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

Reminder: Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day to register for our summer/fall season in the Museums As Progress Community.

Join The MAP Community — Museums As Progress

ICYMI: We hosted two Writer Roundtables for Rosie Siemer this month. We had a fantastic group and the discussions were fascinating… So, we're going to be continuing those meetups in MAP. Rosie and I have discussed it as a monthly-ish meetups on Membership Innovation. I'll be issuing a poll to find a time/date that works for those who are interested next week in the community website. If you'd like to participate, you're welcome to join MAP.

Now, on to today's letter.

Over the weekend, I got together with six MAP Community members to submit a proposal for MCN's fall conference. Our proposal is a How-To session that shares some of what we learned about Listening this spring in the MAP Community.

I see the proposal as a kind of milestone for the community — an example of collective action that reflects a vision for the community. It's one thing to have a vision, it's another to rally a group to act in a way that instantiates that vision.

In other words, the proposal feels noteworthy because we:

  1. identified a theme — Listening — that supports our community's purpose (inclusion and innovation in museums),
  2. focused on that theme, and then
  3. created a Thing we can share with the world that reinforces what we learned and can add value to the people who consume or participate in the Thing.

Rinse and repeat.

Now, I'm not sure my co-presenters view our proposal in these terms.

  • Me: "We've started a movement that will change the future of the cultural sector forever."
  • Co-presenters: "We submitted a conference proposal."

But our collaboration got me thinking about what we have in common. That is, who are these people who have come together over a summer weekend to draft a proposal about how museums professionals can become better listeners?

What do these people have in common? How can I invite more people like them into the community? How can the community better support their goals?…

You may have asked similar questions about the people your organization supports.

Let's frame it a little differently: Who is your ideal [visitor, member, supporter, etc]?

(You might be thinking, "There's no such thing!" Let's leave aside whether that's true and just view this as a… thought experiment. If it helps, you can narrow your focus to a particular program or exhibit — Who is it for? How does that person behave, think, and feel? And, conversely, who is it not for?)

This is hard because we can't read the label from inside the jar. We're too close to our work, so what may seem like a simple, even obvious, question to others is a conundrum for us.

Drawing of a person squinting at a police lineup. There is one person in the linup and the others are all random stacks of objects that look nothing like a person.
Image: Ed Steed

Let's try it — together

Set aside some time (10 minutes or 10 hours) to answer the question: Who is our ideal [x] for [y]?

Play with the variables however you like:

  • x = visitor, member, volunteer…
  • y = Virtual Brown Bag Lecture Series; Yoga and Art in the Garden Program; Science Inquiry Center…

Let's make this a group exercise!

Visit this Mural canvas and claim a section by filling out the variables you see and adding stickies that describe how your ideal x thinks, feels, acts, and what they believe. (I should probably say that you're really describing how you think your ideal x thinks, feels, etc, but maybe we can talk about that next week.)

You: How doy they think, feel, believe… about what?

Me: What do they think, feel, believe, and how do they act with regard to their purpose in participating in your [y].

You: But how do we know what their 'purpose' is in participating in our [program, exhibit, fundraiser, etc.]?

Me: Yes.

Now, let's try it — You can do this on your own or use the mural I made for you: https://app.mural.co/invitation/mural/superhelpful8036/1624973153157?sender=hello6845&key=17d7baea-5b72-4300-bd1f-ecea2bd7ca25

I'll claim a section and try to complete this exercise as well, thinking about MAP Community participants.

As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts, or leave a comment on this post.


P.S. Steve Boyd-Smith has asked a similar question to the one I'm posing today in a previous newsletter. If you missed it, you can read his post here.


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