We Are All Agents of Change
A Welcome Message and an Invitation to Share
Welcome to Agents of Change, a newsletter I am creating about how we can bring human-centered change to our work in museums, nonprofits, and beyond. The challenges of our time have given us the perfect opportunity to radically rethink museums and nonprofits, creating a path forward that is deeply grounded in care, courage, resilience, and love. I see changemakers practicing these values in organizations across this country, yet there are still too many institutions holding on to outdated, oppressive, and harmful cultures. I believe we can all bring our best selves into the collective work of transforming our institutions.
I see Agents of Change as a space to expand these conversations, share new and ever-evolving ideas that can help us all advance positive change, and bring those strategies into practice. I’m starting out sharing a few posts a month, and I hope to get a little creative with this platform. This is not going to be like a standard newsletter or blog—I want to try something different, ask questions, share practical strategies, check-in with each other, experiment a bit, and build community. And more than anything else, I want us all to be more human with each other.
We Are All Agents of Change
In 2000, visionary science fiction author Octavia Butler wrote an essay for Essence Magazine entitled “A Few Rules for Predicting the Future.” At the start of the essay, she describes an encounter she had with a student while signing books after a talk she gave. The young man seemed overwhelmed by the daunting scope of the problems that Butler writes about in her books, asking her, “So what’s the answer?”
“There isn’t one,” she responded. “I mean there’s no single answer that will solve all of our future problems. There’s no magic bullet. Instead there are thousands of answers—at least. You can be one of them if you choose to be.”
I believe that we all have a role to play as agents of change in our own work and our own lives—choosing to be one of those “thousands of answers” that Butler refers to. We all have a role in solving our current crises because I believe that we absolutely can transform museums and nonprofits. We can have hope for a better future and begin building that future right now. It is up to us to choose to step up, be a solution to the problems we’re experiencing, and make this change happen together.
This Friday, I am giving a virtual talk as part of the University of Washington’s Museology Speaker Series. My presentation is entitled “1000 Ways to Reshape the Future of Museums,” directly inspired by this call to action from Octavia Butler. In preparing for this, I have asked the Museology Program to send out a short Google form to students asking two questions: “what is one change you want to see happen in museums?” and “what is one barrier preventing that change from happening?”
When invited to think about change, we open ourselves to envision alternative futures and dream about possibilities—also one of the powerful gifts of science fiction. Butler writes that “the very act of trying to look ahead to discern possibilities and offer warnings is in itself an act of hope.” I am so excited to see what these students choose to share, what type of future they envision for museums, and the barriers we’ll need to break through to get there.
Let’s Hear from Each Other
As part of this process of envisioning change and dreaming about possible futures, I invite you to share your responses to these same questions with the “Agents of Change” community:
What is one change you want to see happen in your organization?
What is one barrier preventing that change from happening?
Leave a comment here, answering each question with just a few words or a single sentence.
I look forward to seeing what you share, and I encourage everyone to respond to each other (in the spirit of forming a community together). I might even bring some of your ideas into my presentation and discussion this Friday.
Thank you for joining this conversation and diving into this journey with me.
A different future is possible, and it is up to us to make this happen together!
I’d like to see museums bring their Art and experiences to the people instead of a sole model of bringing people to your unwelcoming space and specifically bring your Art to the people in disadvantaged and disinvested neighborhoods. Get your Curators and Insurance Companies in a room and figure it out and they can’t leave without a solution. You have storage full of Art hidden away that can provide inspiration, hope, history and perspective. Bring it out in a Semi trailer or pop up space or even a neighbors home. Invite people personally to see more Art at your space.
I'd like to see museums and cultural spaces be more open to having multiple voices and perspectives on the planning and execution teams- be willing to expand from what already exists and build through collaboration- if anything the world is more connected and people are willing to share their expertise and resources so it is time to take time and make change happen by making these basic changes.
the barriers- lack of want to change- bureaucracy- stickler for the old "comfortable" ways of doing things- scared of the "new" because there is no data to support the success. Not enough space for new voices or jobs for the younger folks. Often times, younger folk do not want to join older museums because there are too many hoops to jump through to get something new going- too many hurdles for no good reason and not enough pay to keep the job - not a sustainable or fun environment to work in.
(speaks from struggling to navigate through museum spaces in India)