Inspiring a better Springfield through Theater

Rumors of a New Day, playing on September 13, 2010

Social change requires passion, creativity and dedication. It should then be no surprise that the arts often play a pivotal role in transforming neighborhoods or whole cities around. For example, Cleveland has recently invested in its Gordon Square Arts District as a path to economic development. Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and Professor at the University of Toronto has even highlighted artists as part of the “creative class” of people who are essential to the future economy.

But ticket sales are not the sole source of the art’s impact on cities, it’s also its ability to provoke the emotion, inspiration, intuition and vision that can transform whole communities.  In the words of Hashima Moja, Musical Director of Teatro V!da:

[art has the] ability to open up the hearts and souls of people and allow us to look inside ourselves and feel, so that we can create a truly rounded and whole society full of emotional intelligence and not just intellect and power.

In that context, Teatro V!da will be presenting “Rumors of a New Day”, a play that invites the audience to believe in themselves and leave their own “bubble”. The show promises to be a joyous celebration of Springfield and the Arts, don’t miss it!

To purchase tickets, contact the City Stage box office.


Communities Press City Council on Biomass Incinerator

On Wednesday, August 11, 2010, community groups from Springfield, Massachusetts came together to ask the City Council to revoke the siting permit for Palmer Renewable Energy, which would use demolition waste streams as an energy source. As previously showcased by The Springfield Institute, neighborhoods in the City have two primary concerns about using this technology:

  1. That the incineration process will decrease, increase harmful particulate matter, reduce air quality and lead to adverse health effects for the community like asthma and other problems.
  2. That demolition waste is not a clean, renewable energy source which State and Local governments should be promoting.

For more information about community organizing around this issue, visit Springfield

Could social innovation come in a black box?: Challenges for pubic and private funders

When a good proposal is rejected, do you ever wonder if merit had anything to do with it? According to Saturday’s NY Times, many of the winning proposals submitted to the $50 million Social Innovation Fund (not to be confused with the $650 million Investing in Innovation fund we covered on 8/6) received low scores from the 48 independent reviewers. There were also conflicts of interest.

I have a personal interest in this issue. A couple weeks ago I completed my work as the chair of a review committee for a US Dept. of Health and Human Services grant worth about $1 million. We signed this and other forms related to conflict of interest and confidentiality. The oversight was good, we really stuck to the objective criteria from the RFP, and we had to defend our scores with specific examples. Now I’m eager to see how funding decisions match up with our evaluations….

Lest you think the problem is contained to Washington, let me share an experience with a private foundation in this area. An hour after submitting a proposal, we received this email:

“Thank you for submitting a Grant Application on the World Wide Website of [funder name omitted]. A thorough review of the application was made, and we regret to inform you that the application was rejected….”

Incredulous, I responded asking if this was a mistake. The funder’s response:

“There is no mistake.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T.”

Wednesday Ride #5 Postponed

The Springfield Institute is resting its bikes this week

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the fifth installment of our “Wednesday Rides” will be postponed until next week on August 25th. Therefore, we will not be meeting in front of the YMCA tomorrow as usual.

Stay tuned details of the next Wednesday Ride coming soon. Meanwhile, you can see videos from our previous rides here:

Ride 1: Springfield’s Bike Path

Ride 2: North End neighborhoods and Gerena School.

Ride 3: Mason Square & McKnight neighborhoods