Richard Evans, President of EmcArts. Richard will be working with Metcalf to deliver Staging Change.
Staging Change: A New Program in the Performing Arts

The following message was sent from Sandy Houston, Metcalf’s President and CEO, to sector partners and colleagues in February 2018 announcing the launch of a new program in the Performing Arts. 

Hello colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that I share with you today the launch of Staging Change, the Foundation’s latest strategic multi-year investment program in the Performing Arts.

Rooted in the best elements of our current Creative Strategies Incubator (CrSI)Staging Change will also incorporate key elements of a program model developed by EmcArts, an arts-focused non-profit service provider based in New York. We are greatly looking forward to working alongside Richard Evans and his team at EmcArts in order to advance our longstanding commitment to enabling pragmatic approaches in support of bold visions in the arts.

Where has this new program come from?

For the past fifteen years, the primary focus of Metcalf’s Performing Arts program has been on strengthening Toronto’s arts organizations through substantial multiyear investments in their strategic development. We have learned from this experience and have sought to amend the program to be as effective and responsive as possible. Since 2001, the program has been offered in two versions.

The first iteration, called Strategic Initiatives, funded individual organizations to pursue new approaches to a specific challenge or opportunity that had the potential of radically shifting the organization’s direction. Over time, we noticed that organizations were often working on similar ideas. We also began to think that outcomes might be amplified if organizations were given the opportunity to work and learn together. In 2013, we launched Creative Strategies Incubator in response to these insights. This second version of the program was designed both to better capture these amplified and collaborative outcomes and to translate them broadly for the benefit of others within the arts sector. Our current Creative Strategies Incubator cohorts will continue their excellent work until the program concludes in 2020.

Our refined vision

In our ongoing evaluation of CrSI, we noticed a few things that we thought we could improve upon. First, identifying a single focus issue each year that organizations would address in their proposals sometimes meant that the Foundation’s approach was overly restrictive and did not provide sufficient space for organizations to focus on and develop their priorities and strategy. Although incredible outcomes have been generated and continue under CrSI, we also felt that developing a curriculum and set of tools that both identifies specific organizational challenges — and provides a new conceptual framework around change — would be more helpful.

Second, we realized that the CrSI structure didn’t always allow for the testing of potential responses to a difficult challenge before both the organization and the Foundation committed a significant amount of funding towards implementation.

And finally, we wanted to create an opportunity that better acknowledged the rapidly changing environment in which we are all currently working and the significant challenges arts groups are facing as a result.

For all these reasons, we concluded that our approach needed tweaking and we decided to bring in the skills and perspectives of EmcArts. They have been leaders in enabling cultural organizations to reflect deeply in their practice and in equipping them for the fundamental changes necessary to grasp opportunities in a new era. We believe this bolstering of our program will help us and our colleagues and partners meet our shared ambition even more dynamically.

Things to know about Staging Change

  1. A pre-determined focus issue will no longer apply;
  2. A specific curriculum, designed and delivered by EmcArts, will provide a new set of tools to unearth deep-seated challenges and develop resilient solutions to address them;
  3. Funding will be tiered, or staged, over four phases. The entry-level cohort of up to 15 organizations in Stage 1 will undergo adaptive change training. Those who successfully adopt the practice and identify promising solutions will be provided with ever-increasing levels of funding to test, prototype, and then scale their work. The final cohort will consist of up to five organizations. Each stage will require a new application; and
  4. In tandem with the delivery of Staging Change, we will be developing a core team of Associate Facilitators who will learn adaptive change practices from EmcArts and then have the opportunity to be hired by Metcalf to deliver the program with us.

What’s next and how do I learn more?

The full Staging Change Guidelines are available here. They are longer than we would like but we thought it important to outline the new approach as completely and clearly as possible. We encourage you to take a moment to review them, including the timelines, available grant amounts, and application process.

We will host a two-part information session on April 23, 2018; Richard will be joining us and we will present the program elements and answer all of your questions. The first part of the info session will be for organizations that are contemplating applying to the program and the second part is for those interested in hearing more about the Associate Facilitator component.

An information session registration through Eventbrite will be distributed shortly; the session is free and open to all eligible organizations. Please see the guidelines for eligibility criteria. You must register in order to guarantee your spot.

We encourage equity-seeking organizations to consider this opportunity.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact Michael Trent, Performing Arts Program Director, at

I look forward to seeing you at the information session on April 23rd.

All the best,

Sandy Houston
President and CEO
Metcalf Foundation