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Active communication is an essential component of any culture change programme.  In terms of level of effort and impact, this step probably takes approximately 20% of the effort of your culture change initiative. Achieving cultural change is a difficult and lengthy process but it can be achieved with adequate leadership resolve. Artist Favianna Rodriguez, who co-founded the immigrant rights organization Culture Strike, reflects on how cultural undercurrents come together to make waves of political change. Art has always been a tool for me to claim space, build power and speak out about the injustices that have shaped my social experience in the United States. To think about how art shapes politics, we need to look far beyond the next political event to consider how we build up a cultural space. In the political world, we experience the wave’s peak moments through events like elections or policy wins, but we don’t always recognize the undercurrents and conditions that lead us there. The environmental and human rights activist Van Jones has made an excellent graph mapping the political ecosystem. The left side, “action,” often means quantifiable policy changes: a bit more funding here, a higher age limit there. Artists are represented here on the side of ideas, in the “heart space.” Art is uniquely positioned to move people—inspiring them, inciting new questions and provoking curiosity or outrage. For the last 20 years, because funding for both the arts and social services has been cut, artists who wish to contribute to social change have often been tasked with holding community workshops. As artists, we need to communicate more than what we stand against or why particular policies affect us negatively, because limiting our commentary to such reactions would confine the social imaginary to existing political frameworks and systems that we do not control. When people claim that “cultural strategy” is just the communication strategy for a political campaign, I disagree wholeheartedly.
To give you a sense of the time frame in which cultural shifts happen, and how that eventually translates into policy, look at LGBTQ culture, which finally made its way onto mainstream TV in the 1990s. Imagine what it would be like if we could have a Laramie Project for immigrant rights, a play about undocumented youth, become popular in high schools.
It’s especially critical for us to work together in the wake of the dismantling of support for the arts since the 1980s. More specifically, we don’t have a robust infrastructure for art committed to social justice, and social-justice organizations are not hiring artists the way they’re hiring organizers. There have been tensions between social-justice spaces and art spaces, too, and that’s understandable; but I think it is important for us to be comfortable with such tensions and take them on in a revolutionary way. This leads us to the third area: creating cultural policy oriented toward access and equity for artists. While I agree that culture change is more important than a business strategy, I also believe that culture change must be a business strategy. In my view, it needs to be the driving force for any and all business strategies, specifically for social business initiatives. I would also argue that most of the other reasons suggested above all revolve around the cultural norms, behaviors and values that live behind the firewall. Executives defined social engagement today as online listening (28%), blogging (24%) and building relationships with online influencers (21%).  But the top performers have a different view – they will be more focused on ideas and action in the next two years. I’ve gotten into many a tangled argument as people say that you never know who knows who in the online world, so engaging with everyone is great. Great post, love your content you really make sure that you have relevant post and the graphic presentation are very good! Joey, I would argue that yes you may have a hiring problem, but possibly and most likely you have a leadership problem. I’m a large advocate for a change in management mindset leading companies towards being social businesses, so I thoroughly agree.
By what happened at GM, do you mean what happened with Chrysler regarding the motor city profanity Tweet? The organizational culture must be ready and capable of supporting and sustaining the change at hand. Whether embarking on a new direction, establishing a new organizational vision or questioning why your turnover rates are above industry norms, it is critical to start by assessing the present day culture of the organization.
As qualified associates trained in the use of Culture-Strategy Fit™** Assessment tools we can analyze and determine which tool(s) would best serve the evaluation phase of a change initiative. Culture may be thought of as a pyramid, the foundation of which is formed from the values and beliefs of the organization.
We begin with the organization’s Core Values as the foundation for a new culture, defined in terms of behaviors, both supporting and nonsupporting. Vicki is an executive from Redstone Highlands, an organization that has been engaged in culture change for several years. The value of culture change was as significant to Redstone financially as it was to Vicki personally.
Growing up in the age of “free trade,” amid an expansion of anti-immigrant policies, led me to develop art about these issues. Jeff Chang, a brilliant hip-hop critic and journalist, and one of my collaborators in co-founding Culture Strike, has encouraged us to imagine a wave when we think about political change. In the world of art and culture, many of us help construct the conditions that lead to this climax.
On the left you have action, and on the right, ideas; elites are at the top, and the masses are below.
Normally, and especially when we are in campaign mode, we tend to think about what artists can contribute to the action space. While this is important, it also means we move further away from giving artists the space, time and resources to create a body of work.

We should also present our vision for who we are, and show why that vision is a positive one. With communication strategy you are still in the action space, meeting the needs of the campaign or reacting to dominant messages in the media. Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997, and Will & Grace started broadcasting the following year. How long would it take us to get to a place where migration was viewed as normal and natural, and where we respected the human rights of people who have crossed national borders? Upon taking office, Ronald Reagan aimed to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) entirely.
Artists who are interested in social justice are left without a pathway, even at art schools or music schools. Collaborations between artists and political organizers have definitely happened throughout history, as we saw so clearly with liberation movements like “Black is Beautiful” or the Chicano arts movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and with the anti-apartheid struggles that peaked in the 1980s with widespread cultural boycotts of South Africa. This is how we will build the infrastructure and networks needed to help socially engaged artists thrive. The gutting of the public sector created a huge commercial sector that dominates art schools and art institutions. In many ways, artists are seasonal workers; their practice does not bring them a steady workflow. Not sure who coined the term but I first heard it from Sandy Carter, VP of Social Business from IBM last year.
When something needs fixed, changed or persuaded, many times it helps to start at the foundation of the business – organizational behavior (culture). Two-thirds of the organizations  achieving the highest returns reported that their C-suites are active advocates– that is, they commit to social engagement as a strategy and they reallocate resources to make it happen. Big-return companies crowdsource new products (57%), or let customers participate in developing ideas — they are predicting a significant portion of new products will be derived from social engagement insights.
Companies can no longer afford to think of their organization as distinct from the environment in which it dwells. One one hand, we are all influencers, meaning we are influencing our micro-communities’ purchase decisions (and non purchase decisions) everyday via organic conversations.
I also think that with the correct mindset in management and hiring practices upfront, that systems and written, trained and understood guidelines can be an effective way to get everyone communicating and on the same page.
Then we measure how well the managers have been living those values in the eyes of the employees.
Feedback from the survey, sometimes painful, always eye-opening, is used as the basis for executive coaching.
She was a cheerleader at the beginning of the process, and believed it was in the best interest of the organization. Employee turnover was reduced by 25%, agency use was nearly cut in half, and the functioning of the executive council improved.
For nearly a decade, most of my art directly served the immediate, short-term needs of social movement work. Normally, when we envision a wave, we think about a climactic event, but in order to reach the peak, all kinds of forces—many of which you cannot see—need to come together.
Culture is a space where we can introduce ideas, attach emotions to concrete change and win enthusiasm for our values.
You may attend a rally or vote, but you also read books, listen to music, engage with visual art, turn on the radio and create your identity through culture.
We are not necessarily talking about concrete things here, but rather, a “head space.” Academic institutions and think tanks, which are not always involved in the immediate policy wins, are significant in creating a culture of thought.
Artists are immediately channeled into an action space because their contributions are viewed in transactional ways.
Soon after came the Laramie Project, a play about the life of gay college student Matthew Shepard—who was tortured and murdered in 1998—that was performed in high schools across the country. He didn’t get there, but when Republicans gained control of both chambers of Congress in the mid-1990s, right-wing groups like the American Family Association pushed them to decimate NEA funding.
Not just 10 or 20 artists, but hundreds, and while they’re young and excited to shape the world around them.
Many of us haven’t figured out how to measure the impact we’re having on the world of ideas because we stay in the action space. So while we think about creative strategies for mobilization, we also have to rebuild the space for artists to engage in public service.
How can we conceive of artists’ roles in a more expansive way—not just making posters, but also contributing visionary ideas for social change? You may have to decide that the behaviors of certain leaders or key employees are detrimental to the culture you want to create. 3. The customer can not come first in an organization where in-fighting, disrespect, and complaining are an accepted way of life, as is the case in many organizations. Implementation of those policies and practices results in the culture-defining behaviors that your employees witness (and imitate) in their daily work. Employee perception provides a powerful mirror for leaders to understand the true culture of the organization, and their own contribution to it.
The purpose of coaching is to help managers become the model for new standards of behavior for all employees. Before the Employee Perception Survey, she believed that she was well-liked, and a very effective leader at modeling the organization’s Core Values of Truth, Teamwork, and Respect for All. Separately, I would spend time developing my own body of work in my studio or collaborating with other artists.

Art is where we can change the narrative, because it’s where people can imagine what change looks and feels like. On the inside, there’s big money: elites are throwing millions of dollars into political lobbying. But we should also ask ourselves, “What are the valuable contributions artists can make in the idea space?” Artists don’t think like policy folks. We want artists to be able to work across the spectrum of “action” and “ideas,” because they have the ability to inspire masses of people through their fan bases. Just this past week, TIME magazine published its April edition with a title claiming “Gay Marriage Already Won.” The cover story chronicles how the American public moved from considering marriage equality unthinkable to inevitable in less than 20 years. From a budget hovering between $160 million and $180 million from 1984–1995 (a period during which funding already lagged behind the rate of inflation), Congress brought NEA funding below $100 million in 1996. Venues like the Los Angeles-based Self Help Graphics & Art, a Latino art center that has united and strengthened a community in need since 1973, are exceptions. We’re not thinking about the kind of transformation that will happen five years from now in someone who, for example, looks at the art of Ramiro Gomez Jr.
We need to push anti-migrant policies to the extreme fringes, as LGBTQ rights activists did with anti-gay messages. How are we developing artist leadership in the field of cultural organizing, which is about merging our social justice practices with our art practices? If you don’t have papers, the likelihood of your getting public arts funding is pretty much nonexistent. There are many important short-term needs right now, but we need to look beyond immediate concerns and build up all the forces in our movement, until it becomes an unstoppable wave.
Technology is imperative and will help facilitate collaboration; but it’s behavior change that is the foundation for adoption. Culture can only be changed by first taking an honest look at the organization’s accepted behavior. Just as the child reflects the example of the parent, your employees reflect the attitudes and values exemplified by their managers and supervisors.
However, she was shocked to learn that people thought of her as a dictator and someone who could not be trusted. Take the new concept I have been working on, the idea that “migration is beautiful.” It’s very different to say “No on SB 1070” than to say “migration is beautiful,” because the latter message opens up a positive way of seeing migrants, whereas the former statement simply reacts to an immoral law. The injection of gay-friendly content into all aspects of our culture, from TV to high-school curricula and even sports, clearly spoke to our collective imagination. You’re not expecting to debate the merits of a political message when you listen to music or read a book. Gay-straight alliances are now the norm in high schools, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago. Furthermore, schools focused on art or music haven’t caught up with math and science schools in accepting undocumented youth.
This requires courage on the part of the leaders, and a commitment to the truth that many management teams are not ready to make.
This painful awareness allowed Vicki to change how she interacted with people on all levels, making her an impressive example for the rest of the organization to follow. Neither the art-and-culture sector nor the social-justice sector was effectively building models for creative collaboration. On the outside, we apply tremendous pressure so that our elected officials pass laws that give us power.
So when we talk about tomorrow’s cultural policies, we should think about the whole spectrum of activity, from immediate actions to campaigns to ideas, because we need to give artists the space to develop their bodies of work over years. It took decades, but we’ve had major policy wins in the LGBTQ sector: hate crimes legislation in the form of the Matthew Shepard Act, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the legalization of gay marriage (in a minority of states, for now, with more progress on the horizon). You’re more open to how culture is going to transform you, so you walk into it with an open heart. What policy changes do we need to make in the national arts infrastructure so that our field can grow, and so that we are respected by both the art world and the social-justice world? For that reason, our culture change process begins with the leadership of the organization.
The Occupy and immigrant rights movements are forceful players in this outside game, making sure that the inside is moving. Culture creates a ripe environment for issue-based organizing or “get out the vote” efforts. Of course you should have a framework and some basic rules of engagement, but these should not be the focus. We can’t necessarily claim that reading a novel or watching a sci-fi movie—say, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008), a dystopian film about migrant labor—will move people to action, but the experience expands our imaginations and creates a climate where we can be visionary. The Executive Coaching helped me professionally more than anything I’ve ever done before. We need to understand timing politically to know when it makes sense for cultural interventions to happen.

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