Monday, November 12, 2012

The Art of Jargon

I had a great time at the Independent Sector conference on Sunday. I learned a lot at the four sessions I attended, ranging from some more details about the MarketsForGood initiative (concept paper is now up) to great examples of social finance from The Moore Foundation, Omidyar Network, New Schools Venture Fund, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, and McKinsey. I thought Matt Miller's and Arturo Vargas's comments at lunch were spot on - I hope #IS makes them available publicly immediately.

I also met a guy named Michael Alexander from Grand Performances in the session I did providing a "sneak peak" at the Blueprint 2013 (yes, it is almost that time of year). He (and all the participants) showed a fine ear for buzzwords (stay tuned) and Michael also shared the following proposal he has written. Enjoy (with tongue firmly planted in cheek)!
"The Innovative Art Jargon Creation Project - An Activity for the New Millennium"
Project Synopsis
Grand Performances respectfully requests a grant of $37,500 to manage a program to develop new Art Jargon which will be necessary for effective grant writing in the next century. Grand Performances is uniquely positioned to manage such a project because it has already created a number of important new phrases that, through increased use, will be of great value to arts grants writers in the years to come. 
Grand Performances will arrange a three day retreat, in an inspiring setting for a minimum of twelve experienced arts grant writers, grant panelists, foundation policy managers and artists to assess the need areas for future art jargon and to suggest a minimum of 120 new phrases (commonly referred to as "buzz words") that can be used by arts grant writers for at least the next ten years without "wearing out their welcome."
Each new phrase will come complete with a dictionary-style definition and a minimum of three contextual examples to help arts grant writers become comfortable using the new phrases in grants they are preparing for various size organizations representing various arts disciplines. In addition, by using the latest technology, an "Art Jargon" home page will be established to provide national distribution of the phrases as they are developed. 
Each passing decade since the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts has seen a geometric growth in the number of "buzz words" used by arts grant writers in their appplications. To date, there has been no formal development program to insure consistency of quality of these new phrases, nor a system for dissemination to insure that grant writers throughout the country had access to the new phrases at the same time, often giving grants writers in one geographic region or one discipline an unfair advantage over those writers not familiar with the new phrases. Certain regions and certain disciplines have been consistently underserved due to their grant writers' inability to gain access to the new phrases in a timely manner. 
As the number of new ideas for projects eligible for grant funding has decreased (see "There Is Nothing New Under the Sun" attached), the number of new "buzz words" has increased enabling experienced grant writers to 're-package' old ideas with new jargon. During the national economic recession of the early 1990's grant writers hit "a brick wall" as funding decreased for the arts and the available supply of new "buzz words" diminished. Arts consultants were the first to notice the problem and quickly brought the issue to national attention at conferences and other gatherings where arts consultants meet to strategize and assess their own ongoing marketing efforts. A privately funded study involving independent arts grant writers, arts consultants and representatives from government funding agencies from throughout the country provided evidence that one of the major causes of the diminished funding was a scarcity of exciting and useful "buzz words" that could be used in arts grant applications. 
Grand Performances is less than two years old and has already coordinated one large "arts think tank" retreat and produced two new Arts Jargon phrases that have entered the grant writing vocabulary. These phrases already have had positive results in Grand Performances' grant writing. In 1996, with funds from a Lila Wallace/Arts Partners grant, GP hosted a two day retreat to address questions of serving "accidental audiences," the first new Art Jargon phrase GP created. At a subsequent "art jargon brainstorming workshop" the use phrase "art tastemaker" was created. 
Armed with the credit for creating these new, vital arts grant phrases and the success of the workshop process, GP is now ready to embark on a more adventurous project to create 120 new "buzz words" and develop the Art Jargon Home Page.

If The Innovative Art Jargon Creation Project is a success, as it is expected to be, Grand Performances will embark on an acronym acquisition and administration (AAAA) project that will create useful acronyms that can be used in project proposals, interim and final reports and other project-related documents.
Grant funding will be used to operate the Home Page for the first year. In subsequent years, subscriptions, which will be sold to Arts Grant Writers for $200.00 per year, will sustain the Home Page. Any additional income will be used by staff to revisit the retreat site during the off- season to look for lost "buzz words". 
Grand Performances is also exploring the possibility of copyrighting the new phrases and charging a re-use fee in order to support the project in the future. "

Not surprised that someone as talented as Michael is way out in front of me - it never occurred to me to try to license buzzwords and I'm nothing compared to him when it comes to acronymization. Hats off!

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