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Bruce Thibodeau

DBA Graduate - 2017

Thesis title

Stakeholder influences on the activities and practices of nonprofit arts and culture organizations: Exploring a strategic project management perspective

Supervisor(s)

Charles-Clemens Rüling

Dr. Bruce D. Thibodeau founded Arts Consulting Group (ArtsConsulting.com) in 1997 to grow  institutional sustainability, advance the arts and culture sector, and enhance communities served by this vibrant industry. Academic conferences include Academy of Management and Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts. His publications include articles in The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, and the International Journal of Arts Management. He is an adjunct professor at Babson College.

Purpose The purpose of this dissertation is a threefold exploration of stakeholders, nonprofit arts management, and cultural facility project management to describe how stakeholders influence, and are influenced by, the activities and practices of nonprofit arts and culture organizations as they pursue major project goals. Design, Methodology, and Approach The research methodology comprises a comparative case study of five nonprofit arts and culture organizations that planned, developed, and completed cultural facilities between 2000 and 2010. This design therefore depicts the uniqueness and similarities between each organization; considers multiple activities and practices involved in their projects; analyzes stakeholder interactions that impact project timelines or costs; explores underlying relationships and knowledge; and identifies stakeholder interaction strategies in these organizations. Findings The results of this research indicate that both new and existing organizations embrace a community-wide process whereby internal project champions align their efforts toward realization of the project concept; external project followers are identified and engaged; and sensemaking between the two occurs to advance the project. Social and material resources are acquired to overcome project inertia as stakeholder interactions allow projects to gain momentum. Finally, the major projects come to fruition resulting in mutually beneficial outcomes for nonprofit arts and culture organizations and the communities they serve. Research Limitations Any retrospective case study faces biases due to interviewee memory lapses and past rationalizations. Cases include completed projects in metropolitan areas of the United States but exclude incomplete projects or other locations. Research design embraces a subjective, multi-stakeholder interview process and objective data collection to minimize biases. It focuses on activities, practices, and stakeholder interactions, from dormant project idea to completion, to gain perspectives on how stakeholders influence, and are influenced by, major projects and strategic initiatives. Practical and Social Implications The practical and social implications of this study are to improve nonprofit arts and culture organization praxes toward overcoming project inertia and gaining momentum. The results suggest that both private and public dialogues between internal and external stakeholders prompt their iterative learning, deeper social and emotional bonds, and a sense of community built around shared project goals and mutually beneficial outcomes. Originality and Value The originality of this study is evidenced by a deeper understanding of the relationships between nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their stakeholders. In particular, the value of this research is likely to be generalizable to other types of public and nonprofit organizations who seek to better understand strategic activities and practices through which stakeholders can help them achieve their major projects and strategic initiatives. Keywords Stakeholders; nonprofit arts management; cultural facility project management; arts and cultural organizations; stakeholder community and urgency; strategizing activities and practices