Elizabeth Francis, Ph.D., executive director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, shares discoveries from the Council’s approach to collaboration for addressing community and societal issues in Providence Business News’ One Last Thing.
On April 20, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities awarded more than $124,000 in grants to support 14 projects that, while diverse, all make connections and promote discovery with collaborative approaches.
The council’s first large-scale approach to collaboration is now taking place in Newport, where a group of seven heritage, history, preservation and arts organizations are working with the council and a foundation on an initiative called Catalyzing Newport. The participants are asking, “What if we seek collaborative partners in the exploration and discovery phase of project development? Will this allow us to address larger challenges?”
One thing we are discovering is that collaboration at the earliest stages of a project produces greater impact. Yes, such an approach is risky because we can’t predict the outcomes. But it is our experience that this way of doing things responds to the unique dynamics, opportunities and needs of a community.
On April 14, Catalyzing Newport, the Newport Art Museum, the Newport Tree Society, the Newport Arboretum, Salve Regina University, Fab Newport and others banded together to celebrate and raise awareness of the city’s beautiful but diseased late-19th-century trees. The resulting “First Light Funeral” was just one event, but it attracted a broad and diverse audience of more than 300 people and will produce action on an issue with cultural, economic and environmental importance.
There are no shortcuts to solving community and societal issues, but the process of actively collaborating and making room for connection and discovery is essential. •