Vermont Creative Network: an Example of Shared Authority?

During the second half of my time at the Vermont Arts Council, we launched something called the Vermont Creative Network. The idea was to create a network of stakeholders that could provide leadership on issues facing the creative sector in Vermont. It is based on the principle of collective impact which contends that “large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations.”

I see the model of collective impact as being a sort of transorganizational take on the kinds of shared authority practices that Robert Janes advocates in chapter 3 of his book “Museums in a Troubled World.” The most glaring similarity is the interdisciplinary nature of the collective impact model.

More specifically, many proponents of the collective impact model are also disciples of Results Based Accountability (RBA), which is a framework developed by Mark Friedman and articulated in his book “Trying Hard is Not Good Enough.” RBA is all about (you guessed it) results, an approach that Janes advocates on page 76 when he says that “the key point is for management to focus on results , rather than any particular process or means for achieving those results.” The VCN is heavy on RBA.

I also think that¬†VCN fulfills Robert Janes’ exhortations of the benefits of primus inter pares (first among peers) management style over hierarchy. In the Collective Impact model, there is a “Backbone Organization” that is responsible for convening all the other involved organizations. Without being entirely familiar with the Collective Impact Model, I would guess that, in an ideal world, the Backbone Organization is supposed to function as a first among peers. The reality of the VCN when I was at the Arts Council was that we were doing most of the heavy lifting to get the project off of the ground, but we did try hard to get input and buy in from our constituent organizations.

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