Lead by example
“As senior leaders, we have a duty to model healthy behaviours,” says Gareth Redstone, chief executive of Manchester Jewish Museum. “By being honest when we are feeling the strain, it hopefully encourages others to do the same.
"I make it a priority to ensure my staff know that we don’t expect them to put their own wellbeing aside to get results. That feels totally counter-productive to me but unfortunately appears to be what is happening at lots of other organisations.”
Build lasting relationships
Sian Booth, the cultural services manager at Mansfield District Council, points to the importance of strong relationships fostered with healthcare and community teams, which leads to mutual support.
“How many chief executives or curators can walk into a community hall and know people by name?” asks Booth. “And know who runs the coffee morning or the local Sure Start centre?”
Being civically engaged is a key component to successful wellbeing programmes, for staff and participants alike.
Seek expertise within your network
Michelle Kindleysides, head of health and wellbeing at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, turned to her local hospice for support when she wasn’t sure what she needed in terms of help. This led to clinical supervision that meant she could continue doing her job effectively,
with the adequate emotional and professional assistance.
Elsewhere, Redstone understood the importance of working with a lead artist, Becky Prestwich, on a Creative Activists Project that involved young people producing responses to stories about the Holocaust.
He says: “[She] has years of experience in supporting young people to create meaningful artistic responses to challenging subject matter. It’s important to have someone on the team who has that kind of experience and can support the young people if necessary.”
With so much emphasis on project deliverables, whether it be for funding or internal evaluations, the importance of the long-term benefits of creative wellbeing projects for participants, volunteers and staff can be overlooked.
Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance Helen Chatterjee co-founder says: “The kind of outcomes that we see when people engage in arts, creativity nature and community are much broader than a set of short-term outcomes. There is increased connectivity, sociability, reduced isolation and new skill sets, which can improve the wider social determinants of health.”
Prepare, test and learn
Whether it be a coffee morning, wellbeing walk, mental health support group or dementia-friendly session, the needs of individuals will be different. Museums that interrogate why a programme is taking place, listen and respond to feedback, and offer follow-up support for staff and participants will have a higher chance of success.
Last year, Cornwall Museums Partnership tested the introduction of Climate Cafes, which aim to welcome people into a space to share responses to climate change. This included internal and public-facing meetings, which proved successful as an open space for dialogue.
In Mansfield, Sian Booth stresses the importance of excellent planning with a willingness to learn.
“We make mistakes, like everyone else,” she says. “But we’re particular about always putting the needs of the community first.”