Lessons from the Field: Latino New South
The Innovation Lab supported these three organizations in breaking new collaborative ground, and pursuing a joint project that examined tensions and challenges with race, immigration and demographic changes in the South. The organizations explored new practices for integrating the arts with community and stakeholder engagement, and developing institutional cultures that was more informed about the particular struggles of the Latinos – both foreign and U.S born – in their community.
While all three organizations are deeply rooted in the South and often work with each other, the Innovation Lab provided them an unusual opportunity for deep collaboration. The Lab generated a stable container for experimentation, learning and prototyping. It also allowed them the freedom to lean into new, and potentially uncomfortable questions and topics more readily, so that participating staff could have effective conversations of cultural relevancy, immigration, language access, history and misperceptions about the lived realities of Latinos.
The result of the Innovation Lab and the prototyping of listening sessions were manifold. All three organizations practiced new lessons in effective collaboration, even through challenging and discordant phases, and new skills in effectively holding each other accountable. For instance, they successfully challenged each other on things like the appropriate use of civil rights language and framing to reach Latinos, and the expected resource commitment from each institution. The organizations learned to establish clear boundaries within the context of difficult questions about community relevance, positioning and public value, and programming for changing racial and ethnic demographics. Through Latino New South, and their shared exhibit iNUEVOlution!, these organizations expanded their local footprint and demonstrated their ability to integrate Latino communities more meaningfully into the ethos, policies and practices of their organizations — instead of simply doing unidirectional outreach to them.
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