Celebrating 50 Years: Advancing Transformation & Innovation in Museums

January 2016

Since its founding in 1967, MCN has welcomed thousands of passionate museum professionals who come together to understand how digital technologies can help transform the business and the experience of museums. As we explore and share our successes and failures, we develop lasting relationships with each other and create this community we call MCN.

In just under fifty years, MCN has grown from fifteen New York City museums to a global community. We have changed course several times, from being an informal user group building a custom registration software for members, to an international community of museum professionals sharing their knowledge expertise and insights. MCN recognizes that change is a constant aspect of our professional worlds: it is also part of MCN’s world, and MCN in turn must respond to that change.

As we reach the fiftieth anniversary of this community, we are facing important questions about the future of MCN. How do we best serve our growing community? How do we remain relevant in an ever-changing and competitive environment? How do we attract and develop future leaders and volunteers? And how do we ensure the organization’s sustainability?

To respond to these question, we developed a revised mission statement and five key strategic priorities to focus and frame decision-making and priority-setting from 2016 through 2018.

“MCN is a welcoming and candid community of professionals passionate about empowering museums to address challenges and embrace opportunities within the evolving digital landscape.”
MCN Mission Statement, revised September 2015


Strategic Priorities:

 

1. Maximize the face-to-face experience of the annual conference

We will continue to evolve the annual conference so as to ensure it consistently meets and exceeds the knowledge sharing and community building needs of an international community of museum professionals as they develop and change. MCN’s approach to the positioning, structure and programing of the annual conference must capture the passion and willingness to experiment that is essential to the identity of the MCN community, and the MCN community must be engaged in that process.

We plan to explore opportunities to grow the conference as a community-focused meetup for high-energy, conversation-driven learning about the challenges and opportunities for museums within the evolving digital landscape. Through this process MCN will explore multiple aspects of the event including program, community involvement, size, enrollment, registration fees, sponsorship, marketing and venue. We will also ensure that the resources are in place to deliver an Annual Conference in 2017 that suitably celebrates MCN’s Fiftieth Anniversary.

Success criteria:

  • To have increased, deepened and formalized opportunities for community, and in particular SIG, involvement in the planning and delivery of the annual conference.
  • To have increased loyalty to the annual conference through distinctive programming and professional development opportunities which meet the needs of the community.
  • To have consistently provided high-quality and usable content to the community through the annual conference.
  • To have delivered a 2017 annual conference that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of MCN and is the standout event for our community in that year (or decade!).
 

2. Formalize the leadership and career-building opportunities offered by MCN

As a professional support organization, MCN will strengthen its community by providing pathways and opportunities for leadership development and career building within MCN. MCN offers numerous opportunities for the community to develop new skills within the organization itself: speaking at the conference, serving as a SIG Chair or active SIG member, or contributing to an MCN committee are just a few examples.

Through the evolution of the Annual Conference we will also look to better accommodate professionals at different stages in their careers (for example, by having an Executive Track), and we will determine more precisely how MCN can best facilitate informal and formal mentoring relationships.

Success criteria:

  • To have clearly articulated the professional development opportunities within MCN on an ongoing basis.
  • To have raised the profile and status of SIGs as focused, year-round professional development and networking groups.
  • To have increased community (non-Board) participation in MCN programming and operation.
  • To have built relationships with museum courses in Colleges and Universities that increase student participation in the MCN community.
 

3. Build strategic partnerships

As contexts for professional support and community become more competitive, and the expectations regarding vendor relationships evolve, MCN must develop strategic partnerships and alliances that are mutually beneficial and build MCN’s presence and sustainability in the overall museum community.

In a “post-digital world” where technology is infused into every aspect of museum operations, MCN is positioned to be the digital thought-leader within the larger museum field. These new initiatives and approaches are necessary for MCN’s long-term sustainability via its audience and its funding streams. They will promote MCN’s brand by establishing MCN as thought-leaders in the broader museum community, they will deepen our relationships with vendors, and they will seek to be year-long conversations.

Success criteria:

  • To have established multi-year strategic partnerships with vendors based on long-term mutual value, and to have diversified sponsorship models to include year-round support for MCN community engagement and on-going initiatives.
  • To have established relationships with relevant funding bodies, defined funding opportunities for MCN, and (if relevant) secured funding for a particular MCN program.
  • To have built relationships with museum courses in Colleges and Universities that increase student participation in the MCN community.
  • To have positioned MCN as the “museum technology” partner for other communities of museum professionals.
 

4. Improve governance and operations

In order to realize this plan’s strategic promise, MCN must strengthen our governance and operational effectiveness. Recognizing the current limits of MCN’s organizational capacity, in 2015 the Board changed how Directors are appointed to the Board. This will maximize strategic opportunities and ensure that MCN uses its Directors’ knowledge, skills, and expertise to full effect.

This change will help Directors to take ownership of key areas of activity and develop more strategic, long-term, sustainable thinking and planning to support how we run the organization. We will also implement a self-review process for each Director to ensure that she or remains continually committed and engaged with the organization, focused on their responsibilities, is working in the right areas of activity that match her or his expertise and skills, and is on track with this plan’s objectives and goals, as well as to determine whether it is necessary to suggest changes or course correction in any of these activities.

As of November 2015, oversight of MCN’s Governance and Operations was assigned to the Vice President. Working closely with the Executive Director, this will enable the Vice President to better understand how to manage the opportunities, challenges and limits of the organization ahead of their appointment as President.

We are a volunteer organization with finite resources. Scaling our ambitions to meet our capacity, while growing that capacity, is critical to our continued success.

Success criteria:

  • For every Board Member to understand their role, the decision making process, and how any particular decision was made.
  • For every Board Member to be giving a measurable contribution to the organization each year
  • For decision making to be based on a documented strategic plan.
  • For the Board to be exercising fiscal responsibility, both protecting the MCN from financial risks and, when appropriate, investing in MCN’s growth.
 

5. Integrate Systems Infrastructure and Improve Digital Presence

Historically, MCN’s approach to selecting and maintaining core business systems has been fragmented and siloed, and it often has led to outcomes not aligned with our strategic objectives. Combined with a lack of resources to adequately support infrastructure, this often has resulted in selecting inadequate or unsustainable systems and struggling with a lack of integration, poor user experience, and cost overruns.

In three years’ time, MCN needs to have a fully functional set of integrated business systems that provide opportunities for our community members to connect with each other and to spotlight trends, communicate, and share resources, as well as one that supports MCN’s business activities.

Success criteria:

  • To have and maintain clearly defined user needs and requirements for our core systems.
  • To have core systems that meet the needs of the users.
 

For the next three years, these Strategic Priorities will guide us as we nurture and encourage the work and aspirations of our community of dreamers and big thinkers, while remaining firmly committed to the continued sustainability and success of MCN. In doing so, we hope to secure a strong platform from which to build MCN’s legacy for the next fifty years.

Loic Tallon, MCN Board President
On behalf of the MCN Board of Directors