A Message from Common Field about the 2021 Audit Report and Work

At this moment within our many movements for liberation and justice, there is much attention on repairing damages and harms caused by individuals and institutions, and rightfully so. For many of us, we recognize this work as imperative to the sustainability of ourselves, our relationships, and our movements. It is often overwhelming and sometimes feels impossible to actualize repair work. Especially when the scope of the wrongs and damages done were wide and the commitment to figuring out how to do and be better is deep. Therefore, repair work must be imaginative in its scope, yet flexible enough to be doable. As Common Field continues moving through a sunsetting process with attention to caring for how the process impacts people, it is important that we continue to locate the organization within this repair work The Audit Report we engaged throughout 2021 offered comprehensive recommendations for Common Field to consider; from relationships that required direct repair, to ways of increasing equity and becoming more people-centered in how we operate and make decisions. It was not until the audit process and report was completed, that we learned of information which ultimately led to our careful and grounded decision to sunset. This update intends to share about how we have pivoted our focus on repair work to fit within the capacity and timeline of sunsetting.

We start with what we mean by repair work. Page 61 of the Audit Report offers a concise definition: to collectively apply skills and wisdom gained from lessons learned, and to reimagine how to function and how to be. For almost two years now, Common Field staff and leadership have been learning the scope of the damage, figuring out how to fix damage caused by the institution—including when the current leadership and staff were not the people who actually caused the damage—and then actually carry out that repair. Included in this work to figure out how to move forward in a good way is an ongoing assessment of what this current body has the capacity and resources to repair, which unfortunately cannot be every instance of harm and damage done. Instead, there is an intentional focus on the quality of the repair work. There is an opportunity for Common Field to continue modeling what other arts organizations can do and be like, even in smaller, concrete ways. Below is an outline of the repair work the organization has prioritized for the rest of 2022.

Ongoing Repair Work

Even before the public release of the Audit Report, Common Field staff and leadership have embarked on this journey of repair. Here are some ways they have done and continue to do so:

  1. Travel stipends have been reimbursed to participants who were asked to return them after the 2020 Houston convening was moved to the virtual realm.

  2. Common Field met with the 2020 Houston organizers for the convening publication that year, and we are committing to support both the printing of the publication and a launch event in Houston in 2022.

  3. The Common Field team has and continues to apply Convening-specific recommendations to the 2021 Convening (online) and the upcoming 2022 gathering in Seattle, including the development of an upfront support fund for attendees instead of a reimbursement model.

  4. For these convenings, Common Field also provided a video application option for requesting support funds, in addition to the existing written application, to increase access for potential participants.

  5. In support of the identified need for a board-staff liaison, Administrative Manager Kristel Baldoz was named Board Treasurer in January 2022. This has ensured someone on the Board other than the Executive Director is also deeply connected to and engaged with staff.

  6. The organization continues to increase and expand our language justice lens and approach, specifically in current work and upcoming gathering.

  7. With a consultant, Common Field built out its digital safety framework for online event participants in 2021 and 2022.

  8. In 2022, Common Field’s final budget is supporting the hiring of 3 additional project-based staff members to manage new sunset-centered projects to ensure that current staff is supported in their current work, and in making contributions to all of these sunset related initiatives.

Even if not completely visible to all, this ongoing work is important to name as reparative because it breaks through the idea that certain conditions must be in place in order to start repairing. With so much in our institutions constantly in a state of instability, what would it mean if we only waited until a certain point to begin the work we know we must do? This ongoing work also highlights that repairs are often made as the lessons are applied, even if we are not explicitly calling it repair work. Sometimes it is less about formally announcing and naming something as repair work and more about shifting how things are done, in order to operate in more just and humane ways.

As Common Field learned of the structural issues that led to the decision to sunset, we have leaned heavily into the lessons learned from the audit process and the recommendations of the Audit Report. These lessons came in the form of reminders, frameworks, and tools, which supported us in prioritizing the needs and wellbeing of the people holding responsibilities for the work as well as those most impacted by it, overdoing whatever it would take to maintain the organization’s functionality.

The Work of Gathering as Repair

Since so much of the Audit Report assessment and recommendations covered the Convenings, it makes sense this would be an area where the organization applies the lessons learned. The 2022 Seattle gathering, WHAT NOW? Towards Artist-Led Movements, is an opportunity for the organization to not just continue concrete repairs as named above, but tend to relationships and engage members in authentic ways. Even as capacity and resources may likely limit our ability to effectively attend to all of Common Field’s past and present relationships, the 2022 event is an opportunity to think about how the many relationships born within the Network may continue to exist and grow.