For 2021, the Broomfield City Council identified the priority of building the creative economy in Broomfield. Kathryn Lynip, Director of the Library, Arts & History Department, tasked the newly reimagined Arts & History team with learning more about the cultural organizations in the area and with building a network of organizations for support and amplification.
To start this work, the Arts & History (A & H) team positioned itself as a connector and partnership-builder, rather than a content creator. Next, the team sought to learn more about Broomfield-area arts and history organizations and to arrange in-depth conversations with key leaders of these non-profits. With the goal of building connections rooted in expressed community and organizational needs, the A & H team adopted Appreciative Inquiry interviews as its primary method to structure these conversations. The resulting interview transcripts formed the nucleus of the qualitative data upon which this report is based. What follows is a brief overview of the methodology the A & H team used to develop its research tools.
Appreciative Inquiry is a positive, strengths-based approach to community development and problem-solving. Used by numerous corporations and municipalities to understand how to best serve customers and constituents, one local case study of appreciative inquiry in action from the City of Longmont can be found here.
A key part of Appreciative Inquiry is empathetic listening, which is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding and trust. It enables the listener to receive, accurately interpret the speaker’s message, and appropriately respond.
Empathetic listening also:
- builds trust and respect
- enables the disputants to release their emotions - reduces tensions
- encourages the surfacing of information
- creates a safe environment that is conducive to collaborative problem solving
- seeks to understand, before being understood, and
- helps to connect emotionally with another person while simultaneously attempting to connect cognitively.
Drawing from sample AI interview questions and information gleaned from a training session from the Rocky Mountain Center for Positive Change, Arts and History Manager Megan Gilby and Museum Coordinator David Allison created an interview guide the team would use for every Creative Conversation. We also developed an email template to use when contacting organization leaders about Creative Conversations.
Arts & History team members (Mathew Kitchen, Cheryl German, David Allison, Kris Nickeson, Elizabeth Beaudoin, Serr Her, and Megan Gilby) then arranged meetings with organizations throughout 2021. Most meetings lasted between one and two hours, and often included multiple A & H team members to help take notes and to encourage discussion. Almost half of these interviews were in person, and the rest were held via GoogleMeet or Zoom due to scheduling and COVID-19 concerns.
At the conclusion of the interview period, the A & H team had fourteen in-depth interview transcripts from which to gather data. [See Appendix 1 for a listing of participating organizations.] Using a qualitative data coding approach, the team worked collaboratively to identify categories of comments as well as key themes from the interviews. The team then grouped mentions of these themes accordingly.
Summary of Key Findings
The team identified four categories of comments from each organization—community, partnerships, challenges, and programming. These themes cross all thematic, type, and content focus for these organizations and are shared by all fourteen groups. The findings and organization responses are grouped into these categories below.
Organizations in Broomfield want…
- Partnerships that go deeper than the merely transactional
- Connections and relationships to ensure their value to community
- Partnerships with organizations from various sectors to do more for the community than they could do on their own.
- City support in the form of clear communication and access to appropriate staff from various departments
- Mutually beneficial relationships
Key Quote— “For partnerships, we want the right people in the right places and we want to ask for help when we need it. We are stronger when we work together to see needs met and to be a blessing to others.” -- Huma Babak Ebadi, Muslim Youth for Positive Impact
Organizations in Broomfield impact the community by…
- Being responsive to their expressed needs
- Engaging in mission-focused activities that both reflect and inspire residents of Broomfield
- Spurring social impact
- Building trust
- Celebrating diversity and promoting equity
- Giving back through providing programming that is accessible and enjoyable
- Strengthening Broomfield's social fabric
Key Quote— “Trust building is a huge key component of this. It is especially important with Spanish-speaking families. We’ve found that we need to provide programming where they are, rather than requiring them to go to established facilities.” --Mary Wilkie, Backstory Theatre
Organizations in Broomfield identified a few key challenges they face. These include…
- A lack of affordable space in Broomfield for not only performances, but particularly programs, organizational operation needs, storage and activities
- Sustainable funding and earned income
- A perceived lack of interest in art, history, and culture in Broomfield
- Aging or disengaged volunteers
- School district apathy and diffusion (multiple districts in Broomfield)
- A lack of stability, whether through funding, leadership, or venue challenges
- A shortfall of marketing expertise (particularly digital) and funding.
Key Quote— “We need to ensure that we uphold our responsibility to share the stories of veterans with the public in the future, but we have aging volunteers and not very many young people joining the organization.” --John Peticolas, Broomfield Veterans Museum
Organizations in Broomfield aspire for their programming to…
- Be where the community is. Have meaningful offsite outreach and engagement
- Amplify other organizations by partnering with many groups to bring programming to the public
- Build resilience in the community during the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Continually improve and to provide access to more and different people in Broomfield
- Help their organization to intelligently grow through a data-driven approach
- Adapt to the changing community
Key Quote— “We want to use theater to connect communities more closely with their history. Knowing the history of a place shifts your understanding of your environment, and that’s important to a lot of people in ‘bedroom’ communities and can change how you view your town.” --Amanda Berg Wilson, The Catamounts
Action Plan and Next Steps
Broomfield’s cultural, arts, and humanities foundation is strong. It is clear that the organizations in the city and region are focused on providing high-quality, community-building programming and services that create a more vibrant, informed, and thriving Broomfield. Moreover, they are ready to engage more deeply with each other, with the Arts & History team serving as a connector and incubator. Given the results from the interviews, the A & H team has identified three key initiatives to address both the identified strengths as well as the challenges of arts and culture in Broomfield.
- Expand and deepen the Creative Network through Quarterly PULSE meetings
“PULSE is about relationships and putting a finger on the pulse of what’s going on with creativity in Broomfield. These free quarterly events feature lunch, a guest speaker from an industry leader, a short performance and opportunities to develop partnerships. Held at various sites throughout Broomfield, come for the inspiration and stay for the connections. PULSE gatherings are free to attend. PULSE meetings are for everyone. Whether you’re an artist, own a creative business, run a studio, are an art enthusiast, or are curious about supporting the creative economy in Broomfield, join us at our inaugural PULSE meeting!
The first PULSE meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 31, 2022, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.”
At the first PULSE meeting, the A & H team will highlight the interview findings from their Creative Conversations and will thank the leaders that they interviewed in 2021.
- Infuse equity and ease into A & H facility and resource Use
With the purchase and outfitting of a mobile stage in 2022, the A & H team will have another ‘venue’ for arts and cultural organizations to use for performances and presentations that can be used in non-traditional spaces such as parks and businesses. Moreover, the A & H team is reworking its policies and procedures for Auditorium renters to reflect CCOB Equity ideals and a greater commitment to anti-colonial practice.
- Empathetic relationship development and responsive partnership
Building off of the successful AI interview process from 2021, the A & H team will continue to use this tool in conversations with other organizations in the area. In addition, the team will seek out opportunities to partner with the organizations they interviewed. Examples of this partnership include featuring these groups at PULSE events as well as for Creative Broomfield program presentations.