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Community Engagement for Organizational Change: Planning for a Sustainable Future for the City of Seattle’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

Alexandra Wakeman Rouse & Stephen Page (University of Washington)

June 2016


This teaching case allows students to examine issues related to community engagement, municipal responsibility, and public value by providing a narrative about a venerable city-run cultural and performing arts center in the midst of change.

The case gives an overview of the history, triumphs and struggles of the city of Seattle’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI), a forty-year old entity that promotes African Diaspora arts and aims to serve the city’s African-American community.

Amidst funding constraints and a City Council directive, a newly hired City Arts Director faces the challenge of authentically engaging community stakeholders to develop a long-term financial and organizational strategy for LHPAI – one that may result in a recommendation that LHPAI become a non-profit entity, an idea that community members and LHPAI supporters have been vocally opposed to in the past.

The case culminates with a series of challenges that arise when the Director implements his community engagement strategy, which drives him to consider what steps he needs to take to ensure a positive outcome for the community, the city and for LHPAI.

400 Eggers Hall