Friday, March 30, 2012

What Will Be Your "Sustainability Effect"?

CAM's IGNITE: Museums as Catalysts for Sustainability

Last October the California Association of Museums hosted an all-day, multi-region conference for California Museums, friend and advocates interested in environmental sustainability. IGNITE: Museums as Catalysts for Sustainability was the first US program of its kind to have museums confront regional needs for engaging the public in sustainability work, and creating shared plans for fostering change.

They gathered to wrestle with these questions:
  • What are the top environmental challenges for our region?
  • Who is working to address these challenges?
  • And how can museums be involved in the solutions?
Each of the six geographic regions of California came up with a 'local' take on these issues.  A few in particular excite me - the ones tackling big questions, and big challenges:
  • Los Angeles/Santa Barbara asked themselves what were the greatest challenges?  and the answers, Water and Climate Change, showed them their path
  • The Central Valley identified the 'what' that unites them all: the Pacific Flyway
  • The Southland Deserts asked what would help interpret the differing definitions of sustainability: the Salton Sea
There were other big ideas, all with a framework to help the discussants gain control of an unlimited topic, of an unending task, of a constantly-evolving challenge. We tend to get caught up in lightbulbs and recycling resources. This is important to worry about, but so is the big picture. Sometimes you can solve the small issues more easily if you have a greater framework to bring energy and structure to your work.

Take a moment to read the IGNITE report and see what it can tell you about engaging your public in discussions about environmental sustainability. Then see what your public can help you learn about how to create a Sustainability Effect through your museum

And think big - what do you want your museum's difference to be? It might be small now and larger later, but what do you want it to be? Choose it; name it. If you don't you won't ever make it.

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