Following The Audience Agency’s 3 year evaluation of the British Museum’s participation in NLHF funded Skills for the Future programme ‘The Learning Museum’, the museum commissioned us to produce a toolkit to share with the wider sector. This was to become ‘The Positive Action Recruitment Roadmap’, illustrating in a detailed but accessible way the different steps that the British Museum went through during this extensive recruitment diversification process. The roadmap includes templates and tips that contribute to a really useful and practical document for a sector that is increasingly coming to understand that, whilst diversifying your approach to recruitment can be both tough and time-consuming, the benefits far outweighed the challenges – and sooner than you might think. Often, when we encourage workforce diversification, people think in terms of benefits that might be realised in 5, 10, 15 years’ time, but The Audience Agency’s evaluation of the Learning Museums programme indicated both an immediate impact and lasting legacy on everyone who engages with museums – as staff, participants and audiences alike.
The Audience Agency is passionate about the arts and culture sector being for and of everyone and recognises why that requires everybody working in the sector to be reflective of everybody beyond it. Our passion for this project was born of understanding that direct link between having a diverse approach to who you employ, who your trainees and volunteers are, and how that flows right through to your audience. The British Museum, The Audience Agency and National Heritage Lottery Fund came together perfectly as three national organisations keen to share good learning, particularly around recruitment and diversification.
The Audience Agency’s dual role over the course of the 3-year programme, and subsequent toolkit creation, was as both evaluator for the British Museum itself and disseminator of valuable insights to the sector at large. Our expert team was commissioned to:
- Evaluate the impact of Skills for Museums on the young employees and volunteers.
- Conduct interviews with museum staff to gauge and report on broader organisational change.
- Provide sector-wide oversight of the challenges, practices and key conversations surrounding audience and employee diversification initiatives.
- Consolidate findings from museum partner staff, young volunteers, trainees and other stakeholders into a useful and engaging roadmap resource in order to share the project’s findings with the wider museum sector.
- Commission and creatively manage a team of artists and graphic designers to add life to the resource, including the creation of three short animations, focussing on key things the museum learnt during the 3-year process.
- Share, disseminate and advocate for the programme’s approach and practical guidance resources throughout the sector.
Evaluation showed that the wider benefits of the programme actually went beyond the evident core recruitment success of the Positive Action approach:
- Community engagement. All of the young trainees involved in the recruitment initiative led and developed their own community audience engagement programmes within their placement museums, facilitating a direct community impact that led to many of the venues immediately diversifying their broader audience as a direct result of altered recruitment practices. The actual recruitment process itself became a form of audience community partnership building.
- New relationships. The extensive nature of the recruitment process meant developing relationships with unusual partner organisations, running taster days and activity sessions, meet and greet assessment days, one-to-one interviews and focusing on exploring potential rather than experience. All the museums involved managed to develop meaningful new organisational relationships and recruit young people into other parts of their volunteering programmes.
- Knowledge sharing. The roadmap was commissioned and produced as an easy and accessible means of communicating the recruitment approach that the British Museum took, disseminating its positive findings and impacts to the wider sector, so that anyone can benefit from this extensive research.
This simple, practical guide, complete with tools and templates, is a great resource, not just for museums, but for any kind of arts and cultural organisation looking to understand the benefits of and develop easy approaches towards diversifying their workforce.
While anxiety about attending events remains high amongst disabled people, the Covid online content boom has given rise to revolutionary opportunities that could improve access for good.
While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.