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

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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

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Heads up! Limited Early Bird tickets this year

This year we are changing our Early Bird ticket allotment to make it more predictable.

Starting with MCN 2018, only a limited number of Early Bird tickets will be available.

Predicting conference attendance is difficult and affects MCN’s ability to make reliable financial projections. One of the ways we believe we can have a better handle on this is by limiting the number of Early Bird tickets available.

Registration opens on June 28 with 150 Early Bird tickets up for grabs on a first-come, first-served basis until sold out or July 31, whichever comes first.

MCN remains committed to providing the best conference experience your money can buy at a price point we can all live with (conference fees). We look forward to seeing you in Denver in November.

Eric Longo, Executive Director

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How Might We: Some Questions We’re Asking for MCN 2018

Denver skyline at dusk

With our Program Co-chairs in place, and our Program Committee filled, work on MCN 2018 has begun in earnest. In fact, one of our first steps began soon after MCN 2017 concluded in Pittsburgh: we took stock of the previous year’s conference by talking to the staff and community members who made it happen and reviewing the post-conference survey that more than 200 of you so generously and thoughtfully completed.

From that, we’ve tried to distill some key takeaways. This year, taking a page out of the design thinking playbook, we’ve expressed them as How Might We questions that the program staff, co-chairs, committee, volunteers and conference participants will be able to come back to and answer anew throughout the next nine months. The phrasing of How Might We questions is designed to elicit creative thinking and open responses and move us toward actionable steps. The MCN leadership team has discussed some possible answers which we’ll roll out over the next few months as the conference starts to take shape.

Of course, reviewing the previous conference is only one of the many aspects of the work involved in putting together the conference program every year. The Program Committee—a group of about 40 professionals representing disciplines and institutions across the sector—is already working on a theme and will shortly begin to identify possible keynote speakers. Program co-chairs and conference planners will soon visit the Denver conference site, and meetings and calls and Basecamp messages are flying at a furious rate. We’re also going to be taking a fresh look at some MCN staples like Ignite and workshops, as well as evaluating some recent additions like innovative “other format” sessions and pop-ups. And we’ll continue to evolve the call for proposals, which will open in April.

There’s a lot to look forward to this year, and a lot to do to make it happen. In the end, there’s really one question that drives it all: How might we make it your MCN?

Our Key Questions for MCN 2018:

  • How might we make the most of the spaces at the conference and turn challenging physical limitations into networking and learning opportunities?
  • How might we help speakers become better teachers and also partners in the success of the conference?
  • How might we make each session unique?
  • How might we ensure new ideas don’t crowd out important fundamentals and big thinking doesn’t replace hands-on skills?
  • How might we make space for the introverted and the newcomer, for reflection and rejuvenation?
  • How might we manage the deluge of communications in the months before the conference?
  • How might we help speakers share their presentations beyond the session walls?

We encourage the MCN community to discuss, comment, and expand upon these questions and answers, to make this part of a conversation that will lead to a constantly learning and improving conference this and every year. We can’t do it without you—it’s your MCN!

Greg Albers, MCN board member and program liaison
Robert Weisberg, Catherine Devine, and Adrienne Lalli Hills, Program co-chairs

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Support AAM’s Speak Up for Museums campaign

Like many of our peer organizations, we, at MCN (Museum Computer Network), were alarmed today to see the dramatic scale of the proposed cuts to federal funding of America’s arts and cultural organizations. While MCN isn’t formally an advocacy agency, our members represent a wide range of information professionals from hundreds of cultural sector institutions in the United States, and around the world. We are therefore joining our colleagues at AAM, the NEA, NEH, and IMLS in registering our dismay in the proposed changes, which will significantly impact cultural life in the USA. As Philip Kennicott and Peggy McGlone of the Washington Post note: “Federal dollars are used to leverage state, local and private funding that supports a complex network of arts organizations, educational entities, museums, libraries and public broadcasting affiliates.” In other words, each federal dollar cut from arts funding will eliminate more dollars from organizational budgets: many institutions across this nation will not survive this loss of support, and the communities they serve will be severely and irreversibly impacted.

We encourage all of our members, and our broader community, to join the American Alliance of Museum’s Speak Up for Museums campaign, and demonstrate your support for these vital arts and cultural organizations.

 

Board of Directors, MCN

 

For reference, other community organizations’ statements below:

IMLS: https://www.imls.gov/news-events/news-releases/institute-museum-and-library-services-issues-statement-presidents-proposed

NEH: https://www.neh.gov/news/press-release/2017-03-16

NEA: https://www.arts.gov/

AAM: http://www.aam-us.org/about-us/media-room/american-alliance-of-museums-statement-on-the-presidents-preliminary-budget-proposal-for-fiscal-year-2018

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Snowstorms, Strategy and Making Membership Great (Again).

2017 board retreat

Nik Honeysett, Carolyn Royston, Elizabeth Bollwerk, Laura Mann, Bert Degenhart Drenth, Eric Longo, Suse Anderson, Julie Aldridge, Deborah Howes

For the second year in a row, a small group of MCN board members–Carolyn Royston (President), Suse Anderson (VP/Pdt Elect), Bert Degenhart Drenth (Treasurer), Laura Mann (Strategic Partnerships chair), Elizabeth Bollwerk (Professional Development chair), Deborah Howes, and Nik Honeysett–joined me at the Newark Airport Hilton on a recent weekend for a strategic retreat. Holding a retreat in February in the Northeast can be a bit of gamble; we were just lucky to have it right in the middle of two snow storms. MCN luck.

These annual mini strategic retreats provide MCN’s leadership an opportunity to come together to focus on a specific strategic area of the organization, as we continue to deliver on our current Strategic Plan. Last year, we focussed on rethinking our approach to strategic partnerships, and our sponsorship offer in particular. This year, we wanted to think about designing a more viable business model for MCN, and specifically focus on membership as driver for long-term sustainability. To guide us through these questions, we invited Julie Aldridge to facilitate the weekend. Formerly Executive Director of the Arts Marketing Association (AMA), a UK-based membership organization, which she led for almost 12 years, Julie is now a consultant specializing in business planning, marketing, membership strategy, leadership, and organizational development.

Reflecting on what MCN means to you

Based on Simon Sinek’s Start With Why approach, Julie immediately challenged us to think through MCN’s alignment of its vision (why we exist) with its delivery model (what it does to deliver on its vision), and then reflect on the impact MCN has on its members, the museums or other cultural organizations they work for, and the museum sector in general. We quickly realized that we had a lot of work to do to align what MCN means to you, our members, with the impact it could have on museums and the sector at large.

Julie then walked us through the findings from the 2017 MCN Community Survey, conducted in January, which saw 203 total responses, including 97 from current members (thank you for your thoughtful comments!). While none of the findings were really surprising to us, they reinforced how you (current and lapsed members, and not yet members) perceive MCN: 50 years since its founding, an undisputed source of inspiration, professional connections, and learning.

Here are a few responses from, you, our community about what MCN is to you that really resonated with us and we wanted to share:

“A ‘go to’ group of professionals who are on the cutting edge of the role of digital technology and resources in museums and who have supported the advancement of the entire museum field.”

“A bunch of hardworking good-hearted nerds who love their work, and they want to change the world but they’re too busy talking about museums.”

“I heard someone comment that at other conferences they feel like they are part of a professional organization, but that with MCN they feel like they are part of a community.”

“Most valuable museum community.”

“An organization that anyone working in technology in the museum sector should be a member of.”

You also voiced the need for more formalized skill training, availability of online resources, and leadership building opportunities such as mentoring. We will be working on projects geared towards meeting those needs in the upcoming year.

With this in mind, and using Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas–a strategic tool that allows organizations to describe, design, challenge, invent and pivot a business model–we quickly moved to exploring a range of possible business models for MCN to achieve that alignment of purpose and impact. At the heart of these discussions was a focus on membership, and what it means for MCN to be a member organization now, and into the future. Although it became apparent that MCN has significant opportunities to continue to evolve in order to better meet the needs of our community, there simply was not enough time for us to “pin down” a specific direction without the collective input from the rest of the board, which we will seek in the weeks ahead to further our thinking around the myriad of ideas we generated over the weekend.

2017 board retreat

2017 board retreat

Things to watch out for, and what that means for you as a member of MCN

Retreats are always too short but they also work in iterative ways, bubbling up ideas along the way but also cementing others that we all keep coming back to. Clearly, we need to do more work and continue to experiment with canvassing possible business models for MCN. In the meantime, we are planning on rolling out a series of changes throughout 2017 and beyond, that will make your MCN membership even more compelling and rewarding.  

All business but no play? Not really, we are MCN’ers after all!

After a furiously intensive first day, we headed downtown Newark for dinner at Fornos of Spain, and because a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let you enjoy it. Let’s just say, we had a great time.

2017 board retreat dinner

2017 board retreat dinner

So stay tuned as we announce some changes to your MCN membership in the months ahead, and make sure to keep abreast of the many #mcn50 activities throughout 2017. If you can’t wait until MCN2017 to get together with other MCN’ers, check out our Throw MCN a Birthday Party kit.

You are MCN, and the sense of community and connection that unites you to MCN remains undisputedly strong and vibrant. For the leadership, this means we need to make sure that MCN stays relevant not only to your everyday work, throughout your career, but also to the institutions you work for, the museum sector as a whole, as well as future generations of museum professionals. Thank you and happy birthday MCN!

 

Eric Longo
Executive Director, MCN

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