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The Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Our Museum programme reflects our belief that museums and galleries should work in active partnership with their communities. This requires an organisation-wide approach, which
involves lots of changes across the service.
Initial research concluded that many museums and galleries currently bolt on short–term community projects to their other work. This does not result in genuine participation and means they are vulnerable to cuts in project funding.
As part of the Our Museum Initiative, several museums and galleries experimented in deeper partnerships and different aspects of organisational change.
This website is a collection of the learning and thinking from our initiative and beyond.
We hope they inspire conversation and action and encourage each of us to consider what our role could be.
Participation can be a confusing term. In relation to community engagement, it means more than simply taking part. It is a way of working in partnership with people outside the organisation to get a better outcome. Genuine participation involves sharing decision-making and power; acting and creating together; or supporting community-led initiatives.
Participatory methodologies are not new; they have been developed by practitioners and analysed by academics for decades. Although participation might feel like a relatively new idea for museums and galleries, it’s well-established in lots of sectors including regeneration, health, and international development.
We hope these resources will also challenge some common perceptions about participation. For example, participation need not hinder financial growth; working with individual, targeted communities is not enough on its own; and bolted-on outreach projects do not amount to substantial participation.
These resources are a sort of ‘travel survival kit’, a guide to help organisations on their change journey, to become more participatory and build active partnerships with their communities.
Please download, show and share widely. Perhaps they will provoke discussion and inspire new ways of working across the sector?
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