The highly anticipated release of Nina Simon’s second book, The Art of Relevance, is finally here, and Simon is steadily releasing content from the book online for free. (But you can also buy it here if you want!)
Simon has generously coordinated with the Incluseum and launched a new chapter today online titled, “Whose Room is This?” It is a chapter Simon thinks will resonate with Incluseum readers and you will see why from this short excerpt.
Anytime you look at an organization and think: “They’ve gone too far. They ought not to do that,” it’s worth asking yourself why. It’s rare that an entity adds something to their programming that is so divergent, and so powerful, that it injures other aspects of the institution. It may injure your idea of that institution, but it’s worth asking whether it really injures the entity itself. Is the room still intact? Is there still a place for you in it? That’s what matters.
The Art of Relevance explores how mission-driven organizations can matter more to more people. The book is packed with inspiring examples, rags-to-relevance case studies, research-based frameworks, and practical advice on how your work can be more vital to your community.
Whether you work in museums or libraries, parks or theaters, churches or afterschool programs, relevance can work for you. Relevance is not something an institution can assign by fiat. Your work matters when it matters to people—when THEY deem it relevant, not you. The Art of Relevance will help you identify the people you seek to engage, empathize with their concerns and interests, and develop authentic ways to invite them into your work on their own terms.
Simon’s framing of “relevance” gets to the heart of the problem with the paradigm wherein museum’s assume themselves to be asset-rich resources that gain relevance by creating access or by convincing communities of their value. Simon, at the outset, firmly dismisses that paradigm by stressing the agency and assets of communities and how imperative it is for museums to engage these.
Are you reading The Art of Relevance? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!