On Thursday April 14th, J. Soto, Manager of Programs and Inclusion at Eyebeam, Tony Grant, Co-Director at Sustainable Arts Foundation, and Flannery Patton Director of Member Services + Communications at AAC joined us for a #ResidenciesConnect session on Tech Access for Connectivity, Productivity + Information Exchange.
Residency practitioners took part in discussion about the technologies behind keeping our teams organized and connected, and ensuring we have the information we need, when we need it. They discussed virtual and remote work and how to operationalize equity and inclusion in their technology updates and upgrades. The conversation was moderated by Edwige Charlot, Director of Community Learning at AAC. The following is an excerpted version of the conversation. (The full recording of this session is available to AAC members upon request.)
This session is part of our #ResidenciesConnect series – bi-weekly member share-outs that foster small-group exchanges around a variety of topics.
Connectivity: How do you create people-centered virtual workspaces?
Productivity: What productivity gaps have widened with the shift to remote work?
Information Exchange: How have you restructured the information exchange within your organization?
RESOURCES FROM THIS SESSION:
- AAC Compilation of Tech Discounts! https://airtable.com/shrdH0LQFrPFTwd2c/tblf9acItNwwuToKK
- FileMaker - relational database application
- Salesforce - Customer relationship management https://www.salesforce.org/nonprofit/
- Slack - messaging and team management platform: https://slack.com/
- Microsoft Teams - messaging and team management platform: https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software
- Asana - task and team management platform: https://asana.com/
- Trello - task and team management platform: https://trello.com/
- Basecamp - task and team management platform: https://basecamp.com/
Tech Audit resources:
- Cox Blue: Tips and Benefits of Technology and a Technology Audit of Your Business
- Stay Safe Online: Technology Checklist
- Tech Soup: Technology Assessment Checklist
Tech Research Guides:
- TryShift: The Best Productivity Apps for Freelancers in 2020
- LifeHack: 30 Essential Tools and Web Apps for Freelancers
- Kinsta: 50+ Best Tools for Freelancers to Scale a (Real) Business
Edwige Charlot (EC): This session is about tech access from a lens of connectivity, productivity, and information exchange. J., how can we center equity, inclusion, and accessibility?
J. Soto (JS): That’s a great question. The first thing I think about is your org, your team, and if you have really had conversations around what that means for you. I like to put things down on paper, and I think language keeps people accountable. Think about what practices you have in place already. With regards to tech, one of the first things I look for, as I work specifically with marginalized artists – I am a non-disabled ally, and I always look for if a tech tool is accessible, and if there is language about whether it is going to become more accessible. A lot of these tools are learning too – so if they are open to that learning, it’s a good sign. It’s a journey. I look for that, and clear language. The last thing I will say is, one of the best things to do is to attend events hosted by the communities impacted directly.
EC: When we talk about inclusion – I would like us to talk more broadly in terms of our teams. We have a lot of intergenerational teams – so how do we talk about inclusion in terms of access?
Flannery Patton (FP): For many of us, as soon as we went to a remote space, we realized that we are going to be more dependent on those tools. There might be someone who is especially comfortable on a particular tool – but it wasn’t a shared space. Speaking for the AAC, we had a lot of conversations looking at the tech we had and how we could be more transparent as a team about how we were using those platforms. Many of us have small teams, but often there is one person who holds all the info – and it creates this feeling of communication breakdowns. Start by creating that space to share out and get things out of one person’s head. We have also really been looking at the importance of creating dashboards that the whole team can access, that show results of data collection, etc.
Tony Grant (TG): I love the idea of that dashboard – we are all used to being around each other, so taking the extra time and care to make that stuff visible is big. I will say, change is hard! People are using older systems, and I’m a fan of using whatever continues to work – but we have a chance now to look at our practices and see if there are ways to push forward.
EC: What might a tech audit look like? Who does tech if you don’t have a whole tech department?
JS: I would say – Eyebeam has gone back and forth, we’ve shifted a lot – but what seems to work well is just keeping a spreadsheet of all the tech we use, when it was last updated or adopted, and taking stock of what you are using a few times a year. You can use that as a moment to clean and take stock. I’d also add – succession planning. When somebody is in a role and that may shift, include the platforms they use and WHY they use them. What was it about this tool specifically? Think of it as part of your team, in a way. For small staff, reach out to communities, ask around, find out what is working for you. Tools that do the most simply are probably best right now.
FP: I so appreciate J. bringing that up – one thing we are always saying is, so many of our programs have small staffs, so you don’t want your tech to be overly complicated. Figure out a few critical gaps, fill those – and then keep the rest simple! I know many of us will cobble together multiple free platforms – but keeping it simple is helpful.
EC: That’s a great segue into implementation – one of the big challenges! How does implementation look for your organization?
JS: Knowing what you need out of the product – what you want to ask of it. And you also want to think about – when you make decisions in crisis mode, it can be difficult – so being very methodical. TechSoup is a great suggestion – I would say, even something like Submittable – calling them and seeing if they are willing to cut you a deal can help if that’s possible. Having a clear plan, and then – as far as implementing across staff – however long you think implementation is going to take? Double it! Keep the timeline generous.
TG: I would say that the point about switching costs is real – you are going to be less efficient at first! So how can you know that the benefits will be worth it. What gets me excited about technology is about eliminating the drudgery in peoples’ work. We often end up comparing x product vs y product.
EC: The other thing we talked about was the fact that there is this idea that the tools we should use should cater to our sector specifically. And just because it isn’t specifically for the arts sector, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good tool! Thinking more broadly about the tools that are out there and how you can apply those mechanisms in your work is a great way to start. We tend to ask, is there a platform just for us? But there often isn’t!
JS: I agree, sometimes the simplest tool is the best one! Trying something new – and knowing that it is ok to break a pattern, or to establish a new one.
TOOLS IN THE FIELD:
SFAI is using Slack for quick communications and we can speak to one another individually and then there are specific topical threads. There are 6 of us. We use zoom for daily personal check-ins as well as weekly staff meetings.
NCCAkron used Slack even before COVID because we often found one member of the team was on one side of campus, one person was with the artist, and one person was back in the office. With Slack we could share intel in real time.
Loghaven Artist Residency uses Asana and Zoom for management and communications.
McColl Center for Art + Innovation ended up switching from Slack to Microsoft Teams for internal management and communications.
Bakehouse Art Complex rely on Google Drive for team management and use Trello to communicate to our artists, and are sharing a lot of resources. They use Zoom for communications as well.
J. Soto is the Manager, Programs and Inclusion, Eyebeam
J. Soto is a queer transgender interdisciplinary artist, writer, and arts organizer. He has curated and performed work for The National Queer Arts Festival (San Francisco), Links Hall (Chicago), as well as Vox Populi (Philadelphia) among others nationally. His collaborative writing project, “Ya Presente Ayer” can be found in Support Networks, Chicago Social Practice History Series (University of Chicago Press). His organizing projects include the Latinx Artists Retreat (LXAR), which he recently launched with a group of Latinx artists and administrators and the Latinx Artist Visibility Award (LAVA) for Ox-Bow School of Art in partnership with The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is also a recent fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI). His current writing can be found in Original Plumbing and Apogee Journal: Queer History, Queer Now Folio.
Tony Grant, Co-Director, Sustainable Arts Foundation
Tony comes to the Sustainable Arts Foundation after a long career in the software industry, and his passion for the arts comes from his father, who was a painter and sculptor. Tony and his wife, Caroline, started the Sustainable Arts Foundation to help artists and writers with families pursue creative careers.
Flannery Patton, Director of Member Services + Communications, AAC
Flannery Patton joined the Alliance in 2011 and works directly to address member needs, connecting them to available resources. She has worked previously as a Development Associate at Rhode Island Public Radio, as a Research Coordinator in the Center for the Study of Human Development at Brown University, as a Life Skills and Computer Literacy Teacher at the Rhode Island International Institute, as a public programs producer for the National Park Service, and as an English teacher and Curriculum Developer at Open Book in Denver. Flannery also worked as Program Coordinator for Greater Kennedy Plaza, a non-profit offering art and culture programming in downtown Providence. Originally from Colorado, she came to Providence in 2003; she has a BA in psychology and a BA in art history from Brown University.
Edwige Charlot, Director of Community Learning, AAC
Edwige Charlot is a Providence RI-based artist and strategist. Edwige has worked in the social profit sector over the past decade in previous roles at AS220, the Maine College of Art, and Creative Portland. Her community engagement and service include being a founding member of the Portland Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum; an advisor of the People of Color Fund at the Maine Community Foundation; and the Artist Thrive initiative at the Emily Tremaine Foundation. She earned her BFA in Printmaking from Maine College of Art.