How will the MA Transformers Programme be woven into the MA Conference?

This year’s Festival of Change has been programmed by Transformers through a creative proposal process, so we are hoping it will have a strong presence. It’s also helpful that one of the three keys topics of this year’s conference is Workforce.

Festival of Change should have a fringe feel, so it will be physically and intellectually woven through the conference. The festival is also an opportunity for the MA to practice what it has been preaching through Transformers, a key part of which is collaboration, co-development and embracing new practices.

What can conference goers expect from the Festival of Change and how can they get involved?

I’d say expect the unexpected! The brief we set was to be a playful, physical presence throughout conference, which embodies the Transformer mission of Change, Challenge and Growth.

The Transformers have risen to the challenge and come back with highly creative and imaginative concepts. I truly believe the sector is clamouring to be allowed more creative freedom, to take more risks, to inject some fun while challenging and highlighting the pertinent topics facing our sector.

Chartered Institute of Fundraising October 2021
The Transformers have developed a host of innovative ideas for the Festival of Change

So to get the most out of it I’d encourage people to enter the festival spirit and embrace the tone in which it is intended; fun, playful, provocative, and thought-provoking.

All the activities are participatory so it completely depends on people getting involved! We wanted Festival of Change to be a different offer to the ‘sit down and listen’ more formal knowledge and skills sharing of conference. There will be drop ins as well as some timetabled activities, so conference goers should check out the programme on p44-47 of the guide.

A few highlights will be a built from scratch Escape Room in the Exhibition Hall where delegates will be asked to form teams and sign up to ‘Escape the Museums of Woe’ and collectively solve the key challenges museums face and see if, through their collective problem solving, they can break free.

On Thursday in the Exchange Room 2 we’ll have a theme of ‘Power’ and will be exploring who has it. As part of this theme Transformers and the National Justice Museum have created an interactive courtroom debate: Crown vs the Museum Sector, putting on trial the tenet that museums have a social impact.

We were conscious that quite a lot of the activities are quite bold and interactive, which may not appeal to all, so on Friday we have a theme of Wellbeing and we will be hosting a ‘safe space’ room and there will be explorations of neurodiversity and activities such a life drawing for mindfulness.

The programme has been vital, Transformers gives fresh motivation. The participants have the potential already but the reality is that within their daily working life and routine, which is increasingly stretched they may not have the space or justification to work on ideas or development of the things that need to change.

Katy Swift, Transformers Programme co-ordinator

What have been some of the major developments/successes of the Transformers Programme so far?

I came on board last year as the first full-time person working solely on the programme. It has been running for three years now and this year expanded to three distinct strands. It has grown more inclusive, for example to include freelancers and a new strand, which specifically focuses on Diversity.

The Transformers programme has really led the way in highlighting the potential of mid-career mobilisation. The reality is there are many quick wins, however, sustainable change takes time and over the three years we have really seen the Transformers grow into influencers both within their organisations and into the wider sector.

I think the programme itself has now developed a strong brand and a visible presence of change makers in the sector. This past year we have created a strong social media presence on Twitter, which has been a big part of this. I see this as a key success in creating a visible and vocal movement of people who feel energised and skilled-up to affect change.

How important is the programme to nurturing fresh ideas in mid-level museum professionals and what have been some of the best examples of innovative thinking?

The programme has been vital, Transformers gives fresh motivation. The participants have the potential already but the reality is that within their daily working life and routine, which is increasingly stretched they may not have the space or justification to work on ideas or development of the things that need to change.

Transformers provides them with time, space, a cohort of 157 like-minded colleagues, coaches and access to inspirational change makers from across the arts, and of course the fantastic Transformers alumni.

By the end of the programme they are more equipped to manage change, develop and implement new ideas and influence, which of course leads to a more resilient workforce.

I don’t think there is such a thing as best examples of innovation, by nature they all have their own newness, necessity and impact. It’s not all about always about reinventing the wheel, it’s about what’s going to have an impact in a certain scenario or institution.

Here are few good examples of innovation:

  • We’ve had Transformer create a high profile social media campaign to use the Museum as a space campaign on climate change and the visitors what they can contribute.
  • We’ve had a Transformer who is creating an ‘incubator event’ to kick start an artist development programme supporting young artists from BAME & lower-socio economic backgrounds
  • We have seen the creation of ‘Guerrilla Museum’ which acts a roving co-curated community space.

Although the projects are an important way of making visible action and change, for me it’s important to value that longer lasting change we are making in the individual and the skills and motivation they will carry forward into their careers and organisations.

What can we expect to see from the Transformers Programme from now until March (when the current funding ends) and will there be funding for more rounds?

Festival of Change will be the next big showcase. Now the Transformers on the Innovate and Diversify schemes have submitted their project proposals and been granted micro funding, so now is the time they are working and developing their change making ideas. The programme has given them the skills and tools to do this and we remain a source of support as do their coaches. But now is a period of handover and a time of great productivity for the Transformers. I’m very excited about this year’s ideas for change, which will be gathered up in a shared learning and wrap event in February 2018.

The Museums Association has always been committed to workforce issues and Transformers has been an integral part of the MA workforce strategy. After three years it is time to absorb what we have learnt and embed the learning across all our programmes and events. Alongside this though we are developing an adapted version of Transformers, strengthened from our learning, and we will be looking for funding for this as a new programme.

The Museums Association Conference takes place in Manchester from November 16 to 19 and places can be booked online.

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Festival of Change - three things to look out for

Escape Room: where delegates will be asked to form teams and sign up to ‘Escape the Museums of Woe’ and collectively solve the key challenges museums face to see if through their collective problem solving they can break free

Courtroom Debate: Transformers and the National Justice Museum have created an interactive , Crown vs the Museum Sector, putting on trial the tenet that museums have a social impact.

Wellbeing: The Festival of Change will be hosting a ‘safe space’ room and there will be explorations of neurodiversity and activities such a life drawing for mindfulness

 

The Museums Association Conference takes place from November 16 to 19 and places can be booked online.