Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Subprojects from Meeting April 28, 2009

It seems the ideas discussed during the meeting can be viewed as two distinct projects that can be complementary:
1. Creating a sustainable mentorship program between writers/artists and children to encourage the development of writing/drawing skills as an essential foundation of literacy and self-expression.
2. Using the opportunity presented by the Harbor Front resources and number of children flow-through to support writing and artistic skills.

The first project has a strategic outlook. It aims at creating a replicable model for peering writers (authors, journalists, bloggers) and artists with children over time in multiple sessions focused on developing the children’s ability to write/draw and providing them with a practical understanding of the spectrum of professional occupations and applications related to these skills.

This project requires the following critical success factors:
• A pool of writers/artists committed to the program
• A pool of interested teachers and students (children & youth)
• An approved safe environment for the interaction of children and mentors
• A light and efficient administrative support to plan and manage the program logistics
• A program design that creates incentives for parents, teachers and students to participate wholeheartedly in the program activities
• A performance index to measure success of the program

Pool of writers/artists: Initial exploration of interest seems to indicate that the Writers Guild and other organizations (Robin: please list in more detail) are interested in supporting and participating in such program. It is necessary to articulate the scope of commitments required from participating authors/artists over a defined span of time and to estimate the actual number of those willing to commit. This would define the size of pool available and determine the scope of the pilot programs implementation.

Pool of interested teachers and students: Similarly, it would be useful to quantify the support for this program among teachers, students and parents beyond individual expressions of interest. This can only be done if an outline of the program describing expected contributions, commitments and outcomes is available to that audience to base their decisions upon.

Approved safe environment: Repeated interaction between writers/artists and children in a calm non-distracting ambiance requires a safe and trusted environment as a venue. There was consensus that schools are the best venue for the activities of the program and hence partnership with schools is a critical component. Again, based on an outline of the program it would be useful to obtain the commitment (or at least written expression of interest) of 1-2 schools for a pilot implementation.

Light and efficient program administration: In order to keep the program administration as light and efficient as possible, use of existing resources and infrastructure should be maximized. Coordination with the Literacy Program and stakeholders would be an essential step in that direction. The availability of subject matter expertise (Liz and collaborators) along with approval and support of Literacy Program may also enable the recruitment of corporate sponsorships.

Program Incentives: The program needs to be designed in such a way that it is genuinely attractive to students and teachers, while providing parents with predictable schedules and expectations. It must also include incentives catering to the interests of participating writers.

Performance measures: as with any such program it is essential to be able to measure the success achieved through the program’s activities. A benchmark needs to be established at the onset of the pilot and agreement reached about a set of tangible measures and outcomes.

The second project is tactical in nature, but presents interesting opportunities to complement and promote the first project. Several ideas were discussed, but the one that seemed most feasible was framed similarly to a Literacy Summer Camp. It was agreed that:
• We needed a better understanding of the structure and programming of such camps.
• Asking writers and artists about programming ideas within the constraints of the Harbor Front context might yield innovative solutions.
This second project offers the possibility of events that can be designed around promoting the program, acknowledging achievements of the best participants, and attracting further support and replication by others.

Action items:
• Summarize outcomes of meeting and action items [Nabil]
• Draft program outline (framework, objectives, resources, methods, outcomes) [Liz]
• Approach Literacy Program to explore approval and support [Liz]
• List all contacted organizations and quantify as far as possible their support for the program [Robin]