web - How might we work better/together? – FACT 2024 Symposium
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Stories & Ideas

Tue 27 Feb 2024

How might we work better/together? – FACT 2024 Symposium

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Your museum of screen culture

How do we work together, collaborate and do things better and differently?

The future of arts, culture and technology is full of forking paths that we don’t know enough about, and we don’t quite know how we will afford. The obvious thing would be to work together, collaborate, and do things better and differently – finally letting go of the competition mentality that has dominated Australia’s past. Let’s imagining a different reality that maps out a path that’s practical. What is collaboration across the funded and unfunded, experimental and for-profit, big and small parts of the cultural sector? What more can public institutions do to maintain their social license? What is unique about what we can do here that other parts of the world might learn from?


Professor Ross Parry (University of Leicester), Katie Russell (Australian Museums & Galleries Association), Kate Fielding (A New Approach), moderated by Sarah Slade (ACMI)

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Watch the video with graphic notations by Jessamy Gee

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Hello. So we're starting our final session. People will be making their way back from having a look at the FACT Showcase and food and drink, I'm sure. This session is “How Might We Work Better/Together?” So for those of you who might not have been in the last session, my name is Sarah Slade and I'm Executive Director, Commercial and Operations at ACMI. And I'm delighted to be moderating this final session of FACT, looking, as I said, at how we might work together better and ending these two days of discussions, I'm hoping, with a sense of possibility. So we can all go away and have ways in which we can start rethinking or continuing to work the way that we already are if we are working together well. So as with previous sessions, we have three excellent panellists for this conversation. And again, we'd like you all to take part. So please use the Slido to ask your questions and vote on each other's questions right from the beginning. But first, let me introduce our panellists. We have Professor Ross Parry, who's in the middle. We have Kate Fielding to my left, left. And we have Katie Russell to my immediate left. So now I'll explain why they're here and why it's such a good panel. So first of all, Professor Ross Parry is from the University of Leicester. He's a principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy, former Tate Research Fellow, and former chair of the UK's National Museums Computer Group. Ross is also one of the founding trustees of the Jodi Matters Trust for Accessible Digital Culture. In 2018, he was listed in the Education Foundation's EdTech 50, the 50 most influential people in the UK education and technology sectors. Ross leads the one by one international consortium of museums, professional bodies, government agencies, commercial partners, and academics that together are working to build digitally confident museums. Excuse me, I had to run up and down the stairs quite a lot just before this session, so I'm slightly out of breath in case you're wondering. So after a three year national project in the UK, working with the Museums Association, Arts Council England, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the consortium's subsequent projects over the last two years have brought together partners including the V&A, Science Museum and the Museums Computer Group into an action research collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, American Alliance of Museums, and the US Museum Computer Network. In 2022, Ross became the founding director of the Institute for Digital Culture, allying with the culture sector as it adapts to the digital world, and Ross is appearing with our great pleasure courtesy of Monash University. I'm starting to get my breath back. So, Kate Fielding is the CEO of a new approach, ANA, Australia's leading think tank focused on arts, culture, and creativity. She has led ANA since its inception in 2018, drawing together a unique alliance of people across the country in governance, advisory, and staffing roles to create a foundation on which ANA could grow and thrive. In this time, it has been credited with contributing to a distinct shift in the conversation and knowledge about arts and culture in Australia. Prior to her role with ANA, Kate was the chair of the Goldfield's Esperance Development Commission in Kalgoorlie and a member of the board of the Australia Council for the Arts. She has been the chair of the Regional Arts Australia and of County Arts Western Australia and was named a 40 under 40 Western Australian business leader in 2017. Katie Russell is the national director of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association or AMAGA. Katie's professional interest lies in the potential for Australian public galleries and museums to be recognised widely as critical elements of civil society. She consistently interrogates the way in which cultural institutions might increase their accessibility and appeal to the broadest possible cross section of the community and believes mentorship for and by sector professionals is fundamental to this process. With expertise in public programming, art education and research, as well as extensive experience in applying museum best practice since joining AMAGA in February 2021, Katie has led the discussion on how AMAGA can be reimagined to support and bolster the museum and gallery sector during times of compounding crises. She prioritises sector research, the implementation of the First Peoples Indigenous Roadmap and has been instrumental in developing a future focused strategy for AMAGA to provide a pathway towards a strong and sustainable professional organisation. Katie continues to amplify the collective voice of AMAGA membership through advocacy and to support the range of perspectives represented by the association. So there, you can see we have an excellent panellist for this final session. And let me start by posing a question to each of you and we'll start with Ross. So over the symposium we've heard about a range of challenges and opportunities that we'll face in coming years and decades. In this final session it will be great to get your thoughts on how working together might be to our shared advantage. What do we need to rethink if we are to work together better? And what are some examples of where it's working well at the moment? Thank you so much and thank you for the generous welcome and introduction. Maybe I can answer the question through some lived experience of the last couple of years with our Institute for Digital Culture and the University of Leicester. As you said Sarah in the introduction, we ally with the culture sector globally to assist and support as it adapts to an ever evolving digital world. And we think we do that through, to use the language of the last couple of days, a non-extractionist model of convenorship. We leverage the resource and the infrastructure that exists in the university sector and then we turn that to generate effective research to effect change in society. So I think sitting behind all of those fancy words to strip it down and hopefully to begin to answer your question. We're purposeful. So the way that we can work together collaboratively is to be purposeful. The risk in certainly the university sector is that we can be idiosyncratic, we can be dispersed, we can be highly individualistic, we can be highly self-serving. I know, I'm calling it out. We can be perhaps following personal research agendas of particular scholars, scholars that sit in silos that don't always look up and look out. So how about we then flip that model? How about we start by saying what's the need? So rather than the university sector telling, how about it actively listens? Rather than always assuming that it must be intellectually leading, how about it follows? And rather than being heroic lone scholars, how about it works collectively? So the model we're following of convenorship is one where an international network of digital culture research observatories are like our big radar dishes. They're listening. They're listening for the need. So around the world, whether it's in our projects that we're running with Canada Council for the Arts funding with Surface Impression and Galleries Ontario in Canada, or it's with our new MOU we have with the Smithsonian Institution, or projects that we have running in Leiden and Vienna and in Florence, or our new partnerships, which we're going to be really happy to tell you about that are emerging here in Australia. What we do in each case is we evidence the need. So it's absolutely about starting with what is the need within our industry, within our domain, our profession, our sector. Then we identify the resource that's out there. And we heard in the last session about some of those opportunities. This could be government money. This could be research council and academic money. And of course, by allying with a university, suddenly that world of research, development, innovation money opens up or it could be private foundation. But we identify the resource that can help us to respond to that need. And what we can also do within that network is convene. We can convene the talent. So to just grab another minute on this, we do a couple of things in the way that we collaborate. Number one, it's utterly equitable. What we aspire to do is to have an absolute parity of esteem amongst the cultural organisations, the academic bodies, the professional associations that are part of our research. We're in the room together when that project's being ideated. So there's a constant sense of being an assembly, being an ensemble that's together, a gang, putting this work together. Everyone invested and leadership could move around that group depending on what we're doing. So there's a respect and a trust and an empathy that's built from the very beginning in the work that we try and do. The other thing we do is we work in a transdisciplinary way. Universities are organised historically and some of them certainly in the UK go back 800 years. They're organised around particular classifications, that kind of Western kind of taxonomy of thinking about knowledge and all that that not always helpfully carries with it, ways of slicing up the world in terms of arts and science and social science and that's chemistry and that's law and that's archaeology and that's history. Wicked problems won't be solved and they need utterly different ways of thinking. So in some ways we have to unlearn some of our disciplinary training. Goodness, that word discipline has so many connotations. So a transdisciplinary team is where you just assemble the talent around the problem and perhaps you come up with a new vocabulary, perhaps you come up with a new methodology, perhaps you come up with new ways of working. You're above and across those disciplinary boundaries. So final thing to say is that as well as working purposefully and as well as working collaboratively and in a transdisciplinary way, we think one of those advantages to working together is that we can actually work at scale in an international way. It's been really, and thank you, you've been so generous in the conversations outside the room but also inside the auditorium as well in your discourse and discussions around the challenges you're facing here and across Australia. What we have the opportunity to do is work across another couple of axes. First of all, we have an opportunity to look beyond the domain of the museum and to think about our colleagues in libraries as we've done today but also in archives but also in other parts of the culture sector, in those heritage sites, in those other performance venues and so on, whether it's in theatre or whether it's in dance. To see that solidarity that we might have in a digital age across the culture sector enables us to find that support, find that insight, find that case study, find that talent, sometimes that resource and infrastructure that can help us. And then finally that other axis is to look out, look beyond Australia. And what we're trying to do with our global approach and our international approach is to see that sometimes the word, the person, the approach, the tool, that starting point that might just unlock a problem, it may be in Vienna, it may be in Washington, D.C., it may be in Toronto, it may be in London. And actually if we can collaborate across countries as well, we have an opportunity to do extraordinary things and because of where we are now in our communication age, unlike any other moment in the history of our profession, we have the real opportunity to collaborate globally. There may have been an answer to your question in this. There was a lot of answers. That was good. That's excellent. Thank you. And so Kate, just to recap, to get your thoughts on how working together might be to our shared advantage, what do we need to rethink if we're to work together or better and what are some examples of where it's working? Excellent. Thank you. Great to be visiting you today from Ngunnawal country, from the nation's capital, where we have plane trees and apparently you have them here too. So apologies in advance if I'm a little breathy. But as well as plane trees across the country, there is of course culture and story and creativity and that is one of the really important things that we think about when we think about the long history of this place and how we build a shared future. I found the question of, I guess, exploring what is the advantage of working together. It took me a little while to unpick because it is so for me built into the way that I work and the way I think about the world that it was a, oh, yep, we do actually need to state and interrogate why working together is good and important and useful and creates benefit. And I think in kind of going back to those basic principles, I thought about the fact that working together in different ways allows us to do things that are not possible when we work alone. It allows us to access expertise, perspective, resources, insight, understanding, context that we don't hold in our own selves, we don't hold in our own organisations. I think also it, for me, the kind of crunchier part of working together, the benefit of working together is it helps create clarity of purpose. And I think sometimes when we approach partnerships or we're working together, the kind of idea that collaboration is a worthy thing can plaster over the more interrogative questions that are useful in terms of why is this a purposeful collaboration, why is it purposeful for us to work together. Because not all collaboration is purposeful, not all collaboration is the best way to do something. And I think the process of assessing or exploring whether working together is the right thing to do for a particular outcome can help both sharpen what it is you or your organisation or other organisations are trying to do and that strengthens the work. But it also can help you identify the moments where it is not the best thing to work together. And there are times where that is the case. The other thing that really came to mind in thinking about this topic is one of my favourite words which is the need to be omnivorous in the way that we work. So the omnivores, of course, eat all things. And I find it a really useful metaphor when I think about what it means to work in partnership, what it means to think about the context for a particular outcome, what it means to build alliances or build collaboration or build partnership that are embedded in place, embedded in community, embedded in expertise, embedded in intention. So that sometimes means working in partnership or in collaboration with partners who are not easy. And I would say those are the most enjoyable collaborations, maybe enjoyable is the wrong word, but the most productive collaborations because generally that strengthens the outcome and testing those ideas. While I am now based in Canberra, I've spent most of my life living and working in regional and remote Australia, as you may have heard some of in my bio. And when I think about where I see this done really well, I do return to examples from regional and remote Australia because in regional and remote communities, you don't have the luxury of not working with people who are not different from you. In regional and remote communities, the community that you're working in, your audiences, your collaborators, your blockers, your champions are all going to be at the supermarket. And so you have to work in a relational way, both to remove barriers, to secure resources and to ensure that people turn up to whatever it is that you're trying to do in collaboration or in delivery. And I know that this room is, we've got a little bit of demographic data that you shared over the day. And I know that this is a predominantly metropolitan room, but I would really like to acknowledge that metropolitan is really broad and there's a really wide range of experiences in a city that is, or a series of cities, which I think last time I looked is upwards of 120 kilometres wide. It's pretty wild. With a new approach, we did a really substantial signature piece of work over three years looking at attitudes towards arts, culture and creativity towards middle Australia. And one of the things, sorry, amongst middle Australians, so outer suburban, regional, politically unaligned, middle income households. And one of the things that came through really strongly out of that is that the experience of someone in outer suburban Melbourne, in many cases has more in common with the experience of people in outer suburban Perth or outer suburban Brisbane, and in some cases in Townsville or Alice, than it necessarily does with the centre of a city. So just acknowledging that geography plays a really big part in the types of partnerships that are possible to form. Thanks. Thank you. And Katie, did you want me to repeat the question or just the end part? What are the, oh, so I'll say, what do we need to rethink if we're to work together and better? And what are the examples of where you think it's working already? Well, I think potentially we need to rethink who we are as a sector. I think that the demographic data that the room has provided over the last two days about where you're coming from professionally shows me that we're forgetting. In this room, there isn't a large proportion of our sector represented. It may not be in numbers, but I can tell you that my membership in my organisation are MAGA, which isn't to be confused with MAGA. I suppose that's a gentle warning about the overuse of acronyms. But getting back to the whole sectoral soup. I hadn't even thought of that until you mentioned it. Now I'm not going to be able to forget it. I know. I know. I feel like I'll have a Trump meme. Oh gosh, it's going to happen. Anyway, the diversity of our sector and the sort of the gaps that exist and the function of this organisation or the expectation of the membership or the professional peak body to traverse such a diverse sector is a challenge. So 58% of our membership, our organisational membership is from regional and remote Australia, organisations that might be run entirely by one, two or three volunteers. They don't have a succession plan. They don't have any security that promises them any sort of future except the passion of the individuals who run those spaces and really believe in what they have to offer to the story of the Australian narrative, I think. And I was thinking about that in terms of the context of all of the brilliant projects and the potential that's been explicated across the last two days. And I was thinking, oh, okay, the cost of AMAGA membership for those groups is on a par with the cost of this symposium over the last two days. And there's been over the last two years, especially with the pandemic and how it affected rural communities and the communities and cultural offerings in those communities, we had a lot of those organisations appeal to us and say, we can't afford our AMAGA membership, but we still want to be part of the community because you are our lifeline to the rest. And I just think about that. And that membership also includes a discount on their volunteers' insurance. So it just shows the economies of scale. So I suppose if I were to distill the last two days and just put aside the fact that Kerry, throughout the gauntlet, that we have to end with a Coachella-style finale, I think it's about how do we scale innovation? How do we scale these ideas, which everyone says it's easy to collaborate, but how is it? How easy is it? How is it done? And what part does a professional organisation that's meant to link everybody, what do we prioritise and what do we do with our AMAGA resources to facilitate that? Great. Thank you. Now, this time I'm going to jump right to your questions because I promised that last time and we got caught up with some other things. Now, there's a really interesting provocation that says collaboration is not only a value, but necessary to survive for Indigenous peoples in the Pacific. Why look to the north for innovation when your region has experts? And I'm not sure that anyone is suggesting looking to the north. It could be a reflection on the panel and who we've got on the panel. We haven't invited anyone with that background. But do you have any reflections on that? I think it goes to your point, Ross, about the breadth of expertise and listening and including everybody. I think so. I can comment this as someone from outside the Australian cultural condition, so forgive my kind of astigmatic kind of view on this. But, however, no. And on our one of our one by one projects, these were our projects where we worked with organisations and the American Alliance Museums and the Museums Association in the US and UK to think about how to build digital confidence in the museum sector and develop skills, digital skills to lead change and so on. Our final iteration of that project looked at who was not in the room. So the first iteration was about understanding the skill sets that might be needed. The second initiative was very much about models of leadership and agile and anticipatory and leaderful behaviour that's mindful and empathetic and so on and those emotional skills that leaders need as well as business and technology skills. And our final project where we were partnering with organisations such as the brilliant Museum Hue in New York and Stephanie Cunningham, those of you that know her, and Heitham Ede, who is the leader of the Museum Studies Programme at Southern University in New Orleans, which is a self designated historically black college and university in the US, was, it was a project that took place at the time of George Floyd's murder and the Black Lives Matter moment. So to have a conversation about systemic prejudice and bias within the museum sector when a conversation, no, activism and change was raging around decolonisation in the museum, Britain has a particular burden, shame and responsibility within those imperialist conversations. That happening at the same time as the Black Lives Matter rising and racial reckoning moment was taking place meant that the whole project looked at itself and asked questions about where are the systemic biases within museum tech. And it was about noticing who was not in the project, it was about noticing who was not in the room, it was about noticing the whiteness that was washed across the design of the proposal, the writing that was being pushed forward as expert and in the way that the outputs were emerging. An extraordinary moment of hopefully integrity and humility and honesty and courage and reckoning for everybody that was involved in that project. It doesn't speak to the Australian point, but I think it might remind you that there are other professions and other sectors around the world and other communities around the world where these unavoidable critical moments of change and these moments of reckoning are taking place. And final sentence on this, they go to the heart of even the questions that might be posed, the way projects are being framed, the tools that are being used, the ways that projects are being convened, talent is being brought together, outputs are being shaped and made inclusive and accessible and equitable to users and how they are in the world. Every single element of museum technology we need to question every part of it in terms of equity. Thank you. Thanks Ross. So another question we've got from Slido is, and this is a very Australian as the last one was question, it's actually a New South Wales versus Victoria question I think, but as we've got a lot of Australia wide people on the audience we can answer it Australia wide. So while we're all wanting to work together, government funding often forces institutions to go it alone and be competitive, certainly in New South Wales. What to do about this? So maybe Kate? Look I did have a little internal chuckle about the why are we looking to the north and did internally go, is that, are they questioning that we should not be looking to Sydney for things? I did spend a lot of time. I took it as a wider world view but if the person who's written the question wants to clarify please feel free to. I understand it was about the wider world but I did spend enough time living in Victoria to know that the competition between Melbourne and Sydney is real. Anywho, the actual sensible question I'm going to return to which is what are the structures that require different types of relationships between institutions and other types of organisations? And I think while I accept that the experience for some institutions may be that governments are requiring them to bid for resources or compete for resources in the standard way that government agencies need to within the process of securing funds within a government context that is a standard part of how we operate as governments operate. I would say back that one of the things that I hear most frequently from government and policy stakeholders is we wish that institutions would work together more and would bring us demonstration of how they're collaborating to create value and deliver value for the communities that they serve. So I understand that there are structures in terms of the way those bids are put together that may create barriers but I would reflect back that there is also an appetite for courageous collaborative budget bids that are focused on delivering for the public. Great, thank you. I think that we really need to acknowledge that we've come from a moment within the pandemic but also economically and politically over the last decade where institutions had to fight to keep their doors open and just so therefore they necessarily financially just to stay alive looked inwards. But for again the broad church that I represent I see it as really really imperative that in fact it's part of their mandate that national or larger state bodies actually work in the interests of the whole. So the national cultural policy does implement or there's an example of how that can be enacted. It's a very nascent project at the moment but it's taking that the kernel of that legislative responsibility and maybe reviving this idea of or not the idea actually enacting that national responsibility. So while museums and galleries aren't explicitly mentioned in the national cultural policy at all I think we're there in some way shape or form but you just have to be I suppose creative with how that's interpreted but the point is there's one project called Sharing the National Collection that most of you will be aware of where the National Gallery is offering inviting smaller organisations to say what would you like to display in your or in your town in your city hall or whatever it is even in your small historical society from the National Collection and it is a pilot for other major cultural institutions to adopt the same model so that the distributed national collection which isn't only held in repositories in Canberra it's actually in every town and even not in towns it's everywhere it's across the country and we could talk about the digital infrastructure that's behind that as well. So that will get the collection in Canberra moving but on a principle basis it's something that's about the sharing and moving things across the ecosystem and what I'd like to see in the next iteration of the national cultural policy is that skills development comes not just the collection moving but people moving people talking to each other people sharing skills what's worked for you that didn't work for us that was really disastrous why you know that sort of that sort of just getting the oil you know on the wheels and really getting it going. Yeah and I'll pass to Ross in a minute but I think there's another reason for that and it goes as well to some of the funding points from the previous session I think institutions generally are very nervous and it actually goes to your point earlier Ross institutions are often people who work in them are very nervous of sharing failure they're very nervous about entering into something when they don't know whether the results are going to be what's going to be good for their institution or them professionally and so it's about changing that perspective as well but to go back to the question Ross I know you have a lot of thoughts around this what are the structural reasons that institutions perhaps find it difficult to work together and what might need to change. We did an initiative a few years ago that was called CAF rather pretentiously called the Collaborative Arts Triple Helix I know you couldn't make it up but it's based upon some interesting theory which is around what happens when public private and non-profit organisations work together and the report we work we went back to the Research Council again I'm taking a long run up at this question. What we learned by seed funding 19 digital prototype projects so we had you know the best part of 60 combinations of small cultural organisations academics from theology to literature to archaeology and digital SMEs and startups and we had a kind of speed dating event and a brokerage event and we were able to get those 57 you know parties all sort of wired up into 19 sort of small kind of digital initiatives and they had six months and a little bit of money to just try things out so lots of great things happened but what we were actually doing was observing how they work together and surprise surprise you know what we were able to see is that the three different types of organisation had different language you know just terminology day-to-day parlance the kind of you know discourse of work and that that meant there was interference sometimes across you know working as organisations. We saw that their rhythm of work was different the beats the cadence of activity you know so when the academic was told this was urgent they thought wow I'm going to need to get this done by the end of term whereas the company was going no we meant five o'clock actually but what we also knew that was the bottom line was different you know for some it was social good for some it was meeting the educational mission and for others it was the bottom line and that you know that the you know the profit of the organisation. So we you know we noticed that that that kind of wiring of kind of language and culture and motivation and I think we see that across different organisations that the beautiful diversity of our sector from the national organisation to the volunteer run organisation from those organisations that have a million objects to those that have none from white cubes to black boxes to integrated heritage solutions you know from those archives and libraries to museums it's just a glorious horizon of possibility and diverse experience. The consequence of all of that is every single organisation is utterly unique the reason our project was called one by one is because there are no single homogenous solutions for thinking about digital change in our sector for us to change as a sector we have to change one institution at a time one person at a time one team at a time one by one so it's about embracing that and not being frozen by that but just realising that every discussion every project every initiative every programme needs to start by situating itself and just being context context led and context based and really kind of owning earning the circumstance of where you are what your vision is what your leaderful behaviour is what your systems and processes are what your culture is and the skill sets and abilities of your particular team because guess what they will be unique and different to the museum that you're partnering with. Excellent so then there's a question can I can I just pick up on that I think one of the things that that answer really highlights is the importance of curiosity and the so one listening to the you know one by one and we're we're unique and individual there's some some beauty in that and there's also some risk that we become focused on difference what what's why why we wouldn't be able to collaborate because how we do it is so different to how they do it and I think I've heard it again and again in the sessions the importance of curiosity the importance of kind of leaning in to uncertainty so it's that situating self reflection action as well as holding open a curiosity around how collaboration could work how working together could work and and that it will be messy and that there will be awkward bits and that that's actually part of its strength not of an unhelpful challenge yeah thank you. Yeah excellent points so looking at it from a different perspective one of the questions is how do not non-profit creative precincts with bumpy histories and business models reshape their future to aid in attracting new collaborations to stay relevant to audience so how does how does someone an organisation I think but correct me the person who's written it if I'm interpreting it incorrectly how do you even start that journey of collaboration if yours are you're an organisation that doesn't have a potentially a history of it or any great success in it in the past. Could you read the question? Yeah I can yeah so how do non-profit creative precincts with bumpy histories and business models reshape their future to help attract new collaborations to stay relevant to audience. What's your value proposition to borrow from John Wiley which is a tough self reflection task but the way that that question is phrase tells me that you're already doing that well done it's a really tough thing to do the thinking about what the offer is and why and how it creates how it is relevant is key and Katie I'll hand to you. But also if we're talking about how do we work together therefore there's no one size fits all answer to that problem everyone's going to have a different you know need and you know way of addressing their or approaching their wicked problems and I think that that's where collaboration and working together can actually assist an organisation who's struggling to get those answers so that's why I think an organisation like ours we often get a call like that we often get a question where it's like I've got this and I really don't know what to do where can I go and it's like I'm glad you've come here why don't I have at my fingertips you know and I think that that's the thing it's the it's the sort of the collective memory of what we've tried who's done this project successfully who's come out the other side of a you know being brought into a precinct and being a historic house museum as well as a library as well as a child care centre as well as this and you know you know what did you learn from the not shiny story yeah yeah yeah Ross I think there's a role for training providers and I think there's a role for professional associations here as well I'm thinking of examples where okay we had a residential subsidised fully subsidised residential that we ran in the Institute last July where we had we had eight organisations we had a senior leader and then we had each of those senior leaders brought another member of staff usually a junior mem staff with them and so those 16 people had an immersive three days with us in which we were reflecting upon change in our organisation and who leads change and the role of digital within change we were in Krems in Austria in the summer and it was the last year of the Getty funded summer Institute run by the Belvedere Research Centre in Vienna and Krems and again we were partners on that and much more diverse set of organisations maybe about 20 24 organisations in the room again for a week course in which they were able to share it was a very safe space it was an opportunity to very slowly and very carefully reflect together mentorship models coaching models were kind of used through the week so there's there's it's sort of incumbent and there's a responsibility on those of us that have a role to support the sector to support communities of practice to be those those connective tissue to be those those enablers and trainers to think okay what can we do to help that organisation that's that's trying to be brave to take that first step and is a little bit scared and doesn't know where to start well you're not on your own and goodness what have we heard over the last two days how how generous and supportive we are as an industry there are other industries that look on us and crave what we have you know we're not gas and oil and finance and publishing and leisure and all of those other industries that you know are deeply competitive we're a collective we have a kind of joint kind of mission here and we constantly share and we're predisposed to collaborate and work together and that extends also to those of us in the training sector as well you know we want to help the industry to do the best it can be. Great thank you I want to touch on something that Katie brought up which is really important I think and I think back I think it was Jeff it was a Jeff Bezos quote when he was talking about how often when organisations want to change they talk about what needs to change in their organisation and they forget the question what do we want to keep the same what are we doing that's really good and that that question often isn't asked in those same questions so just following on from what you were mentioning in the answer to that question how do sectors or organisations remember what they've done well and how do the memories of how those things were achieved carry forward because it's not only the result it's the process so I don't know if you've got any reflections on that. Yes definitely so if we go back to the origin story of this forum it's the CEO Digital Mentoring Program that you know commenced here at ACMI and the unique nature of the collaborations or the pairings in terms of mentor and mentee in that they were cross art form it wasn't oh you know this is the digital manager at one organisation hello you're going to be paired with another digital manager it was cross arts so all art forms and the pairings were deliberately you know not in your comfort zone and I think that anyone who went through that process or touched on it in last year's forum and this time understands the richness that comes from looking at the way other industries or other parts of the arts ecosystem the soup actually you know address questions because you learn so much and I think that even within the museum and gallery ecosystem because it's so diverse what I'm finding having come out of a Glamazon institution and now representing as an organisation that you know goes from the tiniest to the biggest all of the stories of innovation the majority of them I'll be fair do come from the margins because of that the need to innovate because you've got so little resources and it's amazing when someone is like from a big organisation is paired from someone from an art centre in the Northern Territory and the ideas do cross pollinate and because we all share a common purpose for the arts to be shared with our communities but the ways you go about it are rich but they're often held and I'll no one to be interested in that and I think that someone mentioned yesterday it was Katrina first up she used the word cultural authority and I think that that's a quite a contested term now in terms of I don't think publics want to be told by cultural institutions what is culture what is art this is what we're presenting to you as we've seen you know time and time again today and we know it's about conversations and dialogues with the people who access what you have it's not and then co-creation so where does that put cultural authority I don't think it destabilises the organisation I think it makes them more able and more porous and that's a good thing but the whole sector needs to become like that just one more point in terms of the crisis we have so across the pandemic and this is a British statistic volunteerism the return to volunteering in any sector not only the arts and culture is down over 40% so you know only 60% of the people who ran or support all of our organisations from the big to the small they're not coming back and so you know if we think about that 50 year like you know 2050 I don't know what the cannon will be and that's exciting that I don't know but what will the ecosystem be is it just going to be these big organisations who've had to up everything else are we not going to have anything in the small to medium sector because it just didn't survive I can't live with that eventuality that's why I do this work because it is everyone in this room's responsibility to ensure that our ecosystem remains rich and every part functions effectively by connecting to one another. And to answer the question you know how to remember write it up we are one of our superpowers in our sector again compared to many other industries where it remains secret knowledge and IP and stays inside the organisation is that we reflect you know we have museology we have an extraordinary subject of museum studies where you know there are people in this room who've been part of that amazing writing up and reflecting and documenting and therefore sharing of what did we try what didn't work where have we been before you know Mia, Mia Ridges in the room her astonishing book on crowd sourcing which I recommend to my students every year you know the national treasure that is Vince Eakin you know his virtual curatorship book Linda Kelly's in the room you know what she's written about about you know post digital and the evolution of thinking about digital within the sector you know Fiona Cameron the paper we had yesterday and hearing about you know what Fiona's written about collections management and documentation and theorising our subjects what we have in our community what we have my goodness in this room are the storytellers and the narrators and the editors of what we have done together so how lucky are we how lucky are we that we can write this up together and keep an archive of our previous professional practice. In terms of memory I think I once heard a quote and I don't know where it comes from but it's institutions live long a directorship is short and I think that's the key about sharing stories connect pass it on you know that's why mentorship and you know seeking out mentees you know you can't hold what you've gained you know you have to give it back to the sector that's the point you know to build the ecosystem to maintain it we have to have structures in place for the knowledge to transfer and not just one way learn from each other but it has to keep rolling. Yeah okay did you have something on that before we move to a different topic? Yeah and I'd probably say as a wrap around to all of that and to not to not not in competition with all of these things this is and talk to your community talk to your consumers talk to those who have disengaged talk to those who were never there in the first place talk to your fans they will also have opinions on what you've done well what you want to keep what can't be lost what what can be what can start to change and morph. Great thank you so now we've got another question should the question of working together better be directed to the public to community and to cultural practitioners instead of between institutions? Oh hello sorry can you ask that again I was yeah no no no of course it's a beautiful follow-on from what you were saying you've almost answered it ahead of time. I suddenly had this line of expectant faces and realised I hadn't listened properly to the question. It's very easy to do. So should the question of working together better be directed to the public to community and to cultural practitioners instead of between institutions? Yes and all of those and one of the one of my favourite pieces of work or one of my favourite findings out of some of the work that we've done in that Middle Australia space is talking with young Middle Australians about face-to-face experiences and digital experiences and we summarised that as yes and so what we heard back from young Middle Australians was yes of course we want face-to-face yes we want digital yes and we want other things as well and the sense that I don't know I'm not into binaries generally as a rule and the idea that it has to be are we either do this or we do that this is an ecosystem all of those parts are connected we need to do yes and all of those things and which comes back to that clarity of purpose and clarity of what it is you're trying to do what your role is in the ecosystem and how you can best go about that because I'm sure this at least one person in the room who hears me say yes you have to do all of those things who you know sinks inside and go but I can't do all of those things we don't have that we don't we can't do all of the things and you don't need to do all of the things but across the ecosystem we need to do all of the things. Ross? And it's another yes and and yes and it is it is listening to the community and stepping back and noticing the expertise lives outside of the organisation and the museum can follow and the museum can sometimes join and be invited it doesn't have to initiate everything and own everything but I would also say and that it is about listening to parts of the sector and parts of the workforce that have not been heard to take one example those of you that can get online do have a look at sent the sensational museum so the sensational museum dot org dot uk is a two and a half year project that's running at the moment with a number of organisations across the uk and it's supported by the museum's association in the uk and it's funded by the research council AHRC arts and humanities research council it's a disability led project and it's about calling out the ableism that exists within the systems that museum workers use every single day to do their job whether that is building exhibitions or managing collections so I'm the lead on the side of the project that's looking at documentation and collections management so we are about two things briefly we are about understanding the sensory biases and the ableist biases that exist the moment the collections manager confronts the object at that moment and knowledge capture and accessioning and by the way it becomes a visual encounter of seeing so that object now becomes trapped in an ocular centric way of being in the museum display show exhibit you know it's a spectacle for those of us including me that are blind partially sighted and visually impaired the museum is systemically a difficult place so how might we at the moment that object enters the museum approach that object in a trans sensory way that notices a D def neurodivergent and diverse sense of sensory experiences that it might have in the future but equally how might we notice that that museum worker maybe partially sighted maybe blind maybe D def community member maybe neurodivergent may actually find those interfaces and tools and data models and restrictive language and ways of working disabling and we don't question them they are the standard that's the CMS that's what we have to do that's the lexicon that's the term list that's the process that's what we have to do with to have accreditation and to be recognised actually no we have an opportunity to call out how disabling our systems within the within the museum arm so I guess that's one illustration I would give about sometimes it is about listening but it's also noticing that we haven't actually been listening to ourselves. Great excellent we have another we have a question around curiosity that was brought up before and it's saying that curiosity and embracing uncertainty are easier for hyper mobile arts leaders for other levels of art workers they might be overdosing on uncertainty so collaboration is a very difficult thing for them to start and do so what are our views or our thoughts on that or how collaboration can help them Katie? I think that again this links to right back to sort of policy discussions and I think that you know people who commit to working in the arts they've already done a degree which has probably put them in quite a lot of debt and so yes buzzwords like curious and collaboration and you know all of those things you probably don't yet you don't get to those till you know a long time into a standard museum career if that's what you want and I think that recent legislative changes around you know ending this which is something that's really endemic in cultural institutions is contract after contract and that terrible uncertainty that happens you know where you know the person who is clearly critical in a team in an institution is teetering on the brink of not knowing whether their contracts being renewed and just legislative changes like that which give people a bit of security because you need that foundation and a lot of other supports within your organisation and within society to actually be curious so I think there's you know that recognition by the current arts minister that those and you know we have a moment and I said at this forum last year where we've got a workplace relations minister who's also the arts minister and we're gonna grab that and not let it go I've got my foot firmly in that door you know that's that's really important just just those sort of basic you know that it's everyone knows or is aware of that hierarchy of needs and that baseline has to be there before we can get to the curiosity. Ross? I wonder Katie whether it's a good moment to mention some of the work that was very daytime television the way I did that so Katie that makes me think about some of the work you've been doing around assembly because to just help the group and those of you that know said you'll now that you know Australian National University Canberra but working work with you Katie I'm now going to explain what you do in front of you there's a name for that. From my perspective what I'm seeing is and also your work with we've been seeking at Monash as well and with us at the Institute is that over the last year we've been thinking about ways in which all museum workers leaders but all museum workers can have that curiosity sated or at least fed by creating a platform creating an environment where they can come together feel protected feel supported and reflect and to start asking questions about where they may need to go but where we may need to go as a sector so assembly in a way is about is about being curious is that fair? Yes it is so assembly is it's a collective that's coming together to think about the concept of research in relation to the museum where does it sit what types of research occur within the museum about the museum and what models are pervasive what needs to be broken what needs to be reconsidered what's working what's not how close is the academic discourse about museums actually to lived experience of working and visiting museums or we know that there's a lot of work produced and of course you know much of that comes through you know the wonderful Leicester University School of Museum Studies which is just over 50 years old yes. It is training the world's museum curators since 1996. There you go. So getting very daytime TV. Oh yes. Okay let's take a break. You've got the ticker tape down the bottom you know enroll now. So I think that because one researchers idea of what museum research is is another one you know complete anathema to someone else and I think that we just want all of the people in the room that's why it's called assembly to say okay how can this work because on a very baseline level if you look at university traditionally university researchers often will want to interrogate a collection item and so again we've talked about extractive a lot so research by the university can be very extractive from the museum but where's the benefit for the museum whereas we know that there's a lot of research conducted in museums which is about the functioning of museums the better functioning of museums and I think that for a MAGA as a professional organisation about museums we have to be led by what the research is telling us but at the moment the research is really uneven and we don't have the means to seed research ourselves so because I'm I believe in research in fact our new strategic plan comes you know it starts at research there's research so we have an evidence base to work from about what's required in museums and galleries then we move to professional development to embed that idea into the sector and how people can work better together and then hopefully once those things happen it's more circular than this way. Sectural change can occur from an evidence base to sectoral change and that's where I think we're at all parts of that process and we just want to keep those oils the wheels oiled yeah. So we've talked a lot we've used the word collaboration a lot and working together a lot as is in the title of the session but is there a sense and this is sort of a this is a separate question but reflecting a number of questions and comments here is that that sense too general do we need to think in terms of something much more deliberate like interoperability or a term used in the provocative play session yesterday something like extreme collaboration do there need to be mechanisms built in or does that undermine the type of collaboration that you're seeing the benefits from. It's okay. I'm going to give my yes and answer of course which is all of those but I would say that it is incredibly useful to do those things informed by evidence and informed by data and so I am going to draw on a couple of things from our analysis of cultural funding by government so for those of you who don't know a new approach is a think tank we're initiated by and are entirely funded by a group of philanthropic organisations so we're independent of government independent of the sector and one of the terrific things that that allows us to do is to do some quite detailed analysis of cultural funding by government over time and we use a data set that is produced by the ABS that looks at all of the cultural funding by the three levels of government and it takes a broad and inclusive approach to cultural funding so it's not it's not only arts it's not only the glam sector it's it's not only screen it's all of these things as well as festivals as well as other types of cultural activities that occur across the country that receive support through different government programs some of those are specific cultural programs others of those will be for example a big chunk through regional development programs across the country and so when we did that analysis we found that over the last 14 years that there's been a shift in the relationship between the three levels of government used to be that federal government was the big big game in town it's become a much more even relationship between federal government state and territory governments now with an increasing role for local government so at the moment it's about 37 30 sorry 37 percent from commonwealth 37 percent from your state and territory governments about doing maths in my head 26 percent from local governments and I'm giving you a whole heap of information there to make this next bit make sense a really key thing to note in that is you've got federal government and state and territory governments collectively pretty much investing the same but a much greater portion of the state and territories investment goes into galleries libraries archives museums so I'm conscious that that's a significant part of the conversation here today but not the only part of it but the yes we need we need different types of frameworks for collaboration and there are formal ways that that can happen and yes that can happen partly through federal things but within specifically the glam sector one of your key frameworks for that type of collaboration is going to be through your state and territory government and I highlight at this point if this is of course if you're looking at public funding I highlight that particularly at this point because there's a whole raft of live policy development happening across the country New South Wales put out a very good policy right at the end of last year there's live development going on in Western Australia Northern Territory South Australia I think probably here in Victoria you're coming to the end of your strategy so there'll be a renewal process there so if you are particularly working in that sector that is one of the key places to be pursuing those types of conversations. Great thanks Ross. An example of what can happen when you are deliberate and you work in an interoperable way I can give you we're a little bit luckier in the UK we have for better or for worse we have a very centralised system of policy and funding and coordination and professional organisation around the museum sector so one consequence of that is something like the museum data service can happen so again please do have a look at that museumdata.uk so this is an example of what happens when a national sector support organisation the Collections Trust so the organisation that looks after spectrum museum documentation standard that all accredited museums have to meet and be compliant to works with Art UK so Art UK is a non-profit organisation funded by Arts Council England that over the last 10 years have brought together three and a half thousand collections not objects but collections so every single publicly owned artwork in the UK is now visible on and searchable surfaceable and in some cases purchasable in different formats on the Art UK website it's an incredible 10 year project that's come to fruition. When they come together with us at the Institute for Digital Culture what we were able to do is secure in the first instance and this connects to the last session philanthropic funding from Bloomberg so we were very lucky to be a recipient of the Bloomberg Philanthropies International Digital Accelerator kind of fund and with that powering the capital because that was a big chunk of resource that needed to happen that nobody wants to pay for we've now got ongoing funding from the UK government through the UKRI which is our research councils to build a single national data set there are 80 million records in UK museums and after 30 years of digitisation only half of them are surfaceable and discoverable online so we're building a fair findable accessible interoperable reusable data set for all museums free free to use and a charity will be at the heart of it making that possible so that's what's you know when you are purposeful and very deliberate and working and joined up into operable way that's that's what's possible. Fantastic. Katie? That's what we need to collaborate on internationally so and replicate things like that at scale in Australia particular to our circumstances there's many people in this room who have been on the journey of Australia's deliberate distributed collections and trying to think of a national database for museum and gallery items and collection items and it's very live at the moment and I think that certainly Amaga sees you know exemplar projects like the one you've just described as well as well as the sensational museum in terms of you know access and inclusion and the initiatives that's joining up in terms of everyone's experience and everyone's input we can learn a lot from those initiatives and potentially do something in Australia to revive those conversations and bring a lot of disparate conversations together and programs together so in Victoria there's collections Victoria project that's you know only here and that's about supporting small museums to digitise their collections or whatever they need at that level and it happens in Western Australia as well plus the national solution currently is a system operated by the National Library called Trove and the museum and gallery sector you know feel that you know there have been so many great national initiatives that have petered out that we need to either revive at least revisit and there's actually money at the moment in national research infrastructure that the museums and galleries sector or the collections sector in general could get on board with and really make a case for. Thank you and that's a wonderful point to end our conversation on so thank you for this great conversation and I'd like us all in the audience to thank Ross, Kate and Katie.