Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Oversees the Future? Introducing the Council

When the AAM board green-lighted the concept of CFM back in 2006, they took an important step in making sure this AAM skunkworks would operate in truly new ways, helping museums see things from a fresh perspective.

They handed over the reins to a bunch of folks who, for the most part, don’t work in museums: the CFM Council.

Councilors serve as:
  • Connectors. Helping CFM develop relationships with creative, innovative thinkers in other sectors, content-sharers, potential partners, and funders
  • Entrepreneurs. Helping staff generate and vet ideas for sustainable projects (ongoing or time-bounded)
  • Ambassadors. Making the case in their own circles of influence for museums and their potential to help society tackle important issues. Helping to bring museum representatives into forums, discussions, decision making where they may not have traditionally had a seat
In alignment with CFM’s mandate to be” outward looking, receptive and responsive to the needs of society,” the board decided this initiative should be guided by a group drawn from many different sectors. To this end, they directed staff to go forth and recruit Council members from the ranks of:
  • Systematic Thinkers (demographers, sociologists, futurists, theologians, innovators and academic researchers)
  • Creatives (artists, architects, novelists and essayists)
  • Philanthropists (foundations, donors and other cultural investors)
  • Civic Partners (business, religious, community and political leaders, senior legislative and executive officials and the media)
  • Allied Service Providers, (librarians, archivists and officers of government agencies involved in funding museums) 
  • Entertainment Providers (film, television, video game, sports and other entertainment industries)
  • Museum Professionals (representatives of the diverse disciplines and professional practices contained within the museum world)
While some of the people we’ve tried to recruit have still not returned our calls (*ahem,* Steve Martin, Oprah, I’m so disappointed in you) we have assembled an impressive, high powered and creative team. At the AAM annual meeting in Houston this spring, half of the founding Council rotated off—I’d like to introduce our current roster so you can get to know the men and women “behind the curtain” helping to direct CFM’s work (members of the founding Council are marked with *):
  • Day Al-Mohamed*, senior policy advisory, United States Department of Labor 
  • Peter Bishop*, associate professor of strategic foresight, University of Houston 
  • David Curry, managing principal, davidrcurryAssociates 
  • Jim Hackney, managing partner, Alexander Haas 
  • Carroll Joynes, executive director, Cultural Policy Center 
  • Angie Kim, director of programs and member services, Southern California Grantmakers 
  • Timothy Rub, George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia Museum of Art 
  • Nina Simon*, executive director, Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, Calif.
You can read more about the Councilors here.

This begs the question: why would someone with a perfectly good (not to mention all-consuming) day job care want to devote time and energy to angsting about the future of museums? I’ll let a few of our Council members address that first-hand.

“I think we’re in the nascent stages of a great transformation that will re-set what we expect out of our nonprofit institutions. While the Great Recession illuminates the stresses on cultural institutions, the decreasing role of government in providing social services, the increasing needs (and competition) of the nonprofit sector, and changing demographics (e.g., ethnically and generationally) indicate that institutions must work harder to anticipate the changes that are sure to come. I have been interested in how changing conditions may impact the philanthropic sector and am excited to focus on these questions for the museum field. Few nonprofit sectors have had the foresight to create a program, such as CFM, that specifically focuses on the future, surfacing the issues and questions that will help us plan today for tomorrow's opportunities and pressures.”—Angie Kim

“I think CFM’s vision returns the idea of the museum to its origins—a place of not just education and enlightenment, but also entertainment; a vibrant and exciting part of the community, not apart from the community. Through the fostering of innovation, CFM can ensure that museums serve not only as a curator, but a driver of the American cultural landscape and remind us that they are the descendants of P. T. Barnum's “Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome.”—Day al-Mohamed

"As museums are challenged from within to refine (and often re-invent) their missions and how those missions might be achieved, and from without to come to grips with demographic shifts, funding and sustainability, governance leadership and courage will make a crucial difference. I hope to translate my experience in nonprofit governance—both in the museum space and beyond—to help address such challenges and the important work of CFM overall."—David Curry
Please join me in welcoming our new Council members and thanking them for their work!

I’ve been asked several times, “how does someone get to be on the Council? Can I nominate myself?” Here’s what I tell them: if you are in the museum sector, the best way to line yourself up for a Council appointment is to help with the work of CFM. Come to our lectures and workshops or help create new opportunities to share our content. Introduce us to interesting and influential folk. Demonstrate you already are a Connector, an Entrepreneur, an Ambassador for CFM’s work. And if you know someone fascinating from outside the museum sector who would be a great addition to the Council, especially from sectors not yet representing in the Council’s ranks, please make an introduction! (I, personally, would love to meet Steve or Ms. O.)

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