The Scarcity Matrix, Equity issues in Arts Service Organizations, and Chronic Pain: A reflection

"Focus on Sciatica" - Deborah Sosower
“Focus on Sciatica” – Artist Deborah Sosower


C4 Atlanta participates each year in a pretty fantastic conference – APASO, the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations. This is a hold-over from when the founding members, Jessyca Holland and Joe Winter, were a part of a previous nonprofit who focused on the performing arts. Despite the fact that C4 serves a broad range of individual creative entrepreneurs and artists, not just theaters or theater companies, there are still a lot of common ideas, work, and striving being done by all the nonprofits involved in APASO that are still very relevant to the work that we are doing.

An APASO member posted an article that has been discussed a lot by the coffee maker here at Fuse. Read David Dower’s article, “The Scarcity Matrix,” here. In essence, it captures the idea that we have been acculturated to view resources and opportunities through a lens of scarcity – that we believe and fear that funding, opportunities, and profitability can only happen for a chosen, lucky few – and should be coveted, hoarded, and protected at all costs. Dower posits that, instead, we should view the world as it really is: a place of abundance. Instead of negotiating with or zero-sum mentality, we work together with our peers to see how, together, sharing resources, experiences, and ideas, we can build a better place – financially, emotionally, ethically – for everyone.

C4 Atlanta hosted a Google Hangout with APASO members last Friday to discuss this article, and ways it may shape or inform our organizations. The discussion that emerged ultimately focused on the ways in which equity and diversity are being introduced, sustained, strengthened, institutionalized, and made actionable by each of the diverse, national organizations. One of the challenges that was introduced by a participant in the conversation was the balance it took to juggle focusing on equity and inclusion with other considerations of operating a nonprofit and fulfilling its specific mission.

What the flow of this dialogue brought to mind for me was a parallel to an individual experiencing chronic pain (if which, sadly, I am one). It is always there – not perhaps always visible on the surface, but a constant, underlying thread of discomfort or outright pain- that occasionally spikes into periods of acute distress from aggravating circumstances or further injury. This country, perhaps even the broader sector of “western culture,” can be said to suffer from chronic issues of inequity. Whether it relates to race, class, ableism, gender, ageism, you-name-it, creating safe spaces for dialogue and becoming mindful of your own privilege is a challenge that many are taking on – and we are proud to take our part in that effort. What is prescribed to an individual experiencing chronic pain? I know in my case, with chronic back pain due to sciatica (a pinched nerve), I’ve personally tried the gambit of pain-managing treatments: medication, massage therapy, chiropractics, epidural steroid injections, crying, cursing the world, eating donuts, etc… And, ultimately, what has proven the most sustainably effective for me to stave off pain and work to fix the problem is increasing my fitness. The more fit I am – even if it’s painful to start (usually my back complains when I begin a workout regimen) – the better my back feels. It’s literally better supported through my efforts of strengthing my core muscles, losing unnecessary weight that exacerbates the problem, and increasing my flexibility. And that might be the solution for systemic inequities in our nation. Keeping the conversation alive – asking hard questions, but more importantly, LISTENING and being present – looking at models of self-identification, rather than forced “box checking,” – recognizing privilege, in the context of the conversation and its participants in that instance – seeking empathy and understanding, rather than justifications for your own point of view – these are all ways to become a “fitter” participant in the dialogue, and an ally to the work of making this amazing country full of abundance a more fruitful, a better, and a more equitable place.





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