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The Necessary Ability for Organizations to Pivot During a Crisis

The Covid-19 outbreak has proven to create complications for businesses across the globe. Traditional business strategies are no longer effective as new policies and safety measures continue to be set in place and or extended. With all of the continuous uncertainty, businesses must be prepared to pivot during a crisis from their traditional approach to new strategies, fast. 

We knew that the pandemic would impact many of our clients, and since it began in March, we helped many of our clients pivot during this crisis so that they could continue to serve their audience and community. 

We realized that when brick and mortar institutions and organizations are required to close, they need a space to continue their mission. The Bowdoin Music Festival and Maine College of Art (MECA), are two of our clients that faced a roadblock; their annual events could not take place because of COVID-19 safety regulations. Our response? Create online solutions for the once physical transactional events to take place virtually.

Maine College of Art found themselves at a roadblock when COVID-19 restrictions went into effect. Their annual art auction and sale called “Collect”, is their largest fundraiser of the year, and has traditionally been held on campus at The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art. However, it became clear that the 2020 auction would have to be different.

This art auction and sale included over 500 unique pieces of art created by 140 artists alums, students, staff, partners, and community members, which helps to support MECA’s Student Scholarship Fund to keep tuition affordable. The fundraiser’s leaders realized that they needed to pivot during this crisis from their traditional auction to continue to provide this fundraising opportunity. 

The e-commerce website, Online Collect we built for the online art sale offered visitors an intuitive user experience to browse various art pieces and view art by a specific artist. One crucial element for the online art sale was the live auction functionality, which allowed users to live bid on selected art pieces within a three hour period. After this auction was complete, the winning bidders were able to purchase and view their orders through their customer dashboard. 

MECA Collect webpage on both desktop and mobile

MECA identified the need to pivot to a new strategy early. 

“Now more than ever, we need art and artists to bring us together. In these disruptive and confusing times, art helps us to reflect on and shape our lives. COLLECT is the College’s largest fundraiser of the year, and it helps to keep MECA affordable for our students while at the same time supporting working artists and giving aspiring collectors the chance to own original works of art.”

-MECA President Laura Freid, from a report by News Center Maine.

The COVID-19 regulations were a roadblock for MECA. However, pivoting to a new strategy proved to be a success. With a virtual space, they reached a far larger audience than their in-person event because it allowed for more users to participate. With a combination of efforts from their staff, students, and our team, their new solution proved capable of providing a positive user experience and fulfilling the mission of MECA’s largest annual fundraiser. 

In addition to the Maine College of Art, another client of ours found themselves needing to pivot from their traditional strategy. The Bowdoin Music International Festival is an annual festival and music school that takes place every summer. Their mission is to provide a space where students can learn from world-class faculty and perform with fellow musicians. With COVID-19’s strict social distancing requirements, it was clear that the festival could not take place in its traditional way. Bowdoin still wanted to be able to provide a learning experience and environment for its summer students, how could this be accomplished? 

Our solution was to develop a new Bowdoin Festival Online events experience. Bowdoin Festival Online allows students and the public to view and participate in online events presented by faculty and staff. The site offers an online directory of public and student events that users can filter depending on their interest area. The Livestreaming content may be the most critical feature of this online experience. This functionality allows all users to Livestream world-class chamber music. What was once a physical concert can now be enjoyed by users around the world. “Livestreaming is particularly important during this time of COVID-19 and allows our community to connect virtually with friends, peers, and colleagues around the globe.” –Bowdoin International Music Festival.

 

Bowdoin Festival online webpage on both desktop and mobile

While the physical concert hall may be closed, the online platform encourages and fosters the Bowdoin learning experience and continues to fulfill the mission of the organization.  

Pivoting should only be done when absolutely necessary and should always present an opportunity for growth. Bowdoin realized that COVID-19 would have a tremendous impact on their summer festival. Changing their strategy was the only solution, so we focused on how they could still maintain their offerings and further their mission with this new online platform. The result is a robust online learning experience that allows users to explore different offerings and view and participate in virtual events.  

Pivoting during a crisis stems from the ability to identify the obstacle preventing success, developing a clear strategy, and determining what flawless execution of that new strategy comprises. Our client’s determination to find a new strategy during COVID- 19, coupled with our team’s expertise lead to the deployment of both of these websites, which helped to advance both institution’s mission and provided opportunities for future growth.

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