Today we are excited to announce an Ithaka S+R research collaboration with Cave Canem, funded by the Wallace Foundation. The project, “Magnitude and Bond: A Field Study on Black Literary Arts Service Organizations,” will focus on Black literary arts organizations from the perspective of sustainability, community engagement, and resilience.

Cave Canem, founded in 1996, is a Brooklyn-based, non-profit Black literary organization that serves as a hub for the many voices of Black poetry. Founded by artists for artists, Cave Canem fosters community across the diaspora to enrich the field of poetics by facilitating a nurturing space in which to learn, experiment, create, and present. Cave Canem develops audiences for Black voices that have worked and are working in the craft of poetry.

In this inaugural collaboration, Ithaka S+R and Cave Canem are embarking on a journey to explore the organizational needs, strategies, and models that will enable Black literary arts service organizations to thrive, even in the face of adverse socioeconomic conditions and constraints. These challenges encompass a wide array of obstacles including financial precarity, systematic disinvestment and inequalities in organizational budget size, constrained pathways to the for-profit marketplace, and the devaluation of the literary arts in the philanthropic landscape.

To answer our research questions, this study will engage a cohort of the five Black literary service organizations that comprise Getting Word:

By studying their current operations, initiatives, and goals, we aim to generate a comprehensive sustainability framework that envisions an empowered and flourishing literary landscape for people of color. The project will primarily focus on organizational structures, networks, funding models, and engagement strategies, as well as community practices that foster inclusivity and empowerment. To achieve this, we will analyze and assess the strategies and tactics used by literary organizations of color through a combination of desk research, a series of in-depth interviews, and institutional data gathering.

We look forward to completing this work with Cave Canem to provide the literary service community with valuable evidence and insights that can assist in the development of sustainable strategies for growth and sustenance for years to come. We expect to publish our findings in the winter of 2024.

Please contact Deirdre Harkins (, Liam Sweeney (, or Shelagh Patterson ( with any questions concerning the field study.