First all the caveats. I’m not well read in this, I don’t know how I may be misunderstanding issues or behaving offensively, doing all the white- and man-splaining. Please believe I mean well; I’d love to know who/where has done this thinking already. I asked one colleague for advice – they added loads more to this – but any residual wrongness is mine alone (& not my employer’s either).
The MA16 conference left me reeling with heightened personal awareness of the systemic privilege I had in my attaining my job. Moana Jackson and David Garneau’s keynotes, then the tone and volume of so many speakers, questioners from the floor and on twitter, have all given perspectives with huge generousity. They’re gifts I don’t yet fully (may never) understand the value of.
So prompted, I’m working through an idea. I personally believe that workplace culture and process work together to fix problems. So I’d like to suggest creation of a directorial role. Director of inclusive practice; on the executive management team, with power in a range of specific areas and a wider power as part of the ‘top table’ influencing all decisions. What I am suggesting, I suppose, is how to flex an existing set of systems in the service of inclusivity – so that there is a structural powers as well as specific roles within the organisation. True authority inside the system, not on the edge. When inclusivity is ‘just normal business’ we’ll make real progress. And this means existing models need to change.
What would this new role do? First within HR activities: inclusivity in all position descriptions and selection criteria. Personal involvement in recruitment assessment for managerial appointments – is this candidate actively inclusive? Aware of their privilege and using it for good? And are we valuing lived experience and broad perspectives proportionally to formal qualifications and work history? Once people are in the job, setting specific outcomes for managers’ performance plans and training needs; so that progression pay etc is dependent on actively doing good stuff. Which means that other tasks might be actively de-prioritised. Perhaps it’s more important that I learn about indigenous perspectives on exhibition-making than that I develop a new maintenance management system, this year?
Secondly, planning. Make resources flow where they’re needed. Ensure proposals have fully described and funded mechanisms for addressing inclusivity. And I don’t just mean curatorial projects; all activities. For example, perhaps asking why the building maintenance has prioritised a carpet replacement over building a prayer room. Ensure that each project plan has a way to ensure engagement and approvals from multiple perspectives. Perhaps my idea for a new exhibition is less important than improving diverse representation in this existing exhibition?
Thirdly, reporting. Reporting to a Board (or the same board as the org, don’t know) on how we are travelling. Take accountability. Engage with the responsible minister/s for diversity – not just through the arts department that grants funding to the museum. Create formal structures for accountability on these issues rather than just celebrating when something goes well. Let there be consequences for managers who do not deliver on the goals that have been set. Just the same as, say, going over budget.
And then, as part of the executive, be part of the usual governance structures of signing off projects, renewing policies, ensuring technical compliances and so on. And so, diverse perspectives begin to shape the overall work culture – ‘how things are done here’ – beyond issues that are obviously labelled as ‘about’ inclusivity.
I may have just repeated ideas that are already out there, and my inputs aren’t diverse enough for me to know that. In which case I’m sorry, I don’t want to appropriate or speak over anyone. I want to be serving a wide community, not the narrow one in which I was born, raised and trained, and so I hope speaking up is in some way helpful.