Partnerships should bring communities together and be based on the principle of equity. Museums should work with a diverse range of partners and think beyond traditional partners and audiences.

A case study from the Cornwall Museums Partnership

The Rural Diversity Network was initiated in 2017 by Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) and freelance curator Tehmina Goskar, as part of the Arts Council England-supported Change Makers leadership programme.

The network is a method of trying to tackle geographic exclusion through partnership work. Rural geography impacts many; it can intensify the effects of race, socio-economic deprivation, sexuality, gender, disability and access to services and opportunities.

Cultural policy around diversity has often centred on the visible diversity of cities. The network aims to balance this by providing another view and campaigning for equity across rural regions.

Cultural investment in rural regions has often been biased towards creating an offer for tourists, resulting in inclusion challenges for organisations engaging with local communities. The network is helping to challenge, inform and develop new practice.

The aims of the network are:

  • Representation/advocacy to policy-makers and stakeholders (including communities)
  • A place to put diversity into practice – training to help apply practical diversity in businesses and programmes
  • Networking with colleagues and each other’s organisations to find common cause
  • A safe space to challenge and be challenged, including having difficult conversations without giving/taking offence
  • Use of Cornish diversity as action learning that others can draw understanding from, particularly how the Cornish National Minority intersects with other categories of diversity

The network enacts a rights-based practice that depends on recognising the agency of those most impacted by issues, believing they are able to articulate their own ‘priorities’ and make change happen.

Working in partnership with organisations offering expertise in the chosen subject and coordinated by CMP, monthly Twitter ‘takeovers’ pose questions to CMP’s followers and spark discussion.

Topics explored to date include homelessness, mental health, older people, volunteering, young people, arts education and LGBTQ+ support, and the role museums and galleries can play.

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