Narrowly avoiding a potential US Government shutdown rendering them unable to travel, the folks from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum flew across the world to present a workshop at the Museums 3 Conference in Melbourne yesterday.
I only had to walk across RMIT to get to Storey Hall to hear them, although had I gone to greater lengths the effort would have been justified.
The workshop was about how the Cooper-Hewitt, a design object museum in uptown Manhattan with a mission to be national, has made an unlikely shift to work with underpriviledged young people across the country. Â Quite a challenge considering the bulk of the collection is not digitised.
They decided to focus on design: why it matters, design thinking, and how design can influence the world. Â They combined this with a focus on under-served communities, in this case underpriviledged kids. Â In so doing they tapped a new source of funding and relationships centred on civic development, social responsibility and public engagement. Â The strategy is not to do something mediocre for everybody, but to find one group and give them an A+ experience.
They embarked on an ambitious program including a teen design fair and speed dating events, a teen centre, sponsoring paid design internships, workshops, and professional development programs across the country.
They chose to teach teachers from maths, science, social studies and other disciplines, and in an interesting twist they required the teachers to apply for the program, then along with the training they received $1000 and were required to write 2 lesson plans and to contribute to the online discussions. Â Thus a massive amount of content of their website is user generated.
A very interesting workshop with great lessons in the importance of filling a niche in very innovative ways.