MCN’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, & Inclusion

 

Post by MCN Board Member, Desi Gonzalez

MCN 2017 keynote crowd photo with Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion overlaid text.

One of the things I’ve found to be special about the MCN community is that it’s made up of people who are genuinely interested in building inclusive museum technologies for diverse audiences. You can see this grassroots energy each year at the annual conference, where sessions titles such as “Accessible, Inclusive, Digital Design” and “Taking Action on Inclusion” feel right at home. Over the last year, a small working group has been meeting regularly to investigate how we might be able to weave this culture of equity and inclusion into the organizational fabric of MCN. We began by conducting research into proven practices in diversity and inclusion in peer organizations, as well as examining areas in which our own organization can grow.

 

Today, I’m thrilled to publicly announce MCN’s commitment to holistically reexamining all of its programs, practices, and policies from the lens of equity and inclusion. We’ve developed a statement that describes this commitment. We back up the statement with definitions that outline what we mean when we say we value things like diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI). This area is so important to us that we made “Embed diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion in everything we do” one of the five pillars in our new 2019–2021 strategic plan.

 

The work MCN has done in the past has come from a good place, but it’s been piecemeal and primarily focused on the annual conference. A few years ago, we implemented a Friendly Space Policy, establishing shared guidelines for making the conference a safe and respectful place for all attendees. Through our scholarship program, we are able to offer financial support to attend the conference for individuals who Identify as part of a group that is traditionally underrepresented or otherwise marginalized.

 

MCN is much more than a just conference, and thus our future DEAI efforts will extend much further. Over the next few years, we hope to pilot professional development opportunities and programming that critically address the role of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in museum technology. We plan to examine how we might be able to institute more equitable recruitment as well as provide support or compensation for people who contribute their time and labor to the organization; this includes but is not limited to MCN Board Members, Conference Program Chairs, SIG Chairs, conference presenters and attendees, scholarship recipients, and volunteers. And finally, we want to support the wonderful DEAI organizing that is already happening within our museum technology community.

 

Of course, diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion work is never complete—it’s not something that we can check off a box and say we’re done after a three-year strategic plan. Additionally, it’s not something that only a small group can accomplish; it requires input from our whole community.

 

We’d like to invite you to take part in our DEAI efforts. We’re forming an advisory board that will meet on a quarterly basis to share their expertise and help prioritize strategic goals. We hope to select 12 to 20 members who represent wide-ranging dimensions of diversity, with an eye towards giving voice to underrepresented groups. For our organization, diversity means a lot of things. Advisors will represent groups that are historically marginalized or excluded due to race, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, ability, economic background, and age. We’re also looking for members from a wide range of cultural institutions and professional roles, considering dimensions such as subject matter expertise, organization size, and stage in career.

 

Applications are due December 1, so submit yours now!

 

And whether or not you join the advisory board, we’d like to hear from you about how MCN can foster inclusion and equity within the organization. Another pillar in our new strategic plan is to identify opportunities for, connect with, and involve all of our members who want to contribute to work going on within our organization.

 

To learn how you can be involved, or to share any questions or concerns regarding DEAI at MCN, please contact diversity@mcn.edu. Additionally, we encourage you to swing by our annual conference session MCN Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion: Where are we, and where are we headed?, where you can voice how you’d like to see DEAI initiatives go in the future.

 

Headshot of Desi Gonzalez, MCN Board Member

Desi Gonzalez, MCN Board Member

0

Announcing MCN 2019-2021 Strategic Plan: Achieving impact through inclusion, innovation, and community building

 

Updated mission and vision statements, summer 2018

  • To grow the digital capacity of museum professionals by connecting them to ideas, information, opportunities, proven practices, and each other.
  • A world in which all museums are empowered digitally to achieve their missions.

 

We’re pleased to announce MCN’s new three-year strategic plan (2019-2021), which was developed following a productive and energetic strategic retreat with the full board in Washington, DC this past June.

Board strategic retreat June 2018

Three years ago, in June 2015, the then-board of MCN convened in Princeton, NJ to develop a 3-year strategic plan: “Celebrating 50 Years: Advancing Transformation & Innovation in Museums” (2016-2018). MCN had operated without a formal strategic plan for roughly five years, and it had become necessary to get back on track.

The four-page document was intentionally brief: it cast a vision around five strategic priorities each with a set of non-exhaustive success criteria designed to give future board members buy-in, agency, and creativity to develop a series of tactical tasks under each of the plan’s larger objectives. These tactical tasks were documented in three successive annual “Work Plans” that also served as a tool to track progress. Much was accomplished over the past three years: increasing year-round professional development opportunities with the launch of MCN’s mentorship program (now in its second year), growing the SIGs, and improving MCN’s governance and operations, culminating in 2017 with the celebration of MCN’s 50th anniversary, which galvanized our community and resulted in many inspiring community-led projects such as MCN50 Voices.

Going into this year’s strategic development process, we started by looking at what was achieved and what wasn’t, before identifying the most urgent challenges and risks that MCN currently faces. We found ourselves asking many of the same questions we had three years earlier: What is MCN’s core purpose? How do we best serve the needs of our community? How do we ensure that we have adequate resources to support and deliver on our mission? And perhaps, more fundamentally, how do we ensure MCN’s long-term sustainability?

To respond to these questions, we developed five key strategic priorities to focus MCN’s work and frame our decision-making from 2019 through 2021:

  1. Mobilize members of the MCN community
  2. Refine our products and value
  3. Achieve long-term sustainability
  4. Transform MCN’s online platforms
  5. Embed diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion in everything we do

Lastly, in spite of many recent improvements in governance and operational principles that give MCN the support it needs to run effectively, we noticed a few issues calling for our attention. Among them, a lack of continuity in the transfer of institutional memory from outgoing to incoming board members, at a time when the former’s knowledge and experience are at their peak. So the Governance Committee will look at ways to remedy those issues.

Since its beginnings, MCN has been, and remains today more than ever, a community organization. The work invested behind the scenes to strengthen MCN is only driven by our desire to serve the needs of our community and to support each an everyone of you throughout your professional lives in museums. This next strategic plan is designed to grow MCN’s capacity to deliver on its mission so all museums are empowered digitally to achieve theirs.

Eric Longo
Executive Director

MCN 2019-2012 Strategic Plan

0

Pronoun stickers at MCN 2016

Guest post by Nikhil Trivedi

Nikhil Trivedi delivers his MCN 2015 Ignite talk

At MCN this year we had pronoun stickers (along with lots of other fun stickers!) that attendees could optionally add to their name badges. I’d like to share some background of this sort of thing at conferences, what sort of thinking went around our stickers, and how I had them printed.

Some background

In recent years there’s been a growing number of conferences that have allowed attendees to identify their pronouns with each other is some formalized way. What’s being challenged here is the notion that the ways we may perceive each other’s genders doesn’t always match our gender identities and the pronouns we use.

I’ve seen some conferences ask for people’s pronouns during registration and print them on attendees’ name badges. Others have had pins that say “Ask me for my pronouns!” to encourage attendees to have conversations about their pronouns.

Some people appreciate the opportunity to identify their pronouns in spaces that don’t often encourage that. Some folks don’t want to feel like they’re being forced to out themselves to a room full strangers. And other folks feel all sorts of ways that I haven’t yet learned about. All these feelings and criticisms are totally valid.

The stickers at MCN

So as conference organizers, how do we do navigate all these concerns and implement a system for our group of attendees, specifically?

I’m connected when a network of radical tech workers via a conference called AlterConf. I went to them for some guidance on how to make gender identification easier for folks who wish to share it, but it’s really complicated. As I mentioned above, for some, pronouns can be a really personal thing to share with a room full of 618 other people they don’t really know. For others, they want the opportunity to put it out there. In hindsight, I see that ultimately the best way to do this would have been to ask attendees who don’t conform to the gender binary what they want for their conference experience, and to have done that. With a little more foresight, we could have done that. If the stickers didn’t sit right with any of the attendees, I’d love to hear your feedback and criticisms. So please do reach out to me!

As a cisgendered man, I recognize that I may not have been the best person to have made the final decisions about how to implement a mechanism like this. I do know that we have had trans people in our community in the past, and we have lost some of those folk due to awful, tragic circumstances. I think about that when I’m planning my sessions and participating in the program committee. What would they have wanted? What can we do to support trans first-timers and old-timers to feel welcome at MCN, and how can we support cis attendees in being thoughtful about our trans attendees?

Here are some of the things I thought about when deciding if and how to make the stickers. All this stuff came out of my conversations with folks through AlterConf:

  • They shouldn’t be mandatory. If folks want to share their pronouns with other attendees, great! If they prefer not to specify their pronouns, that’s great, too! I thought it was important to make it clear to all attendees that the stickers were totally optional for all people.
  • People should be able to choose multiple pronouns. Some folks use multiple pronouns and appreciate when people mix it up.
  • The options shouldn’t be limited. Gender is a spectrum, and there are many, many ways people identify, and people use any number of pronouns to represent that.
  • They should be easy to read at a quick glance or for someone who is visually impaired.
  • They should be fun and colorful. And I didn’t want them to conform to traditionally gendered colors (blue and pink). Because people who all use a same pronoun can think, act, and be totally different from each other.

In the end, clearly optional, easy to read stickers were the best option.

How I made them

While I was chatting with AlterConf friends, someone went ahead and designed the stickers that we ended up using at MCN! Amazing!

Pronoun stickers in use at MCN 2016

I used the Sticker Book on moo.com and chose the option where I could upload my own artwork. Here are the final images I used to print. And here are the source files, in case you want to make any changes. Moo.com let you lay out the stickers in a way where you can order more of some stickers than others, so adjust the quantities as you see fit. It’s super cheap, it comes out to about $10 for every 90 stickers you order.

At the conference we placed the stickers down at the registration desk with a sign stating clearly that all stickers were totally optional for all people. And we laid them out with other fun stickers, too–like cats in chef’s hats! Unicorns! Pigs making snowpeople!

Here’s what Justine Arreche (@saltinejustine), the designer, had to say about the stickers:

“When I saw the discussion regarding pronoun stickers I was excited. I thought it was such a great idea and was I surprised I hadn’t seen anything like that before. After a quick Google search with limited results I decided to create my own set of pronoun stickers for people to use. I wanted the design to be respectful yet still fun enough for attendees to want to put the stickers on their badges or shirts. The colors were carefully chosen to avoid gendered colors while also preserving readability for those with any visual impairments. After sharing a screen shot of the designs on Twitter my mentions were inundated with people requesting how they could print them for their events. I quickly created a public Dropbox folder with a variety of file types allowing people to have them printed locally or online. Additionally I included the live files so there was the ability to change the designs as their needs required.”

I was excited to provide the stickers at MCN 2016. I’d love to hear what you thought about them, how they may have changed your conference experience, and any feedback or criticism you might have. Please reach out to me on Twitter and let me know!

0