Thanks to Rachael Rogers at Abergavenny Museum for prompting potentially one of our most influential developments in the UK museums sector.
Rachael asked us if there were any KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that their Happy Museum should be monitoring. The answer was no; there are very many performance measures that different policy makers request, for example the environmental sustainability indicators that our collaborators Julie’s Bicycle collect for Arts Council England (ACE). But there is not an agreed group of key indicators that are really well thought out and shared across the sector or across the UK.
It seems to us that there should be. And our view seems to be shared, most strongly by Alison Turnbull, head of research at MGS and one of our first symposium guests. Alison got in contact through the network Mandy runs, Make Culture Work, which was consulting on self-evaluation for ACE. MGS is working on its own continuous improvement tool, and our conversation soon made the link between self-evaluation and improvement, and the idea for a coordinated set of KPIs. It provided a strong impetus to make something happen.
Alison and Mandy are now working together to convene a meeting of policy, strategic and campaigning organisations across the UK museums sector. This includes MGS, MALD, NIMC and ACE; the Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Association, Collections Trust and Royal Society of Arts as well as Happy Museums, Association of Independent Museums and Julie’s Bicycle. We’re not going to agree on everything, but where our interests do overlap, agreeing common metrics and language would surely be useful. We can already see a strong focus on wellbeing for example. The meeting was postponed this week because of the flooding crisis (which might help focus the mind more on our role in the environment) but is already re-scheduled for February as we’d like to drive this with some pace.
We’d like to add one note of caution which will no doubt be in some minds – we are well aware of the risks if we get this wrong. We are wary of target setting for example, and will be careful to manage the risk of perverse incentives. But with the combined expertise and different perspectives of all those organisations we are confident we can get this right. We hope the result will be more considered leadership by focusing and streamlining the advice on offer and the metrics kept. After all, what gets measured, is what gets done; as ever we want to make sure we measure what matters.