Monday, August 18, 2014

Breaking Free From The Tyranny of Numbers.

The Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index was developed as a way to  measure a successful quality of life for citizens of Bhutan in more holistic terms than only the economic indicator of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Many, if not most, museums base their success primarily on attendance numbers ---- which seem to be the equivalent of the Museum GDP.  And attendance numbers are certainly a quick way to gauge success, but not the only way.  

I've been thinking about this a lot in the context of several Maker-related projects I'm working on.

The trick in a Maker-y environment is that the level of engagement (with staff, with projects, with tools and materials) isn't really conducive to "throughput."  But while you aren't always moving big numbers through the Maker Space in your museum, you are (at least in theory) making big, deep impacts on your visitors in ways that justify that extra staffing, and tools, and materials ...

It takes a certain level of institutional resolve to break free of the tyranny of numbers and commit to a range of visitor-centered experiences that can't only be measured in one way.

So, I'll continue working and thinking about this, but I also wanted to share a couple online resources that I've found useful:

Measuring what matters in nonprofits.  A report from McKinsey & Company

The Happy Museum Project.  A group based in the UK looking at how the museum sector can respond to the challenges presented by the need for creating a more sustainable future.

This article from the Museums and The Web 2013 conference about nurturing engagement.

And, as always, feel free to share your thoughts (or additional resources) about this topic in the "Comments" section below.

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