Vision in a VUCA World


Last Friday, IDEAS 40203 received the Pyramid Award for the Art of Vision from the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. The Art of Vision award recognizes a nonprofit organization that has developed a collective vision that inspired action, connected that vision to its mission and/or to community priorities, and demonstrated the community benefits of that mission.

Through projects like Creative Innovation Zone, IDEAS 40203 has developed a collective vision – seeing clearly possibilities and strengths of the Smoketown neighborhood and of Louisville in general – and inspired action including new partnerships and collaboration, as well as significant financial investment from outside Louisville. Creative Innovation Zone and IDEAS 40203’s additional programs embody clearly the organization’s purpose to advance and explore new pathways to social change and economic development. Creative Innovation Zone is a laboratory for artist-led initiatives that connect people and empower them, addressing needs expressed through the 2011 Quality of Life Action Plan – the Five Pillars of the Plan are housing; education; jobs; economic development; and safety, health, wellness, and greenspace.

Why is it important to intersect a community with artist-led initiatives? The Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program describes the effects of art as the “Continuum of Impact.” Defined indicators include: changes in awareness and knowledge – what people know; changes in attitude and motivation – what people think and feel; changes in behavior and participation – what people do; changes in discourse – how people communicate; changes in capacity – know-how and resources; changes in systems, policies, and conditions – change is sustained. Americans for the Arts further defines social and civic outcomes of art and art experiences as the way that a community will: animate, inform, influence, express, and engage.

The keynote speaker at the Pyramid Awards event was Jacob Harold, the dynamic President and CEO of GuideStar USA, the nation’s leading source of nonprofit information. Harold addressed an audience of nearly 500 people. He described the work of nonprofit organizations as “scaffolding for good” as they work toward social change in a “VUCA world” – a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity.

Harold’s challenge to nonprofit leaders last Friday was to use strategic leadership positively to provide clarity, vision, justice, and beauty in our VUCA world.

Over the past year, armed with fresh and bold concepts, IDEAS 40203 hit the pavement and painted their vision with words, ultimately attracting the attention of major national funders in the field of creative placemaking. Their projects required a daring, collective vision, with numerous partners, advisors, and connectors inspired to action.

Congratulations to IDEAS 40203 on the Art of Vision award, and to the entire Creative Innovation Zone team for implementing the vision.

Graphic recording by Kat Gentner,

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