University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

Social Change & Young Leaders

At the end of January I attended the final three-day session of the Extend Leadership Programme at the Tetley in Leeds. Led by engage, the National Association for Gallery Education, the Extend Leadership Programme is a professional development programme open to applicants working in learning and education roles, across all art forms.

The session followed on from a previous session in June 2016, marking the introduction and conclusion to the programme and generating discussions around arts, education and leadership. As part of the programme, participants have been working in smaller collaborative groups to develop project enquiries to explore the theories and discussions in practice. The session in January 2017 allowed the groups to share back their findings on their collaborative projects to date, as well as allow for discussion around inspiring speakers from the Arts and Heritage sector.

The three days in Leeds provided some thought-provoking ideas from the speakers. Hannah Fox, Project Director, spoke about the collaborative development work that has been ongoing at Derby Silk Mill and the Museum of Making, where the community have played a core part of generating a new cultural offer. Starting with a museum that was struggling with funding in 2011, Hannah Fox integrated the community to help make the space sustainable and inspiring, embracing an attitude of being present, collaborative, passionate and embracing fear to create change.

Cultural professionals turned social entrepreneurs Jess and Matt Turtle spoke about their work over the last 3 years developing work towards the Museum of Homelessness, focussing in on their work to date including ways to advocate, gain gravitas and forge ways forward through difficult decisions and debates around campaigns and politics for an educational museum. Other speakers also included practical advice from Interim Business Manager, Julie Weston, at Cardboard Citizens, and further coaching techniques from Deb Barnard.

The programme allowed opportunities for the individual groups to present back on their enquiry projects. The enquiry projects focused on themes including wellbeing for staff within the sector, co-production, youth leadership measurement and the importance of arts and play within leadership structures. As part of the group feedback sessions, inspiring Leaders from outside the sector Derrick Armstrong, Michelle de Souza and Dr Nima Poovaya – Smith were invited to provide input into the group’s work.

One of the groups updated on their practice and research of co-production. Having undertaken a series of interviews and in-depth research, they have since presented at the Workforce Development Conference in Brighton in November and have plans to implement co-produced projects within their work, as well as running a session on co-production with MA Visual Arts and Curating students. From their research, the groups shared their tips for successful co-production:

  • Use correct and easy to understand language, not museum speak
  • Share & overshare: tell people about your project at all stages
  • Get people on board, foster a shared vision and attitude
  • Celebrate failures and build learning into future projects
  • Ask whose voice is missing from discussions, and what can you do to get them on board?

Another group presented back their research through a participatory activity, where we as participants on a leadership course were challenged with an empty room containing only a bucket. For the 20 minute activity participants had to switch off their phones and remove their watches, allowing a time-free space to explore and generate ideas around play within leadership. The Wellbeing group had been looking at wellbeing within the sector, sharing results from their survey (you can take part online), and their own reflections on wellbeing by using a series of tools. Many of the areas of enquiry focused around the New Economics Foundation 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Give, Take Notice, Be Active, Connect and Keep Learning. The group also shared a wellbeing measurement too, which enables you to review how content you are across four different areas that affect wellbeing. The closer you place a star nearest to the centre, the happier you are with that aspect.

We then presented our work, looking at ways to measure and acknowledge youth leadership in creative projects. Feedback was incredibly positive, and we encouraged the whole cohort to try out the tool on themselves before feeding back on how it could be incorporated into projects they might be working on. We have been exploring the leadership skills that can be developed as part of projects across the creative arts. Through our research we have discovered that there are no evaluative tools that focus on helping participants to identify what leadership skills that have developed through projects. Through our research and projects at work we have generated a Visual Self Reflection Tool that can be used with a variety of groups, to enable participants to build confidence and identify skills they’ve developed as being associated with good leadership. We encouraged course participants to help us test this tool by completing it themselves, gathering feedback to be aware of any challenges and opportunities. Following positive feedback at the residential we are now recruiting a designer for the tool, whilst continuing to test this with our groups to build their confidence and aspirations.

The time in Leeds and the Extend Leadership Programme was an unrivalled opportunity to take time out to research, discuss and activate ideas within the sector. Throughout the residential in Leeds there was a real focus on how the arts and museums can aspire to create safe spaces that can provoke discussions and bind communities. The University of Cambridge Museums provide fantastic opportunities to use objects to tell stories about the past that can inspire the future, and the bubbling of ideas at the residential in Leeds has provided good food for thought for developing this and raising the aspirations of those we work with. The engage Extend Leadership Programme is currently accepting applications for the 2017-18 cohort, the deadline is 13 March and more information can be found online.

Lucy Shipp, Learning Associate (Widening Participation and Arts Award), Fitzwilliam Museum

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