1. "The mission of Poetry Slam Incorporated (PSI) is to promote the performance and creation of poetry while cultivating literary activities and spoken word events in order to build audience participation, stimulate creativity, awaken minds, foster education, inspire mentoring, encourage artistic statement and engage communities worldwide in the revelry of language."
How do you plan to help this organization grow and accomplish this mission? Please be specific.
The first thing we need to do is focus on where we are. What are PSI’s strengths and weaknesses. I would like to get the new EC to agree to participate in an Organizational Assessment Tool that we use at my work (we do organizational development and capacity building) that is very helpful in determining organizational gaps. The Assessment Tool is a series of questions where the Board (in our case EC) gives itself a score on a series of questions about Leadership Development, Organizational Development, Program Development and Community Development. The great thing is not only do you emerge with a picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, you also have specific areas to focus on and benchmarks you can return to in order to track progress.
In addition, I would continue the work we’ve already begun in the development and operation of a Finance Committee. EC members need to be well trained in understanding the financial operations of PSI and that they are exercising their fiduciary duties as Trustees to provide sound financial oversight. This includes reading Financial Statements, monitoring budgets and setting up appropriate processes for host cities and PSI staff to get their daily work done.
I would also like to have the EC go through formal training in non-profit board governance. There is no single “right way” to be a board, but there are some great models out there and it would be helpful for us to look at how we operate and compare ourselves to others. At a minimum, basic board training can be a reminder to veteran board members and a great introduction to new members.
Volunteer development is something that is mentioned by many members on the Forum and is also something I would like to see improved. My basic approach is that every position in the organization (including EC members) needs a Job Description. Volunteer is just a rate of pay. We need to define all of the jobs that need to be done, identify the ones we have financial resources to fund and then make a call for volunteers for the others. We should treat volunteers just like staff, with high expectations and clear jobs to accomplish.
I would like PSi to further refine its Policies & Procedures and Operations Manuals. We do have some of these things in place, but they need improvement and they are not comprehensive. The current EC has done a great deal of work in drafting these. I would like to see the next step taken in having the EC really review and contribute constructive revisions. This is a continual process.
I would like to see our National Events “grounded” in one city (not all the same city, of course. I would also like to see PSI revisit and develop events and activities dedicated to the craft of performance poetry. Both of these ideas have been raised in the past and the current EC has been discussing them (just discussion). I think one of the first ways to accomplish this is to revise the bidding format to include and encourage multi-year submissions. 2. What experience do you have with non-profit organizations - as an employee, as a volunteer, as a board member? I am especially interested in hearing about experience working with non-profit ARTS organizations, but I do think that all of your professional experience is relevant.
I have worked for non-profits for almost ten years. I have served on several non-profit and co-op boards. Most recently, I have served as the Executive Director of The Wellness Coalition (www.wellnesscoalition.org
) where we engage in Youth Development and Capacity Building. Capacity Building is a critical field in non-profit work. The Capacity Building that The Wellness Coalition (TWC) performs across the state of New Mexico is focused on helping non-profits survive in an era of decreased funding and increased need. We engage in trainings and technical assistance with organizations to help them address their ability (or lack thereof) to deliver services. This can be the development of fundraising plans, it can be strategic planning sessions, it can be board training in governance, it all depends on the need identified by the assessment we apply. Non-Profits are the fabric of our democratic society and provide economic impact while supporting and enriching our lives. For my own part, in addition to my duties as an ED, I also lead trainings and develop new programming for not only our Non-Profit Resource Center but also our Youth Development programs.3. How many hours a week do you have available to dedicate to PSI? And what is your typical availability (days/evenings/weekends)?
I have been serving 5 to 10 hours a week as an EC member with extra time being put in lately as the Interim FM. I am typically available in the evenings on weekdays, although I have been known to take a little break from my day job to hop on the forums and read up on new posts. Weekends have been my extra time to finish any FM duties. They are available, but the EC has a standing policy of “being closed” on weekends. Still I usually do some PSI work on weekends and would continue to do so.4. What would you most like to see changed about PSI? What would you most like to see preserved?
I would like see our Events grounded. There are many benefits to placing an event in the same city year after year. We do ourselves, the Host City and the audiences a disservice by picking up stakes and moving each year.
I would like to preserve the excitement and electricity of the side events. There is so much incredible art and poetry that occurs outside of the competition, I think we need to make sure we take good care to ensure it is always there. 5. Do you believe that the concept of legacy is important to PSi? If not, why not? If so, how would you see that manifested?
Absolutely. And you manifest it by asking. You ask the folks who have been doing this thing for many years what it would take to get them interested in being a bigger part of PSi (again). Is it the ability to teach a workshop? To lead a showcase or night event? There is a natural component in the life cycle of a non-profit to have its founders fade into the background or even leave the fold entirely. But we lose great leaders and great passion and context of the original mission. We need to be innovative and strike out into new waters, but we also need to listen to people who have navigated them before. So ask. And listen.In recent years, concerns have been raised about the safety of the female members of our community while attending (and traveling to/from) events. What actions have you taken (or policies have you enacted) at your home venue to address these issues? What actions do you plan to take/ suggest on the national level to address this growing concern?
One of the things I love about our small town is how much we all look out for each other here. We have a safe stage and while everyone sometimes knows each others’ business a little too much, we also all look after each other. Thankfully, we haven’t had to institute any formal policies. The folks who run Poetry Bread as a “Slam Council” are all people who I know have a high degree of understanding of why every member of our community needs to be treated with respect and safety.
I’ll admit I’m a little ignorant of the concerns you mention other than I know the release of poets’ names has been a concern and that safety was one of the main reasons cited for why PSi would not release a “NPS scouting report”. I support the position that I have seen the EC take thusfar of not releasing team member names for NPS. For iWPS and WoWps, I understand the need to release competitor lists by PSi since they are individual competitions. I am open to hearing suggestions for what policy or practices need to be changed. Clear, easy to follow guidelines for poets and PSi always have my support, especially if safety is involved.Have you previously volunteered for PSI? If yes, in what capacity? If no, why not? If you are not elected to the EC, (how) will you continue to work for the ideas/ platform you are running on? Be specific. It would be more telling if you described actions you'd be willing to take as non-EC members than philosophies.
I have not volunteered at any National PSI events. If you count the four years of volunteering as a local slammaster, then there is that to consider. I also have volunteered most recently as an EC member, of course. And I have tried to be active on the Forums, even prior to serving on the EC.
Since most of my ideas have to do with working to develop internal process and oversight on the EC itself, I would need to hear from the new EC if they wanted to allow me to engage on any of the projects I proposed above. I will certainly volunteer even if not elected to the EC, to help refine the Policies and Procedures documents and Operations Manuals. I would like to see the concept of Event grounding explored regardless of if I am elected to the EC or not and will certainly advocate for it on the Forums.