About

“Pluralism offers an orientation that moves from minimizing the challenges [of] diversity…to realizing its opportunities… Pluralism is where diversity becomes capacity.”

David Maggs, “Art and the World After This”

Overview

WolfBrown is an arts research and planning consultancy that helps nonprofit organizations, funders, and public agencies accomplish their missions and meet the challenges of change.

Since its founding in 1983 as The Wolf Organization, WolfBrown has assisted hundreds of cultural organizations, agencies, and funders in the United States and abroad in their efforts to manage growth, reinvent and restructure themselves, plan for the future, and transform ideas into pilot projects and new programs. Our consultants have earned a reputation for successfully accomplishing complex, large-scale projects and are recognized as thought partners and creative problem solvers to arts leaders worldwide. Field learning is our passion. We frequently publish reports and papers that offer new insights, introduce new frameworks, and provoke new ways of thinking.

Our Ideas

Over the years WolfBrown has generated influential frameworks and analytical approaches that have significantly advanced both theory and practice.

  • We developed a Creative Capital Framework as part of the Boston Cultural Plan to bring a wide and diverse group of stakeholders together around a shared vision of six pillars of cultural vitality.
  • We defined a model for Five Modes of Arts Participation to better describe the differing modalities of public participation in the arts and to characterize shifting trends in participation. The model distinguishes modalities of participation based on the individual’s level of creative control.
  • Over a span of nearly 20 years, we have developed and refined a conceptual model and measurement approaches for Intrinsic Impact: how individuals are affected by arts programs aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.
  • While financially accountability is well understood, WolfBrown has worked to build stronger frameworks for assessing the creative capacity of arts organizations.
  • To clarify understandings of an arts organization’s network of relationships in its community, we developed a framework for four typologies of stakeholders.
  • Our Public Value Audit assists organizations in understanding the value they represent, or might represent, to their stakeholders.
  • Using a qualitative research technique eliciting symbolic and metaphorical associations, WolfBrown developed a process for revealing a deep understanding of how audiences and visitors feel about an organization.

Our Collaborators

Our clients and collaborators are people and organizations in need of creative thought partnership, critical analysis, new ideas, or better information upon which to base important decisions.

  • Arts and cultural organizations engage WolfBrown to assess, facilitate, and provoke novel thinking about the future.
  • Foundation funders forge sustained relationships with WolfBrown to critically examine their investments in terms of equity, accessibility, and efficacy—and support the work of their grantees.
  • Local, state, and federal arts agencies draw on WolfBrown’s expertise in research and community engagement to support agency planning, community cultural planning, and grant program design and evaluation.
  • Consultants bring WolfBrown into partnerships around shared challenges that require a multiplicity of perspectives and skills.
  • Students and their teachers draw on WolfBrown reports and papers as curriculum resources.
  • Young researchers from diverse backgrounds look to WolfBrown for opportunities to learn and grow as professionals.

Commitment to Equity

Our approach to research and consulting is rooted in our beliefs about the value of diversity and the conviction that we, as a team, must embody the principles that we espouse. Thus, we embark on each project as a true thought partnership with the client and other individuals with valuable and diverse perspectives on the subject matter.

In particular, we believe that equity cannot just be a perspective that one team member brings to the table or a “lens” that can be applied when convenient. Rather, equity is always a spot on the horizon we strive towards, one that informs our continual questioning of whose voices are being heard and whose aren’t—both within our team and in the community—and what systemic forces are leading to the outcomes we are seeing.

As researchers, WolfBrown team members are committed to methodological rigor and also to intellectual honesty regarding the limitations of our data sources and analysis. We are also well aware that in complex and shifting environments such as the arts and culture sector, even the most carefully planned and executed research methodologies may need to be adapted or even abandoned altogether as new information arises. In particular, when voices that have previously been marginalized are invited to the table, we are prepared to be responsive as new lines of inquiry emerge.

In approaching new communities, we are keenly aware of the privileged position we are claiming in asking for their cooperation, and keenly aware of the asymmetrical power dynamics between grantees and funders and between grantees and evaluators. While it is impossible to develop sufficient cultural knowledge and linguistic skills to approach everyone with the cultural competence we might strive for, we can, at a minimum, show enough humility to approach our informants as open, honest, and grateful learners. We make accommodations to ensure that participation is as meaningful, respectful, and easy as possible.