GrubStreet's Next Chapter
For the past year, GrubStreet has been engaging in a learning and growing process around organizational strategic planning and our ongoing racial equity work. We'd like to update you, our community, about this strategic planning as well as a few important initiatives we’re taking on this year to address related issues that were raised after the publication of the "Who Is the Bad Art Friend?" article.
Last February, GrubStreet embarked on an ambitious 9-month strategic planning process designed to find alignment around the mission, values, and goals that will define our next chapter as we activate our new Center for Creative Writing in the Seaport and continue to deepen our ties to Boston’s neighborhoods. Like all strategic plans, it is a dynamic one. It will serve as the foundation for our work moving forward, and it will be continually informed by our collective learning along the way.
Given the pandemic, we did our work entirely over Zoom. Our post-it notes were virtual stickies, brainstorms happened via breakout rooms, and shared meals came via delivery. Despite the obstacles and the loss of in-person connection and camaraderie, the process itself was the most comprehensive and inclusive in our history. We hired Strategy Matters, a firm committed to equity and racial justice, to lead us. Their work was guided by a committee made up of newer and tenured staff, instructors, and board members and informed by feedback from our large and diverse community.
Today, we’re excited to share key takeaways from our work.
Our mission hasn’t changed, but we’ve updated the language to reflect what we’ve learned over the last five years. The updated mission is more specific about what removing barriers to engagement entails, better defines why our work matters, emphasizes the importance of our community and our collective voices, and adds a vision for the kind of world we're working towards creating every day.
We’ve also refined our Core Values to better reflect our work, the diversity of our community, and our evolving understanding of artistic excellence.
We actively seek to put writing within easy reach for anyone who wants to pursue their passion. This means we actively break down barriers, dismantle systems of oppression, meet people where they are, and experiment and change with our writers.
We relish our role as a place where people of all backgrounds and ages interested in writing, reading, and learning find each other. Together, we nurture one another’s growth, expansion, and learning as we practice our craft, share our work, and share work we admire.
We support and elevate the craft of writing as a relevant and vital form of expression. We believe in a rigorous, perspective-based, artistic process and in encouraging writers to work hard, to engage with different cultures/models/perspectives, to take risks, and to be bold.
For those of you who want to read more, here’s our strategic plan, including our major goals and a comprehensive SWOT analysis of GrubStreet.
Here’s an infographic on the impact of our 2015 Strategy as well.
In the coming weeks, we will be finalizing year one planning. In addition, we're happy to share that we’ve received grant funding to take on the two important initiatives we mentioned in our communication last fall after hearing our community's response to the “Who Is The Bad Art Friend?” article. The initiatives will both last the full year.
1. Taking on complex issues of plagiarism and appropriation.
We have a plagiarism and appropriation policy in place which governs our classrooms. However, we’ve received feedback that while the policies are helpful, they lack crystal clear definitions of plagiarism and appropriation and don’t address cultural and social power dynamics. Further, they provide little guidance about what the process should be when someone feels another student or instructor has plagiarized/appropriated. There is complexity here in that every genre has different rules and conventions, and ethical standards around artistic freedom are evolving as more attention is being paid to “who” is telling a given story and by what authority. Additionally, given the number of staff and instructors in our community who have personal lives as writers, we see a need to create standards that govern our professional endeavors and relationships with other community members outside of the classroom as well.
To work toward creating clear ethical standards, we envision curating and hosting 3-4 conversations among experts in the field. After the series of conversations, which will include various perspectives and center race and power dynamics, we will draft updated classroom policies (making them genre-specific if deemed necessary) and create new community standards with a committee of fellow instructors, staff members, and students.
2. Cultural transformation and trust-building
In the last few years, we’ve implemented new policies and practices to create a brave, inclusive, and more equitable learning environment. In the last few months, we’ve heard from many supporters about the progress we’ve made as an organization. But we’ve also heard from writers who don’t feel a sufficient sense of belonging at GrubStreet and still others who have articulated a need for more structure, better communication from leadership about spending and priorities, clearer policies, and more. It’s clear that continuing to improve our culture of practice must be a priority going forward.
We will be engaging in a process of examining our culture with an eye toward tangible impacts in the form of improved policies, toolkits, frameworks, training, and norms. We’ll have more details to share in the coming weeks and months, and we hope to engage many of you in our work.
This is a big year for GrubStreet as we launch our new center and continue to deepen our work supporting the artistic development of writers in Boston’s neighborhoods and online. Thank you as always for being a part of our community.
Eve, Dariel, Ian, and Stephanie — GrubStreet’s Executive Leadership Team
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