Reach out to your local community

Amber Alferoff, Issue 118/10, p17, 01.10.2018
Partnerships with Purpose is a new Museums Association project to enhance connections between museums and communities. This events-focused programme will offer opportunities for museums and community groups to meet, share ideas, enrich participatory practice and increase the visibility of museums locally.

This is a great time to work together so we can all have more impact. Community groups have fantastic links with local people, and by using collections and spaces to work with local communities, museums can unlock some amazing stories.

You are probably already part of a community group, such as a residents' association, sports club, parent-teacher association, choir and so on. Or perhaps you are involved with a small charity or social enterprise such as a community garden, homeless people's drop-in, older people's befriending service or river clean-up group - all are community groups.

Like museums, local charities and groups are trusted by the public, support volunteering, enhance health and wellbeing, and create better places in which to live and work. Also like museums, they are under pressure from cuts in public funding, and more likely to succeed in bids for money if they work in partnership. Third sector organisations are experienced in partnership work, with many working with statutory services and businesses to design solutions to contemporary problems: opportunities for young people failed by a sit-down-and-be-quiet school system, for example,  or social activities for lonely older people.

Partnerships with Purpose is here to support you as you increase the emphasis on using your collections to empower people to be active participants in our society, challenge injustice and bring people together. We will link you with relevant engaged community groups. We will help you identify the best ways in which to work together to create real impact for all your beneficiaries. We will use an asset-based community development approach that emphasises what a community (and museum) can offer, rather than what it might lack.

Museums regularly connect visitors to different communities and groups. Community engagement and co-production is already central to the work of many museums. Perhaps you already look beyond the national charities, schools and other well-worn routes into the community when aiming for participatory practice. We hope so. If you would like to improve your practice further, Partnerships with Purpose is here to help.

We hope lots of connections will be formed through the initiative, be they new ways in which museums can connect with local community premises, professional relationships and friendships or new neurological pathways, as we spark ideas in each other.

Amber Alferoff is the project officer for Partnerships with Purpose at the Museums Association. Partnerships with Purpose is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation