Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Does Audience-Centered Look Like? It Looks like Glasgow Museums.

KelvingroveWhen we say we want our museum to be "audience-centered," what do we mean?

Over the past decade, I've seen two distinct versions of this term:
  1. the user-centered museum, in which visitors are active participants, invited to contribute to and co-create the experience
  2. the customer-centered museum, in which visitors are valued guests, invited to enjoy personalized experiences that cater to their specific needs and interests
It will be no surprise to hear that I fundamentally align with the user-centered model. However, I have enormous respect for the customer-centered model when it is executed in ways that truly invite visitors in on their own terms and deliver satisfying experiences. My career first got moving at a brilliant example of the customer-centered museum: the International Spy Museum. Many of my favorite museums, libraries, and zoos are customer-centered places. They care about visitor comfort. They deliver learning experiences at many levels, engaging many senses. They are responsive to visitors' needs and interests, and they are willing to tailor their offerings to better satisfy those visitors.

To be clear: I'm not a fan of all aspects of customer-centered museums. At their worst, instead of human-centered, they become commerce-centered institutions, overly focused on the shop, the restaurant, the spectacle, and the highest ticket price the market can bear. But at their best, they focus on the humans walking in the door, providing them with value on their own terms. One hundred years ago, John Cotton Dana, founder of the Newark Museum and godfather of modern museums, famously said: “A great department store, easily reached, open at all hours, is more like a good museum of art than any of the museums we have yet established." I believe that Dana's department store museum is best exemplified in the customer-centered museum. The customer may not always be right, but she deserves to have an experience that brings her comfort, satisfaction, and joy.

I felt that comfort, satisfaction, and joy on a recent visit to two museums in Glasgow: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Riverside Museum. Kelvingrove is an encyclopedic museum, the kind where pachyderms, mummies, and Impressionists rub shoulders. Riverside is a museum of transportation, packed with trains, bicycles, and motorcars. Both of these museums delivered incredible experiences for me and my husband. These museums were terrific examples of customer-centered institutions because:
  • They engaged our curiosity. The objects were interesting, the stories surprising. At Kelvingrove, a display of knights, swords, and shields (one I'd usually skip) was peppered with animals whose skin and scales formed body armor, drawing me to look closer and better understand the connections between how living creatures defend ourselves. At Riverside, a torn-up Ford Escort explained how car thieves cut up and weld together stolen chassis, displaying the ingenuity and dangerous implications of chop shops. These displays were memorable. They taught us something new. They prompted dialogue and a desire to keep looking.
  • They catered to different audiences. Kelvingrove in particular was impressive for embracing an eclectic, "we all belong here" approach to gallery design and display. You could come for the Scottish first peoples or the World War II art or the dinosaurs or the collection of funny shoes. All were given value. I never felt like I stumbled into the gallery where no one else dares to tread (as I often feel when I enter the dioramas in many natural history museums, or the period rooms of art institutions). And they did a good job calling out and tailoring areas for families and young ones without making those spaces feel segregated from the overall experience.
  • They offered immersive, powerful environments. Both institutions made good use of their very different spaces. Kelvingrove is in a hundred-year-old palace of galleries around a central court in a park, whereas Riverside is a 2011 Zaha Hadid open-plan warehouse on a riverfront with a dramatic contemporary exterior. In Kelvingrove, we strolled easily from gallery to gallery, through open thresholds that encouraged exploration while maintaining distinct character from room to room. At Riverside, we wandered from display to display around the open floor, again, feeling comfortable, accommodated, and stimulated by bicycles racing around a velodrome overhead and 1920s buses squatting on the concrete. The objects in both museums were varied, and the display techniques incorporated movement, varied sight lines, juxtaposition, and humor to keep us intrigued and engaged.
  • They offered genuinely interesting learning experiences. In each museum, we saw thematic displays and labels that surprised and engrossed us. At Kelvingrove, we were particularly taken by Looking at Art, a gallery that invited us to check out a painting in various stages of restoration, to look at the backs of paintings and the things that were crossed out, and to learn more about the stories and influences behind specific artworks. I'd seen each of these kinds of elements in other museums, but never in such a clear way that respected visitors' intelligence and provided us with genuinely new information. At Riverside, I was impressed by the consistent integration of community voices in label text, and the very human take on a genre (transportation) that is often presented strictly in terms of technology and provenance. There were displays about the terror of motorcycle accidents, the freedoms public transportation affords, and the ways vehicles can enable people to enjoy places that are otherwise inaccessible to them. I'd heard before about Riverside's development, which involved many community focus groups, workshops, and talkbacks. That work showed in the human voices and stories throughout the museum. Of course, these are tools of user-centered institutions! It was lovely to see their integration into such strong customer-centered experiences.
  • They acknowledged our desire for comfort and variation. One of the best bits of our trip to Kelvingrove was taking a break to enjoy the free pipe organ concert in the central court. We took a break from the galleries, had a drink, and listened to the music as we chatted about our experience. This kind of accommodation in museums is nothing new, but it was made special because of how it fit into the flow of the building. We didn't have to go outside or to some segregated area to have coffee. It was there, in the heart of the museum, where we could gaze up at the galleries we'd been to and the ones we'd skipped. It wasn't a destination or a set-aside place of respite; comfort and social activity were at the very center of the building.
It's interesting to note that Kelvingrove and Riverside, like all the Glasgow Museums, are part of a public charity called Glasgow Life. Glasgow Life oversees libraries, museums, arts events, music venues, sporting events and fields, and community services on behalf of the City of Glasgow. Their vision statement is "to inspire Glasgow's citizens and visitors to lead richer and more active lives through culture and sport." In pursuing this vision statement and this diverse work, Glasgow Life recognizes serving a community means being both user- and customer-centered. Sometimes we are customers and sometimes we are users. Sometimes we are watching the match and sometimes we are kicking the ball. Sometimes we are enjoying the music and sometimes we are playing it.

Glasgow Museums include other institutions--notably, Glasgow Open Museum--that are far more user-centered. (Glasgow Open Museum, which co-creates exhibitions with and in community spaces across the city, served as a case study in The Participatory Museum.) But as a tourist on a summer day, I didn't seek out that user-centered institution. Instead, I walked into Kelvingrove and Riverside--two fine department stores of humanity--and walked out a satisfied customer.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Art of Relevance Sneak Peek: Part Ex-Con, Part Farmer, Part Queen

For the last time this summer, I'm sharing a chapter from my new book The Art of Relevance to celebrate its release. Read more online and buy your own copy today.

This chapter, from the last section of the book, is very personal to me. One of the nonprofits that inspires me locally here in Santa Cruz is a youth empowerment and food justice organization called "Food, What!?" FoodWhat's staff and teens have taught me a lot about what it really means to be relevant to people who are often overlooked or ignored. I firmly believe that all people have something meaningful to contribute to our communities, cultural work, and society at large--including youth. FoodWhat reminds me that it takes real work to unlock that meaning and invite teenagers to step into their own power. 

Part Ex-Con, Part Farmer, Part Queen


Each spring, Doron Comerchero walks into Pajaro Valley High School. The farmer-turned-activist is ready to sell struggling teenagers on something they may want in their hearts but don’t know how to access: a ticket to a meaningful life.

Doron runs a youth development program called FoodWhat in Santa Cruz County, California. FoodWhat empowers teens to change their lives through farming and food justice.

Doron doesn’t work with A students or B students. He works with kids who rarely show up to school. Kids with no food in the fridge. Kids on probation, kids struggling with addiction, kids whose lives have detoured off every map to a brighter tomorrow.

Doron believes in them. Doron supports them. And they turn their lives around.

But on day one of recruiting at Pajaro Valley High School, it is not obvious this will happen. Today, there are thirty kids fidgeting in a classroom, talking to their friends, messing with their phones. Doron’s wares, on the face of it, are a tough sell. Come work in the fields, grow organic vegetables, do leadership exercises, and eat healthy food. Most of these youth have bigger issues on their minds: addiction, gang violence, social anxiety, the possibility that they may not graduate from high school or get a good job. Many of them are desperate to avoid the exhausting, low-paid farming jobs their parents hold. Why would anyone want to sign up and be part of FoodWhat?

It starts—every time—with relevance. Doron knows that if his words aren’t relevant, the kids will shut him out. Shut themselves down. So he starts at the front door, with things that are obviously relevant to them. When Doron visits schools to invite teens to apply for FoodWhat, he gives a five-minute pitch on their terms.

First, Doron throws fruit to the crowd. It wakes the kids up, builds energy, and is relevant on a basic level to anyone who is hungry. Then, he establishes credibility with stories from real kids about the program. He shows a big board of photos of FoodWhat youth at work. Farming. Cooking. Eating. Hanging out. He strategically includes images of students from Pajaro Valley High, so when he asks, “See anyone you know on here?” the likely answer is “yes.” When there are FoodWhat alumni in the room, he asks them to share testimonials on the spot.

The easiest way to establish relevance—especially to something foreign—is to show that people like you, people you know, are involved. This is the front door. All you teenagers—this is the place for you.

Doron shows them the front door. Then he sets up the youth. He gets them to want to open the door. He answers the question on every teen’s mind: “what do I get if I participate in this program?”

Doron doesn’t answer this question with sweeping statements about personal transformation. He focuses on concrete things he knows are relevant to the teens in the room—especially the struggling teens who have the most to gain but are often the most reluctant to commit.

FoodWhat participants get four things. First, they get two school credits. While this may not matter to an A student, many struggling youth are miles away from the 200+ credits required to graduate. Those two credits matter to them. Second, participants get a $175 stipend if they successfully complete the program. It’s not a lot, but still, money is a huge motivator for these teens. Third, graduates of the spring program get first dibs on summer internships—real jobs paying a real hourly wage. Fourth, it looks good on your resume to complete a program like this. Many of the kids in the room may not know what a resume is, but Doron explains how it helps you get a job. He explains that FoodWhat graduates get jobs all over the community—that pretty much any place you might want to work, there’s probably FoodWhat alumni there. He says he will write a killer letter of recommendation for you, and when an employer is looking at two applications, that letter will move you to the top of the stack. And especially for those kids who know that their job prospects may be shaky, that sounds really good and useful.

Each of these four items is a potential key to the FoodWhat door. After offering up these four keys, Doron energizes the classroom with a challenge. He tells the kids: Don’t take an application if you aren’t serious. And if you are serious, make an impression on me when you turn in the application. Stand out in some way. This is a competitive program to get into, and the competition starts now.

He does all of this in five minutes. And kids come up to him, kids who were reassured that his program relates to them on the surface, kids who want to believe in themselves and have the slightest inkling this might help them do it. FoodWhat’s waiting list is always a distressing mile long.

The recruitment phase is just the start of FoodWhat’s relevance challenge. These are teenagers. When you talk about establishing relevance, teens are the holy grail. They are fickle. They are constantly distracted. They are self-centered. They have finely-tuned bullshit meters. They are not afraid to turn off their attention if something doesn’t seem to apply to them.

Teenagers don’t just need someone to help them open the door once. They need it again and again. For Doron, relevance is a process of constant reaffirmation and reconnection.

At the beginning of the FoodWhat year, it’s all about getting kids to show up. If they show up at the program, they’ll have a good day. Doron’s team spends the first few months helping youth open the door again and again. Texting kids to remind them to come. Picking up kids when they need a ride. Reaching out to kids who seem to be fading away. If they open the door enough times, they’ll figure out how to get into the room, and why it matters.

And that’s just getting in the door. Once they’re in the room, Doron’s team has a whole stack of techniques for going deeper with youth, helping them step into their own power on their own terms. He’s managing a mansion of opportunities for relevance and meaning.

What makes teenagers such a tough crowd? Developmentally, teens are in the midst of a huge shift of agency and self-knowledge. They wrestle to assert their identities and what is relevant to them in a sea of hormonal change and uncertainty. Before their teen years, children are sponges. They have very little agency, and as long as they are in supportive environments, they are mostly okay with that. They go where adults tell them to go. They are open to learning whatever someone else tells them is important. Relevance is not so relevant to them.

Adults, in contrast, have a lot of agency. They go where they want, choose what they want, learn what they want (within or in defiance of societal norms). Relevance is a heavy guiding hand in how adults live their lives. It is the internal voice suggesting what they might and might not want to do.

Teenagers are in the middle. They are developing self-knowledge, setting new boundaries, gaining a stronger sense of what they want and where they want to be. At the same time, their agency is still limited. They feel the friction of limited agency more acutely than their younger or older compatriots. Whenever they have some agency, they struggle to decide: is this relevant for me? Do I want to buy in? Or do I want to peel out?

In this way, teens are no different from adults who are trying something new. Think of the last time you brought something new into your life—a new activity, a lifestyle choice, a cuisine. As you sat there munching sushi for the first time, as you sweated it out in kickboxing, as you slid on that pair of skinny jeans, you probably asked yourself: is this me? Do I want this to be part of my life?

Teenagers ask themselves these questions all the time. But while most adults have a somewhat fixed sense of identity, teens’ identities are in constant flux—which leads to a more complicated calculus of what is relevant, and why.

Because teens are still developing of their identities and goals, they don’t just care whether something is relevant to them now. They care whether something is relevant to who they may want to be—to their idealized perception of their authentic identity. For teens, every photo they share, every activity they opt in or out of, every outfit they wear, is part of establishing their desired identity. And so even as they seek relevance, they seek relevance to a shifting target. To the person they want to be, not necessarily the person they are.

FoodWhat does this in a deep way, providing teenagers with keys to safe spaces where they can explore their potential. As one FoodWhat alumna said at the 2015 graduation: “I used to steal cars. I was going down a bad path with the wrong people. But since my time at FoodWhat, I’m living differently. Now, I have purpose. I guess you can say I’m part ex-con, part farmer, part queen.”

These personal transformations start small. They start with relevance. Each week, Doron re-anchors the teens’ time together on their terms. He reopens the door to the work they do together, ushering youth deeper into the opportunities before them. Each session starts with something that comes from the heart—not his heart, but the hearts of the kids in the room. Those starters don’t have to be complex. One day, the kids sit in a circle. Doron asks each teen: take a minute and think of a word that is most important to you. Then one at a time, the youth share their words and why they chose them. I’m Maria. Family is a word that matters to me. Michael. Loyalty. Jose. Happiness. Tawnesha. Trust.

Even farming tasks start with relevance. Instead of saying, “let’s go weed the onions,” Doron will say, “in two weeks, we want big fatty onions to put in the boxes that you take home to your parents or guardians and that we distribute out in the community.” That gets them excited. They want those fatty onions for their families. They want to be proud of their work. And then Doron might layer in some science: “Onions are shallow rooters, and so are these weeds, so if we take out the weeds, we give the onions more room to get big.” So now they know why they are weeding.

In a regular job, teens just get told, “do this.” But by providing twenty seconds of context, the task becomes relevant. Inspiring, even. And it communicates respect to the youth involved.

Doron and his team have shaped the room of FoodWhat into a safe space for youth to step into their own power. FoodWhat’s program- ming is relevant to the teens’ struggles and dreams. This isn’t superficial relevance. It’s not “let’s talk about celebrities” relevance. It’s “open up your heart” relevance. The program invites youth to explore what matters most to them and who they want to be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Art of Relevance Sneak Peek: Whose Room is This?

This month, I'm sharing a few chapters from my new book The Art of Relevance to celebrate its release. Read more online and buy your own copy today.

One of my biggest aha moments while writing The Art of Relevance was moving away from the idea that there are "traditional" audiences and "new" audiences and instead thinking about people in terms of "insiders" and "outsiders". Here's a chapter from Part 2 of the book, Outside In, that explores the differences in how insiders and outsiders perceive institutional change. 



Whose Room is This?

I was a new parent, having lunch with a lesbian activist, when she told me the best-kept secret of hipster parenting in Santa Cruz: the Elks Lodge.

I knew the Elks Lodge as the weird building on the hill with an overabundance of wood paneling. The Elks, or the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks as they are officially called, are a fraternal society of do-gooders founded in 1868. For over one hundred years, they accepted white men only. It took until the mid-1990s for women and people of color to be eligible for membership, and even then, most Elks Lodges stayed white, male, and aging.

But funny things were afoot at Lodge 824 in Santa Cruz. By 2015, the Elks Lodge had become a haven for LGBT parents of young children. I didn’t get it. I thought of the Elks Lodge community as a bunch of elderly guys at the bar. Then my friend explained: it was all about the pool.

The only public pool in the city of Santa Cruz was closed in the 2008 recession for four years. During that dry spell, a few enterprising families sought another place to take a dip. They noted that the Elks Lodge had a great pool, plus cheap drinks and a barbecue. So a few of them got sponsored by existing members, swore to believe in God and fight Communism, and they were in. Over time, they became a dominant force at the Lodge, taking on leadership positions and advocating for more active community involvement. They had trouble getting all the way in the room; elder Elks stuck to traditions like weekly board meetings during the workday that made it hard for newcomers to fully participate. But still, what was once a bar for old men expanded to become a community center for young families, led by a group of lesbians who only twenty years ago would have been shunned and excluded by the Elks.

You can read this story at least two ways. Is it a story about an old room made relevant for new reasons? Or is it a story about change and cooptation of someone’s sacred space?

In any situation where you are trying to make something relevant, what you are really trying to do is make it relevant to new people or more people. Unless it’s a brand new endeavor, you aren’t starting at zero. It’s already relevant to somebody. There were already Elks. There were already opera lovers. There were already insiders.

We all have our own personal Yellowstones, the insider places we want to protect from change. Embrace your inner insider for a moment. Think of something you love just as it is. A restaurant. A fictional character. An art form. A park. Now imagine someone saying publicly, “We are going to make X relevant to new people. We’re going to make some changes and open it up to new folks. We need to be more inclusive.”

When you are on the inside, this doesn’t sound like inclusive language. It sounds threatening. It sounds like the thing that you hold dear being adulterated for public consumption. Insiders often know the totality of an entity (or have constructed their own version of it). They have a clear story about what the entity is—and isn’t. And so reaching out to someone new doesn’t look additive. It looks like a shift away from what was. A dilution of services, a distortion of values. That shift means loss, not gain.

Outsiders have a different view. They can’t see the change the way insiders do. For them, relevance is a brand new door, an outstretched hand. It’s OK if at first only one part of an entity is relevant to someone new. The exhibition that speaks to their interests. The paved walking path around Old Faithful. The pool at the Elks Lodge. The entity wasn’t relevant at all previously, so if even a slice of its offerings are now relevant, the outsider has gained something worthwhile. Outsiders don’t want the room rearranged in their own image. But they do want to see reflections, expansions, and distortions of their experiences in ways that allow them to form new connections.

Anytime you look at an organization and think: “They’ve gone too far. They ought not to do that,” it’s worth asking yourself why. It’s rare that an entity adds something to their programming that is so divergent, and so powerful, that it injures other aspects of the institution. It may injure your idea of that institution, but it’s worth asking whether it really injures the entity itself. Is the room still intact? Is there still a place for you in it? That’s what matters.

To be relevant, we need to cultivate open-hearted insiders. Insiders who are thrilled to welcome in new people. Who are delighted by new experiences. The greatest gift that insiders can give outsiders is to help them build new doors. To say, I want you here—not on my terms, but on yours. I’m excited you think there might be something of value in this room. Let me help you access it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Introducing: The Art of Relevance

Kid-tested, nonprofit-approved.
It's official. My new book, The Art of Relevance, is now available and ready to move from my computer to your hands.

I suggest at this point that you stop reading this post and go buy it. Right now.

Not convinced? Here's more about the book and what you can expect.

WHY I WROTE IT

I've been simultaneously energized and mystified by how often the word "relevance" comes up in the nonprofit world. Is it a fad? A core value? A revelation?

My institution has been waving the flag of relevance for years now. Relevance is one of our five engagement goals. We put a lot of work into developing ways to expand local relevance--to make meaningful connections with diverse people in our community. And yet, the more convinced I became about the value of relevance, the more unsure I was of what it actually means. I wanted to get beyond the buzzword. I wanted to learn more.

Last summer, a powerful encounter with two 130-year-old surfboards spurred me from curiosity to action. I dove into research and talked to dozens of people doing inspiring, surprising work around the world. I worked feverishly to translate their stories into a tight, poetic, enjoyable, useful form. The result is this book.

WHAT'S IN IT

The Art of Relevance is about how mission-based institutions can matter more to more people. By "mission-based institutions," I mean museums, libraries, theaters, parks, churches, synagogues, afterschool programs, informal science programs, zoos, aquaria, symphonies, historic sites, dance companies... all these and more are featured as case studies.

The Art of Relevance is not a how-to. It is not a definitive guide. It is the field notes from the quest I've been on for the past year to understand relevance and its ability to open new doors for new people to powerful, big, valuable experiences.

The book is separated into five sections:
  • What is Relevance? - definitions, delusions, and reality checks on what relevance can and cannot do
  • Outside In - exploring the different expectations and interests of insiders, who already love what you do, and outsiders, who are excluded or unaware of the value you offer
  • Relevance and Community - getting to a clearer definition of who you want to be relevant to and what they value and desire
  • Relevance and Mission - using your institutional mission as the foundation for making more meaningful connections with your community of interest
  • The Heart of Relevance - measuring relevance at the front door and at deeper levels of connection
The chapters are short, the stories are punchy, and there's a central metaphor that ties it all together. While the book focuses on institutional relevance, there are a lot of personal stories in the book too, and early reviewers commented on how much they found themselves reflecting on their lives as well as their work as they read the draft.

YOU MADE THIS POSSIBLE

Almost a year ago, I took a risk. I ended my 8+ year streak of blogging at least once a week. I did it to free myself to be able to spend time on more speculative or ambitious writing projects--projects like this book.

I am continually grateful to all of you who read, share, and comment on this blog. Whether you've been with me since 2006 or are just getting connected now, you've inspired me, motivated me, and shaped my thinking and work. I was incredibly nervous when I stopped blogging weekly last year that it would mean a slow fade away from writing and reflective practice. But you gave me that permission, and it opened up a whole book full of exploration I didn't know was inside me. You gave me the roadmap to write this book.

I hope you will read The Art of Relevance. I hope you'll like it. I hope you'll recommend it to others. I hope you'll tell me what you love and where we disagree and how these thoughts could be pushed further. Most of all, I hope you will continue to inspire, mentor, and motivate me in my work. Thank you for constantly doing the work of relevance by unlocking new meaning for me and for each other.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Art of Relevance Sneak Peek: How the London Science Museum Became More Relevant to Deaf Families

This month, I'm sharing a few chapters from my new book The Art of Relevance in advance of its release. I wrote this book because of a fundamental curiosity about what relevance is and how it works. Here's one of my favorite stories about the London Science Museum and their work to make their science shows relevant to families with deaf or hearing-impaired family members. 

This chapter appears midway through the book. The Art of Relevance has a central metaphor that relevance is a key that unlocks the door to meaningful experiences (which live in a room). To get into this chapter, imagine that your institution/program/art is a room. There are doors through which people enter your room. This chapter explores the difference between connecting with new people by building new doors vs. connecting with new people by changing the content of the room.


Build a Door or Change the Room?


Once you understand your community of interest, you have a choice. You can build relevance by constructing new doors. Or you can change the programming within the room itself. Or both.

How can you decide when to build new doors, when to change the room, and when to do both?

Building new doors is a form of marketing. When you build a new door, you invite someone new into a pre-existing room. This strategy is successful when you have an existing room with a compelling experience and a credible sense that that experience will be relevant to your audience of interest. Remember New World Symphony, the Miami orchestra that used night club marketing techniques to attract young urbanites to classical music? Or the promotores at the Waukegan Public Library sharing their offerings with Latino immigrants? They are in the door-building business. Building new doors, wider doors, or doors that are open different hours of the day works when you think you have the right programming to offer your community of interest—you just need to find them and invite them into the room in a welcoming manner.

Changing the room means changing programming. If you think the experience you have to offer will be challenging, confounding, or off-putting for your audience of interest, you can’t just build them a door and hope for the best. You are going to have to change what you actually offer to make it relevant, as opposed to just changing how you market it. Think of the Subjects to Change teen program, or the free lunches at the Cleveland Public Library. These new programs fundamentally altered their institution’s offerings. When communities of interest avoid your programming regardless of your marketing investments, you need to change the room. If people attend once and don’t come back, it’s probably a problem with the experience and not the marketing.

It’s not always easy to make these distinctions in the real world. There are many times when we need to change the room but focus only on the door—or we embark on a room renovation and ignore the fact that the existing door doesn’t give people a sense of what has changed inside.

Imagine two institutions in an ethnically-diverse city. Each decides to invest in providing content in English and Spanish as part of an effort to increase relevance to their communities. Institution A makes all its marketing materials bilingual, but changes nothing about the languages spoken inside its walls. Institution B recruits new Spanish-speaking staff to offer programs in both languages, but makes no changes to its monolingual marketing materials.

A is working the door. B is shifting the room. Each has made remarkable strides towards their goal, but each is limited by how far they’ve gone. Will Spanish-speaking outsiders walk into A expecting experiences en espanol and walk out disappointed? Will outsiders ignore B’s programming entirely, not knowing it is para ellos?

The obvious answer is that you need both A and B. Many times, we find that we need both new doors and changed rooms, but we don’t know how to sequence them for the greatest impact.

That’s what happened at the London Science Museum as they worked to make their science shows relevant to deaf audiences. The museum’s science shows are family-oriented presentations by high-energy performers, full of surprising experiments and explosions. Museum staff knew the shows appealed to diverse families, and they wanted to reach deaf families in particular. So they started with a new door and a slight shift to the room. They marketed the shows to deaf families at the door, and provided a sign language interpreter at the presentations in the room.

The new door and shifted room were a start, but they weren’t enough. Only a handful of deaf families walked in the door, and what they got wasn’t satisfying. The marketing and the changes to the science shows weren’t working. For hearing audiences, the high energy of the presenter, combined with the visual and audial bangs of the experiments, made for an exciting show. But for deaf audiences, the experience was frustrating. The sign language interpreter was off to the side, far from the scientific action. That placement made it hard for deaf people to both see the fiery displays and follow the interpreter’s information. The interpreter was not a high-enthusiasm actor like the presenter, which dampened the overall energy of the experience. And any loud audial bangs were either completely inaudible, or in some cases, distressing, for people who were deaf and hard of hearing.

The Museum had made a real commitment to deaf families, and they wanted to get it right. They decided to try again. They took a step back and asked deaf families to help them. The Museum recruited deaf families to come in, and they did some special pilot shows for deaf families only. Hearing staff members couldn’t identify the issues that made the shows unappealing for deaf families—but deaf people could. The focus groups helped the Museum understand the need for sign language performers, not just interpreters. They helped the Museum consider the varied needs of their families, which often included both hearing and hearing-impaired family members. They helped the Museum understand that word of mouth was the most important form of marketing in their tight-knit community, and that that community wanted more opportunities to get together socially. The families gave loads of feedback, which prompted the Museum to change their approach.

The Museum moved away from the idea of sign language interpretation as an amenity to layer onto individual science shows. Instead, staff created a monthly Saturday afternoon event called SIGNtific, geared specifically to deaf families but inclusive of all. At the door, SIGNtific days are not solely about science programming. They are about deaf-led community experiences with science. SIGNtific’s new door is more relevant to deaf families and their expressed interests.

And then inside the room, they changed the shows. Instead of offering sign language interpretation as an add-on, SIGNtific shows flip the roles of presenter and interpreter. The presenters up front doing the experiments are deaf performers, supplemented by off-stage performers who provide voiceovers for hearing guests. While having sign language interpreters off to the side was a barrier to comprehension, voiceover interpretation causes no such problems. Hearing audience members can fully participate in the shows, watching the deaf performers onstage and listening to voiceover interpretation. Furthermore, the staff designed SIGNtific shows to ensure that audible bangs or noises are not essential to the scientific concepts conveyed. Which means the whole family—and anyone else who happens to visit the museum on SIGNtific days—can have a relevant, enjoyable experience with the science shows.

The Science Museum didn’t need to have a brilliant sense of the needs of deaf families to become relevant to them. They just had to be open to feedback and guidance from their new audience. They learned from their community of interest. They fixed what was broken. They changed the door and the room.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Art of Relevance Sneak Peek: What IS Relevance?

This month, I'm sharing a few chapters from my new book The Art of Relevance in advance of its release. I wrote this book because of a fundamental curiosity about what relevance is and how it works. Here's the second chapter of the book, which answers a basic question: what IS relevance? Who are the experts who study it, and how do they define it? 

Note: this chapter is slightly edited to make sense in standalone form.

Meaning, Effort, Bacon

In pop culture-land, relevance is all about now. Who's hot. What's trending.

But if you’re like me, that definition is deeply unsatisfying. And the experts are on our side. Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber are cognitive scientists and leading theorists in the study of relevance. Their definition of relevance is more complex--and useful--than simply what’s hot.

Deirdre and Dan study how we transmit and receive information, mostly through speech. They argue that there are two criteria that make information relevant:
  1. How likely that new information is to stimulate a “positive cognitive effect”—to yield new conclusions that matter to you. 
  2. How much effort is required to obtain and absorb that new information. The lower the effort, the higher the relevance.
These criteria for relevance apply to both extraordinary and everyday experiences. Imagine you are considering going out to see a movie. You start seeking relevant information. You read a review that gets you excited about a particular film (a positive cognitive effect). You feel confident you’ll enjoy that movie. If it’s playing at convenient times at a theater nearby (low effort), you’re set. You buy a ticket.

But if the movie is not showing nearby (high effort), or the reviews you read are conflicting and full of muddled information (negative cognitive effect), you’re stuck. You don’t get the useful conclusions you seek. It takes too much effort to find the right key to the door. You stay home.

Fulfilling these two criteria well can make a huge difference in how people respond to information. I saw this in 2015, when the World Health Organization released a study showing that processed meats—like bacon, ham, and sausages—are among the top five most cancerous products, alongside established killers like cigarettes and asbestos.

When I first saw this news, I was nonplussed. My husband and I are vegetarians, and for years, we’ve been reading studies like this. Top international health organizations have claimed for decades that a meat-free diet is vital to human health (not to mention reducing climate change impact). Period.

I assumed this 2015 study would have the same impact as all the others. Vegetarians and vegans would pass them around. We’d hesitantly foist them on our meat-eating friends and family members, expecting a mixture of disinterest, disbelief, and derision. And then everyone would go back to eating what they eat, believing what they believe.

But the 2015 study was different. It blew up on Facebook. It spawned thousands of news pieces, not just on health and foodie sites, but also on news outlets high and low. National papers. Business pages. Tech magazines. Op-eds. Blogs. I walked into the dentist’s office a week after the study came out, and the hygienist who cleaned my teeth told me the story had inspired her and her teenage son to stop eating meat. Here I’d spent years fumbling to get people who love me to even discuss the impact of eating meat, and one press release had motivated her family to give it up entirely.

I was blown away. How could one study—showing exactly what many other prominent studies have shown—have so much impact?

Consider the 2015 study in the context of relevance theory. The study linked two things that mattered to Americans in 2015: bacon and cancer. These are both emotionally-loaded topics. As a nation, we love bacon and eat it whenever we can. We hate cancer and avoid it however we can.

When a study links something we love to something we hate, it yields a conclusion that matters to us. The first criterion for relevance is satisfied. The research creates a surprising new connection between two things we care about. The mouthwatering sizzle of bacon on a pan. The pain we felt when our aunt went through chemo. It’s impossible not to experience a “cognitive effect” when reading about it—whether it yields a conclusion of distress, resolve to change, or somewhere in between. The effect may not be “positive” in how it feels, but it is “positive” in that it adds information to the decisions at hand.

You could argue that any study about the health impacts of food is relevant to all of us. After all, we all eat. But that relevance is only meaningful if it yields a conclusion that matters to you. And if bacon suddenly tastes like the pain of your aunt dying of cancer… that matters.

Throw cigarettes into the story and you satisfy the second criterion for relevance. This study’s conclusions were easy to understand. It took very little effort to connect the dots between our past experiences as a nation with cigarettes and new implications about bacon. Americans used to love cigarettes, until we discovered they cause cancer. Now, for the most part, we hate cigarettes. Does this mean we will one day feel about bacon the way we feel about cigarettes? Will little kids throw away their parents’ processed meat, crying that they don’t want to see Daddy die?

I hope so. But I suspect that the effort required to act on these conclusions will be too great for many bacon-lovers. There may be people like my dental hygienist out there, making a big effort based on the conclusions she has made. But there will be others who accept the information (the positive cognitive effect) but not the effort required to act.

If we want our work to be relevant, we need to satisfy both criteria. We need to provide a positive cognitive effect, and we need to make it possible with minimal effort. How likely is someone to derive a positive cognitive effect from visiting your site? How much effort will it require for them to do so? If it’s easy to visit, and the experience yields value, your work is bound to be relevant. But if it’s difficult to visit, and the value of the experience is hard to describe, why would anybody care to try?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Unassuming Superheroes Wanted: Join The Art of Relevance Advocacy Team

My new book's coming, and I want you to be part of it.

I've spent the past year on a quest for relevance, diving deep into how organizations can matter more to more (and more diverse) people. The result is a new book, The Art of Relevance, coming out in a few weeks. I am truly thrilled to share this book with you. It's packed with practical theories, rags-to-relevance case studies, and inspiring stories from museums and libraries, theaters and parks, dance companies and orchestras, afterschool programs and activists, churches and synagogues. It's anchored in a clear, research-based definition of relevance that has changed the way I see the world and the way I approach community engagement.

The Art of Relevance will launch live and in-person on July 12 at the Arts Marketing Association conference in Edinburgh, and you'll be able to order it online soon. This month, I'll start sharing a few of the chapters as blog post sneak peeks.

But this post today isn't a book announcement. This post is for those of you who want to read the book... and then do a little bit more. This post is an invitation for those of you who want to help it come alive in your own community.

My last book, The Participatory Museum, did well. It has sold about 20,000 copies, and another 200,000 people have accessed the free online version. I believe The Art of Relevance can go further. It's a more accessible read for a broader audience. The challenge is getting it into organizations that might find it relevant and valuable in their work.

That's where you come in. I'm seeking a team of volunteer advocates for The Art of Relevance. The Art of Relevance Advocacy Team is a league of behind-the-scenes superheroes who will:
  • read the book 
  • review the book (on your blog, Amazon, Goodreads, or other publications)
  • help introduce the book to other people in your world (media, colleagues, online networks)
  • help set up book-related events and talks in your city 
Basically, what I'm asking is for you to consider joining an email list of people who are passionate about mattering more to more people in our respective communities.

You don't need any special talents, connections, or commitment level to join the list. I'll reach out to advocates as needed with various opportunities to help. Maybe you have a reporter friend who might be interested in covering it. Maybe your colleagues want to form a book club. Maybe you've got a sweet couch in Chicago or a killer venue in Dallas. Maybe you just want to read the book and write an Amazon review. You can join the list and never participate, or you can become a champion for relevance alongside me.

Writing a book is lonely. Publishing it is scary. Promoting it is mysterious and tiring. I'd love to have some compatriots to help The Art of Relevance shine. If you're up for it, you can sign up right now. If you can't see the form below, click here to sign up. Thanks for considering joining me on this path.


Join The Art of Relevance Advocacy Team / Superhero Network

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

10 Ways to Build a Better Community Brainstorming Meeting

You're planning a new exhibition. Considering a new strategic direction. Designing a new program. And you've decided that you want to integrate community feedback into the development process.

Awesome. Admirable. Now how the heck do you do it?

Here are ten things I've learned about making these kinds of community input meetings successful. Please add your own ideas in the comments too.

SELECTING AND RECRUITING THE PARTICIPANTS

1. Consider whether you want a bonded group (people who are like each other) or a bridged group (people who are different from each other). 

Bonded groups are useful if you want to understand people's existing attitudes and impressions. Focus group participants will be more forthcoming and honest if they feel like they are "among friends." Bonded groups exhibit groupthink--but sometimes that's the best way to really understand the concerns of a specific group of people. For example, when we held community meetings about the development of a new creative town square next to our museum, a group of middle/upper-class moms talked about not feeling safe downtown. When I've talked with those same folks in bridged groups, they use more circumspect language (i.e. not feeling "welcome") or don't mention their safety concerns at all. But those concerns are real. Not surprisingly, a different focus group of social service providers and homeless adults had a very different set of concerns about downtown. Bringing these different communities together in the same space might not have created safe space for the true issues of each group to emerge.

Bridged groups are useful if you want people to collaborate on a more inclusive vision of the future. If you are building something new and want people's ideas, go for bridging. When you are doing creative work together (making, building, brainstorming), it's catalytic to work with people who see things in a whole different way. In creative brainstorming, groupthink is a killer. The more diverse perspectives in the room, the better. We're much more capable of empathy when co-imagining the future than we are when thinking about the present.

2. Find trusted leaders in communities of interest with whom to partner and recruit participants.

Want to hold a meeting with people from worlds where you don't spend much time? Great. But if you have no credibility in someone else's community, your invitation may fall right into the trash can. Better to establish a relationship with a leader in their community--someone with whom you are building reciprocal value--and ask them to help be your ambassador. It doesn't matter what incentives you offer to participate or how attractive the invitation is if the recipient doesn't know or trust you as a host.

3. Respect and value people's time. 

If you're asking for community input, what are you offering in return? This could be financial; some organizations pay people to participate in community meetings. But it could also be something else that demonstrates appreciation and value. Snacks. Child care. Networking opportunities. Free tickets. You should have a credible and understandable offer, alongside your ask of their time, experience, and expertise.

4. Overcommunicate.

I use a simple rule of contacting participants the week before, the day before, and the day after a meeting. Communication should be clear and motivating. Especially if you don't meet with these people frequently, you can't remind them enough. You also can't thank them/follow up quickly enough.


SETTING UP THE MEETING

5. Create a structure that values peoples' participation. 

There are a million ways to run a community meeting--different depending on what you are trying to achieve. The best book I've read on the topic is Facilitators Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner. It's an incredible compendium of specific meeting formats for different kinds of participant engagement.

In general, I find it is useful to:
  • Honor everyone's contributions and ability to contribute at the top. 
  • Include a mix of individual activities (often writing or drawing), partner/small group work, and whole group discussion. Different people thrive in different levels of social intensity. I recommend spending as little time together as a whole group as possible because it can be intimidating and unproductively slow. Spend just enough time as a whole group to get people motivated and connected to each other (and reconnected at the end).
  • Ensure that you as convenor are talking for a very small amount of the time--ideally just to frame, contextualize, provide clear instructions, and keep people moving.
  • Build on their existing expertise/experience/perspective as opposed to asking them to comment on yours. Participants' stories are often more valuable than their opinions. 
  • Use unorthodox activities to inspire fresh thinking. Movement, making, and imaginative projects are all good for shaking new ideas loose. We use the Pop Up Museum--inviting small groups to build artifacts from the future--in many of our community meetings.
  • Close with a rallying activity, ideally one that invites people to continue conversations with each other.
6. Be honest and clear about the opportunity at hand. 

Share where you are clearly and concisely. Explain the opportunity to participate and what is and isn't on the table, so people don't get frustrated. Don't overpromise.

7. Provide snacks and drinks and a bit of time at the top to enjoy them. 

A little socializing and sugar can go a long way. We almost always use nametags with a playful prompt on them ("what superhero would you be?," "what's your favorite local place to relax?" etc.) to get the conversation started.

8. Inspire people to stay involved.

There's a big difference between a meeting that feels like a chore and one that generates energy. When participants get excited by the experience--whether because of the content, the other people in the room, the format, the invitation--they are more likely to seek opportunities to go further. Note that for most participants, the content is NOT the most important part of this calculation. Good content cannot succeed if delivered poorly, or in a group context that feels dull or unsafe. But ambiguous content in a room full of enthused people doing fun activities can thrive.


AFTER THE MEETING

9. Follow up.

If the meeting was successful, you now have a whole crew of people who are interested and rooting for your project to shine. While you don't have to continue the level of engagement present at the meeting, it's poor form to drop them entirely. At my institution, we (embarrassingly) did this for a long time. People would come participate in a meeting and then we wouldn't even add them to the weekly mailing list. Part of this is rooted in a legitimate desire not to spam people. But imagine how you would feel if you were invited to someone's house once and never again. You'd assume that something hadn't gone well. We're now inviting participants to get more involved--both broadly in the world of our organization and specifically in activities that build on their experience and expertise.

Followup is important on the individual level too. Most community meetings are short. Catalytic. You hear an intriguing 20-second snippet. You see someone light up at something you didn't expect. Most of the value you will get from participants comes when you follow up to say, "hey, I'd love to hear more about X. Can I buy you a cup of coffee and hear more?"

10. Use their input.

This is the most important part. It's why you held the meeting, right?

The worst way to disrespect participants is to ignore the advice, experience, and expertise that you asked them to provide. You don't need to involve them in every step forward of the project. But you should use their input to guide and shape where you take it. You should--bonus points--reach out to individuals to acknowledge how they influenced your direction. You should--double bonus points--let the whole crew know where their input took the project. But most of all, you should use the input. Community meetings should never be a "check the box" activity. They're too much work--and offer too much value--to tokenize.


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Friday, May 06, 2016

Year Five as a Museum Director: Good to Grow

Five years ago, I left the consulting world to take the helm at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) at a time of crisis and change. We went through a dramatic turnaround. We started bootstrapping growth. Now, we're on the doorstep of a major expansion. It's exciting and tiring and rewarding as ever.

As I did at the one-year and three-year mark, here are some of the things I'm most proud of, mistakes I've made, and questions on my mind as we head into the next five years.

THINGS I'M PROUD OF:
  • Building a rigorous strategic framework under our creative, community-based work. In my first few years, it was all about getting the programming moving, experimenting, and exploring the possibilities with our community. Three years ago, we decided to put in the work to create foundational documents--a new mission statement, values, engagement goals, survey methodology, and most importantly, a theory of change--to ground our work in shared language and priorities. The theory of change has been invaluable as a "playbook" that we use to guide programming decisions, evaluation protocols, and marketing messages about our impact. We're finally able to systematically make data-driven decisions, rooted in a shared understanding of our intended outcomes and impact... and it feels amazing. 
  • Leading a successful capital campaign for an expansion that will fundamentally change our organization. We have spent the past three years planning and raising money for a project to build a creative town square for our city on the front porch of the museum. Abbott Square will include free outdoor public seating, a public food market, and several areas for free art and cultural activities. I'm excited about Abbott Square for a million reasons, but I'm PROUD that our supporters and our board especially embraced the idea that growth means going beyond our walls and bringing art and history to the streets. 
  • Working with amazing colleagues, trustees, and community partners to make our institution more inclusive. My first few years, we focused on increasing attendance. Over the past two years, we've focused instead on how we can ensure that people of all walks of life in our community feel welcomed and included at the MAH. We're investing in cultural competency and board and staff development. Learning more about the specific cultural assets and needs of underrepresented groups in our community. Inviting those groups into partnership and leadership in our programming, exhibitions, staff & volunteer team, and institutional decision-making. Tracking and adapting to our successes and failures. We see the change happening--our visitors are now representative of the age and income diversity of the County, and we've made significant advances in terms of ethnic/racial diversity. We still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. But we are on the path. 
  • Going big with our board and community partners. For the first couple years at the MAH, I honestly didn't understand how valuable a board can be. I understood their basic responsibilities, but I didn't understand the possibilities of how they could contribute. That has changed. The more ambitious we've become as an organization, the more I value the ways board members' experience and expertise extends our capabilities. I turn to trustees to help make tough decisions. I depend on them to push us further. The same is true of our community partners. We've increased the diversity and depth of ways that creative collaborators help guide our work. The bigger our goals, the more important it is that we learn how to identify and recruit talented partners, volunteers, and supporters, and engage them to their maximum potential.

MISTAKES I MADE:
  • Not communicating clarity as often as I should. I'm someone who is more comfortable communicating energy than clarity. My base personality is a cheerleader waving pom poms in multiple directions. A lot of my missteps with colleagues over the past couple years--ones that sent people in the wrong direction, sowed confusion, or exhausted people--were due to my lack of discipline about staying on message. I've learned that I have to stick to the same cheer--and share it with others--longer and with more consistency than is my inclination. The more clarity I provide as the leader, the more everyone can move forward together with confidence.
  • Resisting change that worked for others but not for me. As the MAH grew, colleagues started asking for more structure: clearer lines of reporting, more consistent processes, job descriptions that didn't change every few months. I stressed out over these changes, worrying that they would introduce bureaucratic creep to a nimble, creative organization. I now believe that these concerns were mostly my own personal fears. I bridle under too much structure. I like change. But what works for me personally is not necessarily what is best for our organization. I had to learn--slowly--not to force my personal values onto reasonable needs of our institution. I had to learn that I still belonged at the organization as it matured, and that as its director, I needed to adopt some approaches and procedures that don't come naturally to me. It's easy as the boss to mold everything in your image. It's also really stupid. I'm learning that.
  • Not understanding the full costs of a capital campaign. I thought we did a decent job setting up our campaign to cover associated staff costs along with capital costs. But now that the campaign is at its end and Abbott Square is under construction, it's clear that we have to make additional investments to meet the opportunity that this expansion affords us. While I thought a lot at the start about how we would fund the ongoing costs of operating the new town square, I didn't think enough about how that new town square would require changes to our "base" museum operation.

QUESTIONS ON MY MIND:
  • How can we intertwine community engagement and fundraising? We involve many diverse, creative, community-loving people in our work as programmatic partners and donors. The thing is, we usually separate the two groups. If you volunteer your talents to an exhibition or program, you live in community engagement-land. If you donate money, you live in fundraising-land. We're now recruiting a leader for a new department of Development and Community Relations with a goal of bringing all these talented, valuable partners together in one community of support. I'm curious and hopeful as to what kind of positive change this can create. (And if this sounds like your kind of challenge, please apply for the job!)
  • What field are we in? Over the past few years, I've shifted from spending most of my professional learning time with museum folk to spending it with people who are involved in public service and community activism--some in the arts, some not. Around the MAH office, we often struggle to figure out what conferences will be most valuable and what professional alliances to build. We seek to build a stronger, more connected community through art and history. I'm not sure how to most usefully characterize this work--community development? creative placemaking?--and how all of us those of us doing this work around the world can best ally to learn, share, advocate, and grow together.   
Thank you for continuing to be part of this journey through your comments, questions, critiques, and support as part of my professional community. I learn so much through writing and engaging with you.

If you are reading this via email and would like to share a comment or question, you can join the conversation here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Advocacy Policy, Part Two - And Why Now is an Especially Good Time to Create One

A few months ago, the MAH board and staff started discussing whether and how to create a formal policy for advocacy activities. I blogged about it, and you offered several good pointers on what should be considered in constructing it. Now, we've created one (unanimously approved by the board), and I wanted to share it with you and the process behind it.

Want to go straight to the policy?

Here it is.

Why create an advocacy policy?

In our case, it started when we were asked to sign onto a local petition to save a community garden under threat. We realized that we needed a systematic way to evaluate these kinds of requests--a tool that would help us evaluate when to say yes and why to say no.

Regardless of your institutional mission, nonprofits are all in the advocacy business. We champion causes through the partnerships we build, the programs we offer, and the stories we tell. While most nonprofits regularly advocate for our own institutions and/or sector, I think it's just as important to advocate for the interests of the communities in which we serve.

If you've been considering this for awhile, now is the time to act. Everyone is going to the ballot this year in the United States. Our museum has already had several requests to lend our support to bond measures that will be on the ballot in 2016. While 501c3 nonprofits cannot endorse candidates, it is completely kosher to endorse bond measures, propositions, and other ballot measures. If you want to be engaged in 2016 ballot measures relevant to your institution or community, now is a great time to develop a policy for how and when to do so.


How did we create it?

A small team of trustees and staff members worked together on our advocacy policy. We reviewed a handful of existing policies from other institutions (local and national, museums and not), discussed their attributes, and started drafting/stealing/reworking with a Google doc. We only met once in person. It was especially valuable to have activists, retired government employees, and social service leaders on the team; they brought helpful perspectives on what advocacy means beyond a cultural context.

The policy our board approved is intentionally broad. We wanted enough of a foundation to ground our advocacy without prescribing it. We wanted enough of a process to provide clarity and structure without too many hoops. We wanted it to make "yes" possible but "no" completely reasonable as well.

Any surprises?

One of the biggest "aha" moments I had in the development of the policy is that our museum was already doing advocacy in a variety of ways before we had a policy. We educate the public on local issues. We invite people from community organizations and campaigns to use the museum as a platform to share their message. We partner with thousands of artists and organizations, providing staff support and engagement in their work. We incubate a youth art and social change program. We host community festivals like the recent Artivism event that showcase local changemakers. We've made changes to our museum--bilingual signage, all-gender restrooms--to be better advocates for the diverse visitors who walk through our doors.

Though we started working on the policy specifically to address situations when we are asked by an outside group for formal endorsement, we realized as we dove in that we should also use this opportunity to contextualize endorsements as just one of many advocacy tools at our disposal. Advocacy is not just for executives and boards of trustees. The result is a broad policy that empowers our whole team to think about our roles as advocates for our community in the work we do.


I know our policy is not perfect. We're just starting to use it to evaluate endorsement requests coming our way, and I imagine we'll find some ways we want to clarify or change what we've written. But I wanted to share it with you: in appreciation of your role in its development, in curiosity as to your response, and in hopes it might inspire you to draft your own.

Because no matter the content, I heartily advocate for such policies to exist.


If you are reading this via email and would like to share a comment or question, you can join the conversation here.