The Holburne Museum in Bath ran a 10-week art project for people with dementia and their carers

Practical actions for museums

Ten steps for a museum to improve its social impact
1. Make a clear commitment to improve your museum’s social impact

Regard it as core business. Museums already make decisions in terms of decades about their collections and buildings; have long-term strategic goals for your impact, too.

2. Reflect on your current impacts

Listen to users and non-users. Research local needs. Involve all your staff, and your supporters, in thinking about whose needs you could serve better. Think carefully about where your museum is likely have the most useful impact. Smaller museums will need to be selective; larger museums will want to aim to achieve a wide range of impacts.

3. Research what other museums are doing to have a beneficial impact
 
There’s lots of information out there – for a start, the Museums Change Lives web resource, Museums Journal, Museum Practice and the MA annual conference.

4. Seek out and connect with suitable partners

For most museums these are likely to be local charities, social enterprises or public-sector organisations dedicated to having a beneficial social impact. There may be people in local universities with similar aims. Don’t be surprised if potential partners haven’t previously considered working with museums. Be ready to convince them that your museum can support their agendas and help them achieve their aims.

5. Devise practical proposals, working with your partners as equals

Be clear about your shared objectives. Make the most out of your expertise in culture, collections and learning and their expertise in social impact.

6. Allocate resources

You might need work with your partners to fundraise, but some things can start small from existing resources. There are funding opportunities in commissioning by public bodies, from trusts and foundations, from public and lottery sources.

7. Review your practices and procedures

Ensure that you can meet the needs of your partners and of the people you aim to reach. Avoid preciousness about professionalism or collections. Innovate and be willing to take risks: balance the benefits that come from using and sharing the collection with the small risk of damage.

8. Reflect on your work

Learn from and with partners and participants. Consider the benefits of evaluating and measuring your impacts. Tell other museums and other potential partners about what you’ve done and what you’ve learnt. Celebrate it, as you would a new exhibition. Use it as an opportunity to advocate your museum’s value.

9. Find ways for participants and partners to have a deep impact on your museum

Encourage wider participation in all aspects of your work: bring more voices into interpretation and devolve power. Encourage people to contribute to decision making about what to do, what to display and what issues to address.

10. Put sustainability at the heart of work

Strive for long-term sustained change based on lasting relationships with partners and long-term engagement with participants, maintained beyond time-limited work and one-off projects.