Three Steps to a More Inclusive World
Do you remember the last time you felt out of place? Whether for reasons of creed or culture, country or color, economic or social status? How did it feel when nothing resonated with you? Many of our institutions are struggling because the communities we want to reach feel this way — unwelcomed and unrepresented.
Now imagine a place where you feel represented and your voice is relevant. A place where you feel welcomed and where you matter.
In 2011, MAH almost closed its doors due to lack of funding and relevance. By 2018, we had quadrupled our budget, staff, and visitors. How did we do it? We reframed our organization to be OFBYFOR ALL.
OF: our staff, board, and content represent the diversity OF our community
BY: our programs are co-created BY our community
FOR: thus creating a welcoming space FOR ALL of our community
What does this look like in action?
In 2017, MAH did an exhibition project called Lost Childhoods, featuring the voices of Santa Cruz foster youth and the nation’s largest collection of art, artifacts, and video portraits about youth experiences in foster care. Over 4,500 community members visited the exhibit’s opening night, followed by more than 6,000 people since then. Lost Childhoods was six-month process co-created BY former foster youth, artists, and advocates in collaboration with the Foster Youth Museum. It spotlights the intimate narratives OF the foster youth experience. It provided a way into empathy and clear action paths FOR the Santa Cruz community to help foster youth.
We are building OFBYFOR ALL to be both a framework and a movement. A framework that uses proven tools and strategies used by MAH and other institutions to develop organizations which reflect and represent the communities we serve. A movement that brings us back to the crux of who we are as humans — individuals who desire to be part of a whole and to connect with each other.
In a world where boundaries are being erected everyday, it is critical for our civic and cultural institutions to embrace the diversity of our audiences, include their voices, and create a sense of belonging. Join us on this journey to build a more connected, inclusive world.
Here are three ways you can apply OFBYFOR ALL to your own organization:
- Ask different questions: At MAH we only began to see how OFBYFOR was the only way to thrive when we shifted perspective and asked ourselves “What are we willing to change about how we work to help new people feel they can belong?”
- Meet your communities where they are: Opening your doors is not enough. We have to step outside and meet the people we serve in their places and spaces to understand how to better serve them.
- Find partners who are aligned with your values: Our partners are the cornerstone of our institutions because they are our communities, our allies, and our advocates. Together we can move mountains.