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!
Lisa Craig Brisson