Survey 04

Discussion Document for 2/29/12 Association Conference Call
And Survey Results for Association Survey #4

Overview of Process to Date and Questions Raised

Creating a new organization designed by and for a large group of far-flung members is obviously not an easy process.  Working Group members often cannot participate in all the conference calls, nor can they read every answer to questions asked, see all the e-mails filled with questions and suggestions about the process. The thread of conversations may be lost or never even found to begin with.

However, as you will see from the website, El Sistema USA (the name the Group has now decided upon) is taking shape, at least in draft, and each week it gets closer to being a voice and powerful tool for the network of music programs changing the lives of the youth they serve.  Building such an organization well takes time and care.

You may see questions on surveys or lines of discussion in minutes that seem irrelevant or perplexing.  Be assured that such items have been raised as important by at least one of your colleagues and are being surfaced for your consideration or help.  Doing so as part of this digital process can be cumbersome, but it is the only way to be sure that the process is inclusive and transparent; that no one individual is driving the shape of the organizations alone.  Please forgive this and continue to share your comments on the website, in the calls, in the surveys and in the e-mails you send.  El Sistema USA will be stronger for your patience and input.

Also please understand that building a strong organization that can serve the members well requires “getting in the weeds”.  Generalities don’t work because they allow all the members to assume the purpose, structures, and vision of the organization rather than to know what the Association or the network is about.  Individual assumptions cannot be organized into powerful action, but clarity can.  With a clear foundation of agreement on what El Sistema USA is, its priorities, and vision for the future, it can accomplish virtually anything the group envisions and is prepared to support.

As the Working Group continues to define the shape of the organization, greater clarity around the vision, priorities, and strategy of the Association will also take shape.  So hang in there! The work is moving ahead well and given the process to date, the Working Group should be in good shape to draft meaningful by-laws at the Drafting Convention.

Results of Association Survey #4

There were 38 respondents to this survey.

The results of Question #2 regarding the proposed date of the By-Laws Drafting Convention were evenly split between April 27-29 and May 11-13.  The Group will therefore be queried as to how they wish to resolve this stalemate.

The results of Question #3 regarding the minimum hours of programming required for core membership (5 or 8) was evenly split.  It is recommended that given this number is to be set as a floor for participation in core membership that the Working Group should use 5 hours as the criterion, since this number would include the recommended supermajority, however, the Group will be queried as to how they wish to resolve this matter.

Question #4 requested members to show agreement for additional characteristics for core membership that had been suggested in prior surveys and calls by individual Group members.  (1=strongly agree and 5=strongly disagree; therefore results of 2 or less shows group agreement) The results of this question were:

  1. Striving Toward Musical Excellence (1.17):  Agreed
  2. Operating with high administrative standards (such as timely submission of 990 reports and having regular independent audits) (2.08):  Not agreed
  3. Being an independent 501(c)3 with an independent board (2.58):  Not agreed
  4. Encouraging community engagement by holding frequent performances (1.55): Agreed
  5. Have established practices that encourage strong parental engagement (1.92): Agreed
  6. Have established practices for outcomes measurement of programs (1.95):  Agreed
  7. Have programming which permits serving children for a minimum of three years and aspire to serve them for their entire childhood (1.60):  Agreed
  8. Provide programming in a community-based location (2.13):  Not agreed
  9. Support academic success through academic tutoring (2.97):  Not agreed
  10. Require that all children enrolled in the program be concurrently enrolled in school (2.61):  Not agreed

Given the results above, responses 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7, will be discussed with the Working Group for further definition and clarity, to be ultimately included as criteria for core membership.

Question #5 was a repeat of prior questioning of the group on whether they agreed to offer youth ensembles or adult ensembles auxiliary membership in the association.  The question also clarified that the current working assumption was that such ensembles that included a core member organization in their network would be offered core membership through that qualifying program.  The results of the question were:

Youth Ensembles (2.13):  Not agreed to offer auxiliary membership.
Adult Ensembles (2.44):  Not agreed to offer auxiliary membership.

Reasons given included:

“The founding premise of this association is that about programs for “at-risk youth.” Most youth orchestras, and all adult orchestras, are not engaged with at-risk youth. The inclusion of such programs, even as auxiliary members, dilutes the fundamental identity of the association.”

“El Sistema must distinguish itself from the existing music and music education system in this country. There is ample support for the conservatory and youth orchestra initiative (often through direct support of the families served). We need to establish support for our distinct social change program without allowing it to be confused with what has gone before.”

“I think the mission to serve at-risk youth (I assume that’s still part of it) would exclude these organizations except through an existing qualifying program.”

Therefore, give that this question has been surveyed twice with the same conclusion, it is recommended that inclusion in auxiliary membership not be offered at this time.

Question #6- Respondents were asked to discuss categories of benefits they would recommend to be offered at various membership levels. Benefits already proposed had included: Receiving Association newsletters and other general communications, – Invitations to Association conferences , learning opportunities, or special events – Access to Association libraries of documents or information, – Access to Association data and/or outcomes, – Access to association recommended tools, policies, best practice, and procedures, – Voting rights to elect board members – Voting rights to amend the by-laws – Voting rights to approve the budget and/or membership dues – Rights to have a seat(s) on the board itself.  

Therefore the group was asked to suggest additional possible benefit categories.  Responses included:

  1. Regularly-updated funding opportunities targeted towards El Sistema-inspired programs and access to cooperative information bank on grants and funding ;
  2. Access to funded resources like consulting, evaluation, teacher training, PR materials;
  3. Access to educators, practitioners and experts in El Sistema related educational techniques (much like the Abreu Fellows) for help in developing or further developing the member organization’s program;
  4. Joint Repertoire and an effort to organize regional and national El Sistema Orchestra Seminarios. The creation of the first national orchestra showing exemplary artistry and music-making ( following our Venezuelan examples) will become the face of El Sistema USA;
  5. Financial Assistance Programs Instrument Rental/Purchase discounts Insurance Discounts;
  6. Group health buy in to core membership Group 4013b buy in to core membership Group Cafeteria plan buy in to core membership;

These responses will be used in crafting future benefits architecture to be matched with membership categories and will be reflected in future work of the Group.


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