Putting the Purpose in Participation

Putting the Purpose in Participation

By New Citizenship Project


In the week New Citizenship Project launches its Field Guide to Purposeful Participation they take us through their journey over the last 12 months  exploring what it really means to think of people as participants in shaping cultural heritage, and institutions as places for that to happen.

At New Citizenship Project we have a clear point of view: we believe that when people have the opportunity they can and want to shape the society they live in. And that how we involve people crucially starts with how we think of people.

It’s a belief that has been there since we began - first articulated in This is the #CitizenShift - and one which only deepens as we develop our work with more organisations in more sectors. Most importantly for us, it’s work we can’t do without people.

Collaborative Innovation

Collaborative Innovation is a process that sits at the heart of everything we do. And for the past twelve months it's situated us in the Cultural Heritage sector.

It starts with us articulating an inquiry question relating the CitizenShift (thinking of people as Citizens, not just Consumers) to a specific sector e.g. Cultural Heritage then bringing individuals from organisations in that sector together to explore, experiment and discover new ways of working (and arguably a new future) in response to this question. We then share our findings to make these approaches easily accessible to others and ultimately help them take hold faster for more people. You can find out more about this way of working here. 

The Future of Cultural Heritage is: Purposeful Participation

For the past 12 months we’ve been on this journey with 12 individuals from 6 organisations -

  • Wellcome Collection,
  • Tredegar House,
  • Royal Pavilion & Museums Brighton & Hove,
  • Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal,
  • The National Archives and
  • York Minster

- to genuinely explore what it really means to think of people as participants in shaping cultural heritage, and institutions as places for that to happen.

We know that participation is not a new idea in this sector - but in practice it often takes the shape of outreach or engagement activity, largely done by a specific team on the sidelines and done arguably for people. Driven by our bigger belief in the world - and in the capabilities of each and every one of us - we knew there was further that this sector could go: with organisations living and building their purpose with people.

Together with our participants, we have framed a challenge to the sector; for institutions to see themselves as evolving inquiries that continually ask:

‘What are you trying to do in the world that’s so big you need more people - and more diverse people - to help you do it?’.

And through the process we’ve identified:

  • Three key shifts (outlined in the guide) that need to take place in order to get going
  • A tool to help organisations articulate and work back from their impact in the world, rather than just delivering cultural experiences for people in the form of visitor attractions (exhibitions, shows etc)
  • And five key characteristics for change makers in the sector - we’ve coined them Cultural Intrapreneurs - to build and hone as they start to embrace this way of working.

Our output: A Field Guide for Cultural Intrapreneurs

One thing we’re most excited about is that there are many individuals, in many different institutions and many different roles who want to do Purposeful Participation - and indeed many who have already embarked on the journey. This is why our output isn’t a report, but a Field Guide - a tool to be used, written on, learnt from, adapted as you go and shared with others on the journey. It’s meant to inspire and equip, not just inform and it’ll hopefully take you on a bit of a journey as you walk the path of Purposeful Participation; building and learning as you go. This is participation which takes people with you, not an add-on delivered by the few.

Who’s ready to get going?

The Field Guide will be launched on Thursday 24 October 2019.

Details and booking here

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Citizenship Inclusion Participation
Resource type: Articles | Published: 2019