What’s a fishbowl? Find out at Beyond Dynamic Adaptability

  Last summer Kary Schulman sent me a link to a great post by Diane Ragsdale about why she was tired of arts conferences as usual.  Since we were deep in planning mode for our Wallace conference I (and our great planning committee) got inspired to look past the same old keynote-plenary-breakout session format.  We wanted our conference format to experiment with the new kinds of participation we’ve been urging arts organizations to try out.  Our upcoming conference on October 24th (registration opens Monday) includes a variety of new ways to engage with ideas, with each other, and with the change sweeping our sector. We hope you’ll tell us whether this is a better kind of conference.

One format that we’re trying is the fishbowl, a structure where panelists sit in a circle in the middle of the room, talking to each other, with an empty chair for any interested audience member to join in.  After 45 minutes or so, the panel splits up and helps facilitate small group discussions on the same topic.  If you’ve ever wished you could hear from your colleague across the room as well as the flown-in “expert” up front, or had to use twitter to express your distaste for the way a conversation was unfolding at a conference, then this is for you.  Each of our fishbowls will revolve around a question  — for example, museum whiz Nina Simon will moderate a fishbowl about “How can we invite audiences to become active collaborators?”

Have some thoughts on that? Comment below.  And don’t forget to register for our free conference!


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In 2008, The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) and Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund (GFTA) embarked on a four-year funding partnership to encourage systemic and sustainable structural change in the relationships of Bay Area arts organizations to their audiences, supported by the Wallace Foundation. Community offerings during the grant period (2008-2011) included seminars, workshops, large public convenings, implementation grants, development of a regional shared mailing list, and expansion of the SFArts.org website.




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