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Mainstream Diversity Project

Why Diversity?

In 2014 Arts Council England launched the Creative Case for Diversity challenging arts and culture to do more to embrace diversity in all spheres of activity – from the board room to the front desk. In response, the South East Museum Development Programme is embarking on a regional project called ‘Mainstream Diversity' recognising that diverse Boards provide more representative, successful and resilient governance for the museums we support.

To achieve this, we will:

  • Make diversity a mainstream in our own thinking, embracing it as a guiding value in all our museum development activity, especially where it affects or is targeting museum governance
  • Enable Museum Boards to make talent, ability and commitment their deciding factors in recruitment decisions, rather than ties to an organisation or its Trustees
  • Support Museum Boards looking to improve their diversity with access to expertise that can guide the process effectively
  • Work together with partners, locally and nationally, to share resources, insights and ideas to broaden and deepen our impact

Understanding the Background

To inform the project planning stages, we commissioned Paddy McNulty Associates in spring 2016 to provide a snapshot of the current state of diversity within museums boards, and examine what support materials are available.

The research showed that Trustees and staff in museums acknowledged that having a diverse board was important. Yet too often there was an over-reliance on internal recruitment of Trustees. This posed a real risk of boards becoming reflectors of themselves rather than of the communities they serve. In addition, there were serious concerns around succession planning, with many wanting to recruit younger Trustees (aged 45 or under) but finding it very difficult.

There were skills gaps emerging that could, in the longer term, have an impact on museum sustainability, especially in relation to fundraising and digital technologies. There was significant help available from a number of useful recourses, especially online. However, uptake of such resources was varied, and better promotion is required.

Download SEMDP_Trustee_Diversity_Report_2016_Final.pdf...

What we plan to do

1. Embedding Diversity in our Programme

We will work with ACE diversity team to review our programme, including our own diversity action plan, to get an external perspective on our own ability to champion diversity for the sector. We will engage with local community and voluntary sector support organisations to enable museums to work more successfully with their wider communities

MDOs will continue to deliver tailored Board support within their areas of competency. As part of each upcoming engagement, the MDO team will include making the case for diversity

As part of existing grant programmes, we will encourage and review what impact our investment is making in terms of diversity – adding questions or feedback prompts to better capture evidence and encourage applicants to plan for diversity

We will be responsive to the voice of our client museums and our stakeholders, and change and extend our project to better meet needs and grasp opportunities as their arise


2. Board Recruitment Support

Approaches to recruitment vary throughout our region. We will collect case studies from museums who have recently recruited new Trustees to their Boards, to share their insights and lessons learnt.

A new area on our website is dedicated to signposting links and information about recruitment opportunities to help museums with their ongoing recruitment processes. To find out more visit: Museum Trustee Recruitment.

For museums requiring additional support, each MDO will be able to respond to additional requests for help, including the delivery of Board audits to identify gaps, leading/planning recruitment campaigns or selection processes etc.

Sponsored places for the upcoming AIM conference at Chatham Dockyard in 2017 for Trustees who would like to introduce a new, prospective recruit to their Board to the sector


3. Support for Thriving Boards

We will support Trustees who wish to proactively increase diversity in their governance by helping them in an application to the AIM Hallmarks Prospering Museum Boards project. Where successful, this will provide between 2-8 consultant days to work with the museum on their developmental objectives.

If unsuccessful, we will meet with you to discuss the feedback and find alternative solutions such as working together on an external funding bid to secure the required support, or directly funding consultancy support within the Programme.

We will sponsor museums wishing to access paid-for resources provided online by dedicated, high-quality support organisations such as the Arts Marketing Association programme ‘Building Resilience’ Module 3 on how to create high performance teams, or NCVO training module on recruitment and induction including the diversity review toolkit.

Get involved

To find out more and discuss your ideas regarding Diversity, please contact the project team:

Jaane Rowehl, Elaine Sansom, and Kate Hebditch,