The Concept

Liberia is a nation emerging from a sustained conflict that devastated two entire generations.  The daunting statistics facing the country today make it a tinderbox awaiting a match:  85% unemployment; 75% illiteracy; a youth population that is greater than 50% of the total population; a concentration of 50% of the nations’ population in Monrovia (most of whom live in off-grid slums).

The Liberian civil war was, in large measure, made possible because of the lack of a strong national identity among Liberians.  To overcome this legacy and emerge from its post-conflict status, the country desperately needs the opportunity to rebuild the fabric of society in a way that demonstrates to Liberians the capacities within local communities to create a new sense of nation

Historically, art has been one of the most powerful information and education tools in societies the world over.  It creates the social context for communicating shared values through mythology, and symbols that are commonly understood by the members of the society. Art has also brought artists into shared environments where artistic synergies generated new ideas and catalyzed social change. I envision a similar role for the proposed Center.
The Center will consist of a performing space, exhibition hall, gallery, cinema, sound recording studio, Audio/visual facilities, studios for painters, carvers, sculptors, writers; management facilities, a coffee shop, restaurant, a gift shop, and mini kiosks. It will be a place for incubating, launching, and promoting enterprising ideas, self-discovery for the individual, and for building community among those whose families have been torn apart by war, deprivation, and hatred. The Center will be staffed by members of the Liberian and expatriate business, education, and arts community, including writers, poets, theatre directors and performers, and experts in curriculum, education policy, and evaluation.
The Center will collaborate with educational, nonprofit, and private sector organizations to develop programs that promote literacy, numeracy, and workplace skills within the context of arts education.  Its educational model will localize and integrate four international best practice models and one updated local model to create, administrate, and disseminate its programs.  The sustainability model of the Center is based on revenue-generating, expense-reduction strategies of entrepreneurship centers at US universities and social enterprise firms in Africa, Asia, and South America.  The Center seeks to secure its future while teaching skills for employability and entrepreneurship.
Students and participants of the Center will be recruited from all generations, with special attention paid to educating the youth.  The Center will showcase historical contributions of past generations of Liberians, and promote current talents of all Liberia’s ethnic groups.  Using various artistic forms, collaborating artists will depict compelling images and symbols of the enduring and indivisible values shared by all Liberians and help make them the foundation of a new national equilibrium for post-war Liberia. The Center will serve as a much-needed venue for Liberians of all ages to come together to associate in a stress-free zone. It will also serve as a foundry that unifies ideas and a platform to garner nation-wide commitment to building a united Liberia.
The Center will encourage and support cross-ethnic collaborations, engage its expertise and networks to market and distribute creative products, and train its members to manage successful creative businesses.  The effort will be led by the re-organized Blamadon Theatre Workshop, which was very popular across ethnic, socio-economic, and gender groups and created with groundbreaking cultural accomplishments in the 1970’s. Organized and operated as a collective, the Center will guide the creation and production of art (music, theatre, poetry, visual arts) that leads to true transformation in thinking and behavior to improve quality of life in Liberia.
  1. Talents and ingenuity of the Liberian people.
  2. The strong background of the Center’s director, James Roberts, in production and management of theatre, arts, and literacy programs as a former Director of the Liberian Cultural Center and Deputy Minister of Education For Planning in which capacity he represented the Liberian government in fundraising efforts with the IMF, World Bank, The Open Society Foundation and many others.
  3. The expertise of the BCA Founding Chairman, Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, The Alfred Walter Negley Professor of Political Science Sewanee: University of the South, Tennessee, as a world renowned Liberian Historian and Social Scientist and author.
  4. Commitment to transparency in decision-making and operation.
  5. Commitment to equal opportunity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion and/or political affiliations.
  6. Commitment to work towards the goal.
  7. Commitment to self-reliance; rejection of dependency syndrome of the war years.
  8. The ability of this pair to bring together a committed, experienced and enthusiastic cross-section of individuals in Liberia, The United States and Europe to address the issue of how to rebuild Liberia’s fractured identity infrastructure.
  1. Endorsement of our program.
  2. Sharing knowledge and best model and practices from other experiences.
  3. Support for local capacity development.
  4. Sustained funding to get project established on firm basis for the first 5- 10 years.
  5. Support development of organizational capacity for effective overall administrative and financial  management, and a robust fund-raising strategy, both locally and internationally, leading to self-reliance.
  6. Support for independent formative and summative evaluation of the Center’s program goal achievements.
  7. Support for independent audit of the Center’s total financial records, return on investments, and estimated contribution of jobs and finances to the national and regional economy.
  8. An international communications campaign that enhances the dissemination and outreach of the Center.
A comprehensive and detailed budget for the Center will be developed following the needs identification in Phase.  As an initial, preliminary guide, we anticipate the following financial need:

Year 1: Project Planning; Facility Acquisition and Renovation; Staff Hiring and Training; Program Development and Piloting; Securing Renewable Energy. 

Phase One: We will complete a) a feasibility study, b) a full business plan including pro forma financial statements, c) design and pilot the academic programs and courses, and c.) secure and begin renovating a facility for the Center,  d) develop staff training programs, and e) hire and train staff.  Particular attention will be paid to the strategic human resource needs, obtaining a sustainable source of energy such as biofuels and transportation requirements, and various supports that must be secured to successfully launch and operate the Center. We are particularly interested in promoting environmental awareness and will seek a sustainable source of energy, especially those that support local farmers in their production of products used as biodiesel fuel.

Phase Two: Consists of the design, development, and preparation for launch of academic and informal education programs and services for first two semesters. We will begin implementation of the activities of the enterprise center identified during the feasibility study and staff training. We will purchase only those requisite technologies not donated and where possible, contract with (rather than hire) those providing services needed to complete the activities identified for completion in this phase. We will continue modifications required for the Center to be launched and fully operational during Year one. Depending upon the result of the energy pilot, we will expand the use of sustainable energy to more units within the Center.

Year 2: First Year of Operations; Continued Renovations; Development of Programs; Hiring and Training of Staff; Launching of Entrepreneurship Center 

We will roll out the first year of programs, services, and activities. This includes developing formal and informal educational and artistic programs and services for year three, the next academic year. Staff will be identified, hired, and trained during the second semester for the following year. We will continue expanding sustainable energy use in the Center and prepare for Year 3.

Year 3: Second year of operations and expansion.

We will build upon core academic and informal educational programs, expand artists’ enrollment, secure additional partnerships with schools and firms in the private and public sector, and develop further the fee-based activities of the enterprise center.  During year 4, we will continue the iterative evaluation and improvement of the previous years’ work, begin the strategic plan to replicate the program outside of Monrovia, and during year 5 launch the program in its second location outside of Monrovia.

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