  Or… “All children in the United States have the opportunity to achieve their full potential through music.”

Dalouge likes the notion of working individually then returning with what we’ve drafted.  The sentiment of the participants in regard to the Vision seems to be that music is seen and used as a core or foundational element in aligning and directing resources toward positive student development and the building of healthy families and communities.

Mark C.:  Music should be provided for every child.

Dalouge talks about music as the means – not the end.

Margaret says if music is the means, not the end (as Dr. Abreu emphasizes), the ends we seek must be clearly stated in any Vision statement.

Mark C.:  Thriving individuals and healthy communities – those things working together in synergy.  That is what we want to achieve.

Dalouge – we want music to be viewed in this foundational way by educators, health service providers, social service providers…

Mark C.: There has to be a general recognition by the wider community that this is universally understood, accepted and supported.

Dalouge asks if we have enough draft phraseology on the Mission Statement.

Nan refers to part of the statement of the first task force meeting, which applies to the function of the larger organization.

“El Sistema USA fosters the collaboration and success of member organizations by providing research and information resources, professional development and networking opportunities, advocacy, funding, and high profile leadership.”

Dalouge says that statement is valuable but thinks there needs to be a bridge phrase to connect the Vision to the Mission of the individual organizations.

Mark C:  Things that are done most effectively at the local level are done so there – but the things that are best done at the national organization are done there – but it all reflects the Vision.  This work (on Vision) is critical.

Nan:  We are a collective.

Mark C.:  It is the work of the larger organization to work that out – how to support and accomplish this larger vision.  The association only exists to strengthen the capacity to fulfill the Vision.  If the Vision is articulated clearly – it becomes easier to see if the organization is doing that.  (The larger organization is not there for itself – it’s there for the purpose that’s defined in the Vision Statement.)  We need that larger Vision to inform the best way to structure and inform the work of the larger organization.

Nan says there are four minutes left for this call.

Margaret suggests that a next step might be that she sends out the notes from this call and that the participants each draft a Vision and Mission statement individually.  Then we can reflect on those together.

There is general agreement.

Dalouge asks for clarification as to process.

Margaret suggests:

  1. Margaret will send out notes from this call to the participants.
  2. Participants will each look over the notes and craft their own best draft of a Vision and Mission statement.
  3. The participants will send their Vision and Mission statements back to Margaret, who will compile them into a single document – which she will send back to all participants.

Nan says that, in her experience, it generally works best for a couple people to do the word-smithing – rather than attempting to get a final document from a larger group.

There is general agreement.

Nan asks if there are participants on the call who would be willing to take on the word-smithing task, adding that she will be traveling in the coming week and would not be able to do so.

Margaret volunteers to work with Dalouge to pull together a Vision and Mission statement based on the assembled work of each of the participants – but says she is happy to step aside if anyone else would like to do it in her place.  No one else volunteers.  Dalouge agrees to work with Margaret.

Mark C. says that brevity is key – and refers back to the sample from the Biloxi AIDS Service Organization.

Vision:  Our ultimate goal is a world without HIV/AIDS.

Mission:  The mission of the Biloxi AIDS Service Organization is to help people both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS to secure adequate nutritional and health support to enhance their lives.

Margaret agrees with Mark that brevity is key and reminds participants that “The Curse of Knowledge” can cause good ideas to drown under the weight of their own words.  She suggests crafting statements that would be clear and impactful to a teacher’s aide in a 4th grade public school classroom.

Mark C. heartily agrees.

The participants thank one another for their participation and the call is ended.


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