Moving online has brought about many realizations for us at the Michigan Museums Association. One is that we don’t have to be together in person to help you connect with each other and resources. We can’t wait to be able to come together in real life again, and we are already making plans for how we will do that. In-person activities will always be the best way that MMA serves the Michigan museum community. But now we know that we can serve you online too and so we need a long-term online strategy for professional development. It’s been exciting to think about what that might look like and we got some ideas from the intense online engagement while museums were closed.
As you joined the various online programs throughout the spring and early summer, a new understanding was forming. We observed that there seemed to be three general goals you had when looking to connect with colleagues and information. Some people joined programs because they needed information about something they didn’t know much about. Another group of people had very focused and high level expertise in certain areas, and joined to hear from other colleagues with similar high levels of experience or knowledge. Finally, a third group joined programs because they were looking for a way to bring about change.
The three groups had a lot of similarities, but their needs are really served in different ways. Novices need to be connected with external expertise. Focused professionals want to be connected with other focused professionals. Do-ers need help setting common goals and organizing. At the same time, all three groups would be well served by building relationships and connecting on a regular basis.
These observations led to the idea of creating different types of professional development “communities” focusing on Learning, Practice, and Action. We talked about this idea internally with board members and MMA volunteers, and it seemed to resonate. Right now we are testing the idea with several groups that would fall into the different categories to see if we can develop structures that fit the varied needs, but can be applied to multiple different groups within each type. In other words, we are creating some templates that can be used with each type of group with different sets of members.
There are several things about this idea that are most exciting. One, it allows MMA to help members from all over the state and different institutions develop relationships. We know that MMA members love to get together, but if you’re not already connected, I think sometimes we might feel a little cliquey or intimidating. This new model would bring people together around professional development goals and would be a vehicle to connect and serve new people in a concrete way. Second, it could provide more focus to our programming. As we develop resources and opportunities for each community we can offer some of those as programs open to everyone and again, hopefully connect and serve new people who are looking for information.
We are still in the testing stage of this idea, but so far every step has been working well. If we continue to have successes, we hope to get a formal project ready for approval from the board this fall. In the meantime, feel free to ask many questions, offer resources or other similar models you are aware of, or start thinking about what type of professional development relationships and experiences you might be interested in. We’ll keep you posted!
I have mentioned here that I am a big fan of a plan. I think strategic planning is fun, and in a crisis the first thing I do is evaluate the situation and map out my plan. But of course there is no planning during COVID-19. As a result, I am now in month three of planlessness, with no end in sight. There are many ways this is wearing on me, but mostly I just find myself feeling discouraged and focusing on how much I don’t know. But something came to me as I was working on my current jigsaw puzzle. I had all the pieces laid out on the table and it looked like chaos. I looked around and noticed a fence, so I gathered all those pieces and started fitting them together and I was off and running. I didn’t plan how I would put the puzzle together. I noticed something familiar and took the first step.
I realized that I could apply my favorite jigsaw puzzle strategy to work as well. Yes, there is a lot I don’t know about how things will move forward over the next few months. However, I do know SOME things about where we are headed. I don’t have to know the whole plan, or even what the picture looks like. I just have to take the next step. Whew. My enthusiasm has returned.
There is another situation that I find overwhelming, and I’ve realized that focusing on the next step is helpful as well. As with many of you, I find myself questioning my life choices, especially about racism. I have long considered myself someone who is strongly in support of racial justice and equity. But when I look at how I live my life, I don’t actually see any action that would reflect that. I am afraid that I am actually one of the white moderates that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about, and that is a devastating realization.
In thinking more about my inaction, I keep coming back to planning. One of the reasons I like to have a plan is because I hate to make a mistake. I want to use the right words and talk to the right people and look purposeful and like I have my act together. I want to make people feel happy and empowered and I don’t want to say something that would do otherwise. So if I can plan everything, I can avoid all of the “wrong” things.
But planning can be a form of procrastination and avoidance too. When it comes to change, “working on it” doesn’t cut the mustard if there is no action. Clearly, there needs to be action. I need to be taking action. I don’t want to think of myself as in support of racial justice and equity. I want to BE anti-racist. I find myself feeling overwhelmed by my discomfort and insecurity. But my fear and self-centeredness is not a good reason for inaction, and I need to get past it.
To do this, I have been focusing on taking a next step every day. Sometimes a step has been to learn more. Sometimes it has been to reach out. And sometimes it has been to speak up. So far, none of the steps have been in my comfort zone, and I feel that several of them were likely not well done, but all of them have been a step, and all of them have been about action. I don’t know where I am going, and I don’t know what being anti-racist in my life really looks like, but I am going to keep taking steps until I do.
I don’t think MMA has shown a lot of action about being anti-racist either. There has been considerable talk about inclusion, equity, access and diversity on the inside, but that inside is very white and very little of that conversation has been evident on the outside. The action that has been visible has not resulted in a sustained culture change. Some of the personal steps I mentioned are related to MMA, and I know I am not alone in experiencing self-reflection and a raised awareness of the need to learn, listen and, most importantly, act. I hope that moving forward you will begin to see more action, and I will continue to work on the next steps to make that happen. Though I am aware that I need to be doing my own work, I am happy for company on the journey if you'd like to join me.
Lisa Craig Brisson
*Who is Craiger?!?
MMA Executive Director Lisa Craig Brisson was born in 1967 and was one of many Lisas in the classroom growing up - a nickname was inevitable. Craiger came into use in elementary school and was solidified after a strong friendship was formed with another Lisa in high school. By the time the two attended college together, Craiger was rarely known by anything else. The nickname fell out of use after college, but Lisa still considers it as part of her identity and smiles every time it is used.
Michigan Museums Association 313-334-7643 PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721 firstname.lastname@example.org