AS220 Industries: Increasing Creativity

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AS220 has been a resource for creativity in Providence since 1985 and has continued to grow ever since. Starting with an operating budget of $800 in a one-room space, AS220 now owns several commercial and residential properties throughout Providence that promote artistic expression.

A major part of the organization is AS220 Industries, a collection of community workspaces and resources that offers affordable, project-based, experiential learning in digital fabrication, printmaking, and media arts. Four years ago, Marina Balko took on the role of AS220’s Practice//Practice Manager. By 2018, promoted to Director of Operations, Marina sought to improve the efficiency of the Industries program and thought the SEG Impact Accelerator would be the best solution to help her do just that.

The SEG Network Effect   

AS220 Industries offers a variety of workshops and classes for the local community. Marina’s goal was to improve the quality of the Industries program, expand the number of program participants, and increase overall membership. Prior to Marina’s participation in the SEG Impact Accelerator, AS220 Industries faced a number of challenges. “As a program, we were not in the best shape. We were in the hole financially and we recognized that we were not going to get out of it anytime soon,” Marina says. “We came to SEG because we recognized that you all were drivers of economic empowerment here in Providence.”  

“The Impact Accelerator made us realize that we needed to stop addressing our symptoms and focus on the root causes. By doing this, we’ve been able to make the program better for everyone involved.” 

When Marina joined our 2018 Impact Accelerator, AS220 Industries had an operating budget of $250,000, three employees, 220 program participants, and 40 active monthly members. One-year post participation, they now have 289 program participants and 122 active monthly members. The Accelerator also gave them a lot to think about in regard to their staffing structure. “Though we still have three employees, we changed what those roles entailed to make the program as a whole more efficient, consistent, and productive,” says Marina.

Restructuring those three job positions was personally challenging because it involved transitioning staff as well. Marina credits her SEG advisor, Brittany Drozd, for being a consistent source of support for her during the program. “Talking with Brittany was like talking with a therapist,” she says. “Having someone to talk to outside of both my personal and professional life was beyond helpful.”

Though the budget for AS220 Industries remains at $250,000, Marina says they are doing much better financially. “The Impact Accelerator made us realize that we needed to stop addressing our symptoms and focus on the root causes,” she adds. “By doing this, we’ve been able to make the program better for everyone involved.” 

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