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July 20, 2018

Towards a Common Cause

During a recent ArtStarts Board meeting, we discussed The Network Code by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) and let’s just say, it created some lively discussions. The paper shifted the way in which we think about our role in the community and crystalized the fact that being a top-notch organization working in isolation is not enough to make social change.

At ArtStarts, we are seeking to provide young people with equitable access to the arts so that they develop the creative, collaborative, and critical thinking skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

What we realized through reading this paper was that we need to align with others who are also working towards a common cause and see ourselves as part of a larger web of activity, rather than as the hub of the action.

From the desk of Dr. Thara Vayali, parent, naturopathic doctor, yoga teacher, founder of Change: Natural Medicine, and ArtStarts Board Member, The Network Code discussion inspired her to share reflections with us. We invite you to read her words, and perhaps, something will resonate within you too.

In my Masters program, my professor told us to put these words in the order that made the most sense to us:


Regardless of the order, I believe the change we each seek to make in the world occurs when we engage these 4 words. These words are not something taught through school subjects, they are how we experience our world. Our HOW determines our productivity, our passion, our purpose.

What we do matters but surely, HOW we do it reflects our strengths and potential much more accurately.

If we want to build a better world, we can start with understanding what motivates us, what processes we use to learn and how to translate our knowing into something useful. It is through this awareness that we are capable of creating functional tools, intentional products, inspiring performances or systems changing processes. This is not easy! Creativity is courageous. We need multiple experiences to build our creative thinking portfolio.

We can support kids, and ultimately ourselves by recognizing, supporting, and equipping teachers to integrate creative thinking, arts based learning tools and curation. We don’t need more art classes, as much as arts integration in traditionally non-arts subjects. Our world is primed to launch individuals who see traditional knowledge encased in creative learning spaces.

In my time serving on the Board at ArtStarts I have experienced a true integration of people, process and philosophy. The mission and vision of ArtStarts is not just embedded into the actions of the organization, but into the way our Board operates and interacts. My life and profession are infused with the creative processes that ArtStarts has taught me. The processes remind me that as an adult, I can use creativity to enrich my problem solving, goal setting, collaboration and conflict resolution skills. Whether it is for future generations or for current issues in our world, fostering our capacity to think creatively is at the forefront. Art is not just about dance, or theatre, or exhibitions. It helps us process our experiences. It helps us learn to translate complex situations into narratives and relatable concepts.

Recently the ArtStarts board discussed shifting our perspective from being the hub (in a world where kids need more arts integration), into being one of many, a node in a larger network of organizations, individuals, government agencies — all working toward a similar cause. This concept, called The Network Code allows for organizations to shift from competing for resources and attention into support and promotion for the larger cause. The four principles of The Network Code are beautifully phrased and intuitive. Not only will I happily guide ArtStarts through this lens, but I take this into my life, my patient interactions & my projects.

The idea is to reframe; to shift priorities to:

  1. MISSION-driven, before organization focused
  2. Managing through TRUST, rather than controlling dynamics
  3. HUMILITY in the arena instead of brand hubris
  4. Build CONSTELLATIONS, not stars (Node & network oriented, not hub & spoke)

We can achieve our personal goals when we focus on our own needs, skills, losses and wins.

But we can reach a much greater potential and unexpected victories if we work together.

We work better together when we have lateral thinking, clear communication, and awareness of our own processes.

Isn’t that an old lesson that we need to learn repeatedly, in different industries?

So if you were to place those 4 words, BE, KNOW, DO, FEEL in the order that represents your learning, what would it look like?

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