The Plank Foundation

A Strategic Investment in the Making

Feasibility Study Update: April 2021

Much has been learned and compiled since the inception of the feasibility study for The Plank Foundation (TPF) in October 2020. 

Targeted for completion at the end of March 2021, the Internal and External Stakeholder consultations are complete and compliment a thorough scan and research of the current (domestic and international) landscape and environment, as well as investigation into potential organizational models. 

The conversations with key stakeholders and changemakers across Canada, along with the internal work, has helped to put a number of key variables and factors for the aspirations of TPF into focus. 

We are happy to share the key takeaways and focal points of this work in the update that follows.

We are grateful for the time and most generous and insightful feedback and input we have received from those we have spoken with to date and will be sure to keep in touch on the outcomes of this study.

Warren Wilansky and David Moss

Key Learnings and Insights

The following points have emerged regarding the approach and potential direction and mission of the Plank Foundation:

  • Expand Plank’s philanthropic impact by initiating or contributing to projects that have the potential to be tested and scaled, at minimum, to support multiple organizations;
  • Ensure Minimum Viable Audience, Minimum Viable Project, and Plank’s quality assurance and work flow;
  • Focus on supporting innovative digital solutions that have a positive impact on the Canadian not-for profit arts and culture sector;
  • Help build digital capacity and sectoral transformation to hybrid live-digital solutions that strengthens the resilience and effectiveness of arts and cultural organizations;
  • Support organizations and networks that Plank doesn’t normally serve (ie: Small-medium sized organizations that don’t have the budgets to engage Plank’s services);
  • Collaborate with organizations, partners and individuals who have the vision, drive and capacity to:
    • Test new ways to innovate in addressing social justice issues
    • Develop and test new economic and business models
    • Enhance their environmentally responsible practices
    • Test, leverage and share digital and online tools
    • Participate in the development, deployment and support of knowledge sharing 

Key questions that were raised during the process include: 

  • What is needed and what is not duplicating what others are doing? 
  • What can Plank do differently?
  • How to ensure synergy with Plank’s values, ethics and standards?
  • How to ensure TPF doesn’t undermine Plank through conflicts of interest, block business development, or over-extension? 
  • How to manage renewed investment and expansion in developing TPF in relation to Plank’s on-going functioning and growth?
  • How and through what avenues can Plank/TPF establish a distinct and complementary national leadership role and contribute to the digital transformation movement for the arts/cultural sector?
  • Pro bono or new-form philanthropy? 

An Appetite for Renewal, Rebalancing, Reconstruction & Innovation in the Canadian Arts & Cultural Sector

The pandemic has amplified many existing systemic issues in the arts and cultural sector and brought forth a general and widespread acceptance that digital is no longer optional, or a nice to have. 

Further, within the domestic and global environment, there is increasing recognition given to the potential the arts and culture has to contribute to addressing social justice and environmental issues.  

Notwithstanding the on-going and significant negative impacts that COVID-19 has had on Canadian artists, creators and cultural workers and organizations of all kinds, there is a general sense and potential opportunity to support a number of shifts—to “build back better” and to invest in fostering a new resiliency and impact that the sector can have in advancing our society—by empowering artists and creators to do what they do best in new meaningful, inclusive and sustainable ways.  

Taking action and addressing issues related to the Health, Economic, Social and Environmental crises are in Plank’s DNA and aspirations. 

Introduction Fall 2020

Ten years ago, we discussed the idea of finding a way for Plank to more formally invest in, not just working with non-profit organizations, but finding ways to help them directly. While we were proud of our annual pro-bono work, we felt like we could do more.

A few months ago, in collaboration with David Moss, we decided to embark on a feasibility study to explore how this aspirational investment might be best organized as well as who else in our community might be interested in embarking on a pilot project together. 

Working through partnerships, the aim of the Plank Foundation (working name) would be to:

  • to develop innovative, accessible digital solutions that support organizations in becoming more effective in the digital space, and
  • enhance their work towards increased socially, culturally and environmentally responsible practices and outcomes.

Budding With Possibilities

The kinds of initiatives the Plank Foundation could develop in partnership with other like-minded organizations. 

Although we are building on some experiences we have had in the past, we want to conduct an external consultation. This process will give us the chance to speak with trusted members of our business community. As well as foster discussions with changemakers and leading organizations in Canada and the U.S. to explore where Plank’s investment might have the most impact. 

We should note that we have a particular soft spot for arts and culture, education and non-profits. Based on our experience coming into this exploratory process, we see the possibilities in three spheres of activities for the Plank Foundation and its partners: 

Spin Offs

Plank donates and adapts existing technology it has built to help fill an identified need for target groups by making it Open Source. Examples include:

  • Multilingual Mobile Website surtitling theatre application, currently optimized for Shakespeare in the Park
  • Tessitura TNEW + WordPress integration
  • Spektrix + WordPress integration
Expand Existing Philanthropic Programs

Plank expands on its Plank Gives Back and the Diversity & Inclusion mentorship programs.

  • Plank Gives Back – Twice a year, Plank coordinates a campaign where we provide 80 hours of work to a non-profit organization. Most non-profits cannot afford the large costs associated with creating or updating a website. Plank offers our services to these organizations in order to improve their online presence.
  • Diversity & Inclusion Mentorship Program – Twice a year, Plank holds a few sessions to offer advice and guidance to a member of the BIPOC community. So far we have partnered with DESTABYN, a Montreal-based organization committed to supporting Black youth in reaching their educational, employability, and entrepreneurial goals.
Education, Training & Events

Plank supports the development and deployment of education and training tools, services and programs. 

In the same vein, Plank co-produces events to convene and help organizations (and people) make the web a more effective resource for their organizational success and personal fulfilment. 

(This expertise/resources could also be directed in support of the first two initiatives.)

About Plank

Plank is an award-winning digital design studio making the web a better place since 1998. We strive for long-term relationships with clients we value, on projects we believe in. Our team is passionate about numerous industries, but we specialize in building websites and mobile applications for Arts & Culture, Non-profits, Higher Education and Sports & Health.

Since its inception, Plank has been drawn by work that has an impact on people’s lives. With social responsibility and social justice embedded in its DNA, Plank was a forerunner in what is now a growing international trend of social enterprise, and is a running thread through its work. 

About David Moss

Over the course of his career, David has established himself as an engaging and visionary arts and cultural leader, senior executive and advisor. Driven towards strategic action-based change-making at the crossroads of Culture and Community, David has successfully led major arts and cultural institutions through change to boost their impact and reach, including the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts and l’Opéra de Montréal. As Founding National Executive Director of Culture Days, he led the establishment of a first-ever pan-Canadian grassroots arts and cultural participation movement and annual event that takes place in some 800 cities and towns and draws 2 million participants each year. 

David is recognized for his passionate sensibilities for social development, education, entrepreneurship, and community engagement. Amongst other projects, he is currently leading a project with Plank, a Montreal-based creative agency for meaningful digital projects, to explore the creation of a foundation that will work in partnership to develop innovative digital solutions that support organizations in becoming more effective in the digital space, and in their work towards increased socially, culturally and environmentally responsible practices and outcomes.