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Opportunities for Culturally Relevant Practice in Museums, Cultural Competence Learning Institute
Embedding DEAI in Strategic Planning, High Desert Museum
The Three Bears Model: Identifying Just Right Partnerships, Chicago Children’s Museum
Mobilizing Your Museum to Be a Resource for Equity, Cincinnati Museum Center
Conclusion and Resources
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, museums—like so many other institutions and sectors—are being asked to reimagine themselves: Will hands-on exhibits ever be the same? When and how can we reopen safely for our staff and our visitors? In the face of these existential questions, how can we keep equity front and center?
CCLI (Cultural Competence Learning Institute) is a partnership between Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, the Association of Science and Technology Centers, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the Garibay Group. On May 19, CCLI hosted the webinar, “Reopening with Equity in Mind: Opportunities for Culturally Relevant Practice in Museums.” CCLI operates on the idea that success for museums in the 21st century will depend on embracing organizational change, allowing organizations to meaningfully connect with their community.
Cecilia Garibay, President of, Garibay Group shared a framework for grounding DEAI efforts in concrete areas of operations for rebuilding with an equity lens, drawing from CCLI’s National Landscape Study: Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Practices in Museums (Garibay and Olson, forthcoming).
|CCLI’s key definitions surrounding equity work:|
• Diversity encompasses all those differences that make us unique, including but not limited to race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, socio-economic status, age, and physical and mental ability. A diverse group, community or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist.
• Equity acknowledges differences in privilege, access, and need, and supports space for appropriate adaptation and accommodation.
• Inclusion denotes an environment where each individual member of a diverse group feels valued, is able to fully develop his or her potential and contributes to the organization’s success.
Find more definitions at the CCLI website.
Garibay noted that the concept of equity can often feel abstract and even aspirational, but when we recognize that structural and historical barriers and systems of opression are at the root, it allows us to consider how we can begin to affect and change those systems and structures. She described how organizational change frameworks that look at systems and operational structures can help to create and measure change toward DEAI. The Burke-Litwin Causal Model of Organizational Change (Burke & Litwin, 1992; Martins & Coetzee, 2009) identifies three interrelated “factors” for change:
Garibay pointed out that DEAI efforts often focus on the personal level using diversity workshops, implicit bias trainings, and other methods to support individual on their cultural competence journey. These strategies, however, ignore institutional levers critical for sustainable change and informing equity-focused organizational practices.
“I want to start by making it clear what an opportunity all of us have ahead of us. Our organizations are going to be community responders. Our first responders have been out there saving lives. And it’s our turn to move in when we can reopen as community responders to the pandemic, getting ready to help rebuild community and connection.”Dana Whitelaw, High Desert Museum
Museum leaders from CCLI alumni organizations offered reflections on how they are thinking about equity amidst this pandemic.
Dana Whitelaw, Executive Director, High Desert Museum (Bend, Oregon)
The High Desert Museum, an interdisciplinary museum in Bend, Oregon, grounds all areas of their operations in an equity lens, both internally and externally. Dana Whitelaw discussed how this affects her museum’s strategic planning and approach to staffing and skilling up.
Pandemic Strategic Plan: The museum has created a pandemic strategic plan that sits alongside their pre-existing five year strategic plan. They have three phases over the next 12-18 months:
During this time of closure, the museum is working to embed equity into all facets of reopening:
Admissions: How can your museum ensure access for a wide audience after reopening? Existing access programs, such as Museums for All, rely on walk-in admissions. If we reopen using timed ticketing, online sales, and cashless payment, how will our front desk processes continue to have an equity model?
Membership: Membership is seen as a privilege – how can we make it accessible?
How can you use membership to build more access? The High Desert Museum is working with partner organizations, starting with our hospital, to gift a community membership to frontline workers (e.g. nurses and grocery store workers) for each new or renewed membership.
Programming: How can you ensure your upcoming programming is inclusive?
The High Desert Museum is collecting stories from the pandemic experience for a future exhibit. They’re reaching out to community partners to ensure they feature and include a diverse set of stories.
Staffing: How can you skill up your staff to align with community needs?
You can build an equity approach into all levels of your organization. With governance, what board-level skills are needed for reopening? With staffing, how can you scale up to be relevant and responsive to new community needs?
Jennifer Farrington, President and CEO, Chicago Children’s Museum (Chicago, Illinois)
When Chicago Children’s Museum closed its doors due to COVID-19, it could not fulfill its mission to promote joyful learning by serving children and families to the museum in the same ways it had done before. President and CEO Jennifer Farrington shared how the museum identified new strategies to meet their mission, by authentically leveraging local partnerships to distribute resources to their community.
Museums do not serve communities alone, but rather as part of a web of individuals, organizations, and community partners. How can your museum work within this ecosystem to offer support and resources to communities? For those museums that feel they do not have resources to share, Farrington noted that with an abundance mindset, our institutions have extraordinary resources from our organizational values and integrity to key community relationships.
How to Approach Authentic Partnership:
1. Do an honest assessment of your museum’s capacity.
In this moment, museums can’t fulfill all their relationship obligations, and they also can’t serve their entire audiences. How can you ensure you make a meaningful impact without spreading yourself too thin? Consider focusing on three to four areas of work to increase impact, maybe even focusing on the most directly impacted communities around your museum. Being honest about what you can do helps set realistic expectations with your partners and offer internal clarity and focus.
2. Reach out with sensitivity and integrity.
Many community partners are on the front lines serving communities affected by the pandemic, and may not have the capacity to engage with your museum. How do you ensure you approach your partners and the people you serve with integrity and in equitable partnership?
Following the “three bears” approach, Chicago Children’s Museum is working with long-time partner Chicago Public Library to distribute activity kits to 10,000 families, with funding from the Education Equity COVID-19 Response Fund.
Elizabeth Pierce, President & CEO, Cincinnati Museum Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)
When Cincinnati Museum Center closed due to the pandemic on March 14, 2020, it moved directly to be in even more active conversation with its community partners to hear what is most helpful for them in moving through the pandemic. By situating themselves as one node in a larger ecosystem, they have been able to be responsive and adaptive to community needs. How can your museum partner in your local social service landscape? President and CEO Elizabeth Pierce identified additional strategies for serving as a resource even when your doors are closed:
Adapting Programming to Address Isolation
This is a time of isolation for many communities, especially those who do not have access to online resources and technologies.
In addition to online programming, can your museum organize analog conference calls or facilitate software that allows people to call into conferences, meetings, and presentations without an internet connection?
Cincinnati Museum Center organized analog conference calls to present curator talks.
Cincinnati Museum Center is also collecting reflections from the graduating class of 2020 as well as other constituencies. They plan to reflect this back to their community with future exhibits and programming when the museum reopens. At that time, they’ll invite respondents back.
Leveraging Your Building
While your museum may not be able to reopen, its building, parking lot, and other spaces may allow your institution to serve as a socially-distanced convener.
Cincinnati Museum Center used its parking lot to host a drive-through graduation ceremony for a local high school.
As you consider these questions for your museum in moving forward, remember these ways of approaching this work from Dana Whitelaw, Executive Director, High Desert Museum:
“Some things are not answered yet, things are in motion. That’s true for our entire [museum] community. We’re in search of some concrete answers, but we’re not in the place yet in this experience where we can get there. We’re creating those realities.”Laura Huerta Migus, Executive Director, Association of Children’s Museums
Burke, W.W., & Litwin, G.H. (1992). A causal model of organisational performance and change. Journal of Management, 8(3), 523–546.
Garibay, C. and Olson, J.M. (forthcoming). CCLI national landscape survey: A conversation about the state of DEAI in Museums.
Martins, N., & Coetzee, M. (2009). Applying the Burke-Litwin model as a diagnostic framework for assessing organizational effectiveness. SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 7(1), 1–13.
The Associations of Children’s Museums (ACM) champions children’s museums worldwide. Follow ACM on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI) is a partnership between the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, the Association of Science and Technology Centers, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the Garibay Group.
This post was produced in collaboration with the Association of Science and Technology Centers.
Museums across the country are navigating a critical moment: the urgent need to challenge systemic racism in our communities and institutions alongside the interconnected effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic stress. To effectively respond to the public health crisis and to transform into actively antiracist organizations, museums must lead with equity-centered work.
CCLI (Cultural Competence Learning Institute) has developed a free, four-part series to provide resources and concrete steps for museums to activate diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) efforts within their institutions and in their roles as trusted community hubs. Each of the four webinars in the series will cover the process of transforming intention to action, from equity and inclusion statements and hiring practices to community engagement and supporting DEAI committees.
Each 60-minute webinar will feature speakers from across the museum community, a short presentation of data from CCLI’s forthcoming National Landscape Study, and Q&A session for participants to share their challenges and experiences.
Participants are welcome to join individually, or with a team of colleagues. Each webinar will offer a deep dive into the topic to deliver concrete, actionable steps and resources toward organizational development. Register for one webinar or the whole series!
CCLI (Cultural Competence Learning Institute) is a partnership among Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, the Association of Science and Technology Centers, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the Garibay Group. CCLI helps museum leaders catalyze diversity and inclusion efforts in their institutions.
By Jenni Martin
Children’s museums, because of our unique focus on audience rather than content, are often at the forefront of innovative museum practice around diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI). Our roots are deeply embedded in our communities, and our institutional goals focus on reflecting those communities in exhibits, programs, events and audience. As a field, children’s museums are often more willing than other museums to try new approaches for ensuring we are serving the unique needs of our individual communities.
With the understanding that it’s never been more important to understand DEAI practices in the museums, CCLI is launching a groundbreaking, industry-wide study this September focused solely on these practices in museums: The National Landscape Study: DEAI Practices in Museums.
Through a carefully vetted survey instrument, this study will:
The survey will engage museums of every discipline, size, and region, to paint a picture of the entire museum sector—making it important for as many museums as possible to participate. We know that the children’s museums excel in reaching diverse audiences in creative and successful ways. However, we have not always focused on documenting these innovative practices. This survey is our opportunity as a field to have our voices heard and our strategies documented in the greater museum field.
A report of the findings will be released in the spring of 2020. The results will benefit museum leaders with important insights into where their organization is relative to the field, relevant data for decision-making and strategic planning, and information that will support staff development.
|ABOUT CCLI |
The survey is sponsored by CCLI (Cultural Competence Learning Institute), a process and set of resources designed to help museums increase their organizational capacity around diversity, inclusion, and culture. CCLI is a partnership between ACM, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, and Garibay Group. As a yearlong professional development institute, CCLI helps museum leaders catalyze diversity and inclusion efforts in their institutions. Recently awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, CCLI has expanded its focus and invested in long-term sustainability to develop, track, promote, and recognize DEAI efforts within individual institutions andthe field at large. The upcoming survey is one component of CCLI’s National Leadership Grant.
Said Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director of The Wild Center in upstate New York, about her museum’s participation in CCLI’s yearlong institute: “The CCLI program supported our efforts to construct a series of professional development activities to fundamentally change how we approach diversity broadly and the tools to move staff through an effective learning process. Our efforts were just the beginning of an organization-wide shift that continues today.“
CCLI has already reached more than twenty-five museums, including children’s museums, science centers, nature centers, zoos and aquariums, and natural history museums, and seventy-five individual participants. Applications for CCLI’s next cohort will be accepted until November 19, 2019. Find more information here: https://community.astc.org/ccli/home
The National Landscape Study: DEAI Practices in Museums is launching today, Thursday, September 5. Primary contacts at ACM member museums (typically the museum’s CEO or Executive Director) will have received an email from Garibay Group with a unique survey link. Different people at your organization will likely contribute to completing the survey, so, in addition to the Survey Monkey format, a printable Google format will also be included.
It is so critical that children’s museums of every size and region be represented. The more diverse the input, the more useful the results will be for the field and for your organization. Look for this email (or ask your CEO about it) to ensure your organization’s data is included.
Jenni Martin is CCLI Project Director and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.