A newsletter on progress-space research and audience development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

I’ve been getting a number of “top ten posts of 2020” newsletters lately.

Some of them are really good — If you’re connected with the author’s thinking and you have some shared values, they can be a kind of overview of the year. In that case, a top-ten list is kind of a “here’s what was important to you this year” or “here’s what you might want to hold onto and not forget”. That’s valuable.

But other top-ten emails can feel like listicles of listicles.

And when the number one article on that top listicle list is an article about “What will make guests feel safe attending?”, you may feel a bit dejected. After all, you spent the year asking organizations to stop gambling; to shed their armor; to ignore phrenologists; to leave the casino behind once and for all.

It’s discouraging to find that, despite your best efforts, wishful thinking was what sold this year.

But every Sherlock needs a Moriarty. You pick yourself up, and you get ready for round 2021.

gif of a boxer circling the ring
See you in the new year, IMPACTS.

All that to say, I’ve been tempted to write a top-ten letter, but then you all can go visit the top posts list for this newsletter anytime. Substack’s algorithm isn’t perfect, but it’ll do.

And then who wants to look back at the top anything of 2020?

It’s like subscribing to “Sixth Century BC Today” and getting a tablet delivered to your local temple titled “Top Crucifixions of 599”.

So, let’s let 2020 be 2020, and think about what’s to come.

Here are some things I’m thinking about for the new year.

A Rough 2021 Roadmap

Let’s focus on two things — SuperHelpful Letters and The Museums-As-Progress Community — because these are the two things that will be most relevant to more of you.

SuperHelpful Letters

In 2021, I want to bring in more guest writers for you all.

Remember when you used to go to parties and strike up conversations with people?

Maybe you were good at that — I never was — either way, imagine walking up to someone at a party and saying, “Hey, here’s a piece of paper, write a few hundred words about the thing that’s most important to you in this world.” And then the other person actually does it like that’s totally normal.

That’s what it’s like to have guest writers for a newsletter. You get to connect with other people about the things that matter to them without a bunch of small talk. For someone like me, that’s a drug. You understand what it’s like to be a vampire because you sip from the shared google doc before you close the coffin at night.

So, more of that in 2021.

This past year, guest writers have joined SuperHelpful Letters on an invitation-basis, but if you’re reading this and you have something you’d like to share with readers of this newsletter, please reply to this email, and we can talk about what you have in mind. If you have a spark in mind, we can likely build a fire.

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A newsletter on audience research and development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, “sometimes funny”

Beyond that, I’d like this newsletter to be a first stop for new writers. That is, I'd like guest writers to graduate from the newsletter, if they want to, and become guest speakers, group leaders, or instructors in The MAP Community.

The Museums-As-Progress (MAP) Community

If you're new here, The MAP Community is a private community for museum folks who want to create more equitable and innovative organizations. The MAP Community came about because:

  • I was supposed to lead a workshop on audience engagement at the Museum Leadership Institute last spring, which got canceled because of Covid. That got me thinking about how I might collaborate with others to make shared learning experiences more accessible (no travel, less cost, etc),
  • I began hosting roundtables online with guest writers and readers of this newsletter on the interwebs, and (maybe most importantly)
  • I wanted to find a way to make problem-space research more accessible to cultural organizations.

In 2021, I’m hoping to:

  • create a more deliberate connection between the expertise of guest newsletter writers and the goals of people within The MAP Community — So, what writers share in the newsletter can be fleshed out within the community in a more intimate way,
  • establish the community as a place for continuous learning. (Can we please abandon this idea of annual conferences?), and
  • build a small army to help me in my war against Moriarty
illustration of a swimming pool with various levels of participation for community members, guest authors, and orgs
2021 Roadmap Swimming Pool

Thanks for reading,



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