March 17, 2016

The influential Bay Area-based Hewlett Foundation has released a new report Moving Arts Leadership Forward: A Changing Landscape, and the accompanying blog post What Do Arts Leaders Really Need?, in which they share their findings from research and insights from seven years of investing in talent in California’s arts nonprofit field.

The first line in the report is as follows: “The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program invests in arts leadership because we believe the vitality of the sector is fundamentally dependent on the quality of its leadership.” That statement is applicable across all the silos of the nonprofit sector.

They go on to report that “at the heart of the findings is a challenged definition of “leadership.” Members of younger generations often see leadership as the fostering of a culture of connectedness, collaboration, and change—they believe leadership is rooted in the efforts of many. This view is in contrast to the more traditional, hierarchical structures and practices of many arts organizations and funders.”

If leadership is the entire team, and the vitality of the sector is dependent on the quality of its leadership, then clearly funders must invest in the whole teams of organizations within and across fields.

Hewlett’s research suggests that strategic investments in these areas could improve the health of the arts sector: (1) supporting individual career pathways, (2) building capacity for cross-generational leadership, and (3) fostering the shared values of diversity and innovation.

Throughout this report, Hewlett’s Performing Arts program embraces the value of investing in a powerful, diverse, and multi-generational nonprofit workforce that is at the heart of Talent Philanthropy’s agenda. We were proud to serve as advisors on the report and have our work cited therein. Even more importantly, we are proud that the paper’s author, Hewlett program officer Emiko Ono, is a leading member of Talent Philanthropy’s Advisory Council.

We are glad to see a major international foundation independently come to share the same principles and values that animate Talent Philanthropy. Let’s hope this is just the beginning!

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