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From Leadership Louisville Ignite Member Erica Gabbard:

I recently had the pleasure of embarking on an immersive four month journey with seven other amazing young professionals as part of the Ignite program through The Leadership Louisville Center. Our team, called the Differenti-8-ors worked with the Fund for the Arts and their NeXt program.  The request we received from the Fund for the Arts was to evaluate the current program and see if there were any areas they could use improvement.

Before diving into evaluating NeXt, we met with the team at the Fund for the Arts and worked on learning more about the program and the overall goals and objectives of NeXt. Later, we held multiple focus groups and administered surveys to the cultural partners as well as the current and past NeXt participants in order to analyze the current program.

As a team we invested over 1,000 hours working on innovating the NeXt program.  In the beginning, there were many brainstorming sessions where we just threw out ideas and dreamed of what our ideal program might look like.  We knew that Louisville was already full of many great leadership programs and we really wanted NeXt to stand out. We decided that instead of focusing on developing leadership skills, NeXt would focus on creating arts ambassadors.  We wanted young professionals to see all that the Arts community has to offer and how they can be involved and invested in the Arts.

Utilizing our data results, we developed a restructured NeXt program that includes detailed curriculum and a new schedule.  We took the program from two years down to a ten month program but rather than having lunch meetings, participants will now have half-day meetings. At program day meetings, participants will now hear from current board members, learn more about specific cultural partners and hear about key topics involving the arts such as arts in education and arts in the Louisville community. With the improved schedule, cultural partners will now have the chance to connect with participants in a more meaningful way, which will allow them to build connections to grow their audience, increase their volunteer list, and meet potential future board members.

In addition to the monthly meetings, participants will work in small groups on a cultural partner improvement project. These projects will improve and support the cultural partners in ways they would not have been able to manage on their own. The new program also allows for participants to have more networking opportunities and attend art programs and performances in the community. At the end of the program, participants will have the chance to apply for limited, selective spots on the NeXt Generation Board which is made up of alumni from the program.

I highly enjoyed working with Fund for the Arts and definitely recommend the re-vamped NeXt program to all young professionals in the Louisville community.  I can’t wait to see how the first year of the new program goes and to see a new class of arts ambassadors enter the Louisville community. Interested in learning more?  Check out the Fund for the Arts website and apply today, applications for NeXt end May 31, 2015.

Erica Gabbard

Manager, Recruitment Events

Ulmer Career Management Center

University of Louisville College of Business

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