Innovation Lab for Museums
For information about the program or to arrange a consultation:
National Programs Manager
127 West 122 Street
New York, NY 10027
Tel: (212) 362-8541, ext. 27
Submit applications to attention of:
CFM Program Coordinator
American Association of Museums
1575 Eye St NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: (202) 218-7681
Type of foundation: Collaborative initiative
Types of grants: Project
Description: The Innovation Lab for Museums enables museums to design, research and prototype novel approaches to field-wide challenges in a lab-like setting. The project is a collaboration between The American Association of Museums' Center for the Future of Museums and EmcArts, with support from the MetLife Foundation. The initiative provides an 18-24 month program for each of the participating institutions to incubate organizational innovations in the cultural sector.
Proposals are being accepted for the second round of the initiative. Proposals to the Lab can address changes in programs, exhibits, operations, communications or governance. Innovative approaches to collaboration, restructuring, downsizing, or merging are welcome, as are proposals for new or expanded activities. A total of three proposals will be funded in the second round. Preference will be given to projects focusing on innovation in:
- Youth Education: Exploring how museums can play a key role in a rapidly changing educational landscape.
- Demographic Transformation: How museums can close this gap and serve a broader, more inclusive representation of American society.
- Participatory Experiences: How museums can meet the desire of audiences for participatory and social activities in museums.
During the Lab program, EmcArts facilitators will work with teams from the selected museums comprised of senior managers, board representatives, museum staff, artists and scientists, educators, and/or representatives from inside and outside the cultural sector (such as community partners and end-users). The Lab provides individual coaching, group facilitation, a five-day residential retreat, and a variety of extended support systems tailored to the needs of each organization.
Importantly, the Lab is not looking for fully developed project ideas. It is also not looking to invest in organizations that have not yet identified any ideas. Rather, it is looking for:
- Successful identification of a major adaptive challenge, to which existing organizational strategies are recognized as an inadequate response.
- A half-baked idea regarding strategic responses to the identified adaptive challenge, that enjoys organizational support but is not yet fully worked out.
Sample grants: The first round of grants went to:
- Levine Museum of the New South (Charlotte, NC) for a project aimed at partnering with other history museums in the south to engage more deeply with Latino communities.
- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA) to rethink its youth education curriculum, exploring a professional artist residency model for youth; a restructuring of the community service component in youth programs; integration of new technologies, gaming, and other inspirations from fields outside of the arts; and more.
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, MO) to combine online and on-site engagement in ways that consistently advance toward an institutional goal of engagement and participation.
Fit for public broadcasting: While the applicant organizations must be museums, this RFP encourages partnership and collaboration with other community organizations. Media organizations, especially those that have existing partnerships with museums, are well positioned to participate. The emphasis of this RFP on community engagement, youth, and technology-driven participation aligns well with the strengths and assets of public media. This could be an opportunity for stations to leverage youth media programs, digital media production capacities, community engagement connections, mobile app capacities, etc. It is an interesting opportunity for stations to innovate in partnership with museums – in ways that build the service and reach of both.
Eligibility: The program is open to all nonprofit museums in the United States meeting the following requirements: they must be an incorporated nonprofit organization with no fewer than the equivalent of ten full-time staff members (generally equating to a minimum operating budget of around $1 million); be able to demonstrate stable programmatic and executive leadership for the last twelve months and continuity in board leadership (subject to term limits); and have no competing major institutional initiatives (e.g., a building move, a capital campaign). Successful applicants will demonstrate an organizational culture supportive of innovation and a track record of attempts at innovating (failed or successful).
Applications to explore partnerships, joint ventures and mergers are also encouraged. Potential partners can include organizations operating in or outside of the museum field and may also include international organizations, but a U.S.-based nonprofit museum must be the lead applicant and participant. Partners may participate fully in the Lab‘s activities; however, the museum acting as lead is responsible for submission of all necessary materials.
Deadline: May 14, 2012
How to apply: The full Round Two Request for Proposals can be downloaded here.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to seek feedback on their ideas and draft applications. Members of the EmcArts Lab team will provide telephone counseling on initial proposal ideas or general questions about the lab. Telephone counseling regarding an initial proposal concept will be offered until April 27, 2012. Draft applications can be submitted until May 1, 2012, with telephone feedback on submitted drafts available from until May 4, 2012.
Giving range: The program provides grants of $40,000 toward project prototyping, and grants of up to $1,500 for conference travel to enable participants to share what they have learned from the Lab experience. Financial support for the intensive retreat includes accommodations, meals and up to $400 per person for travel; up to $3,000 per organization for fees, travel and accommodation to support the participation of experts in organizational learning and teamwork at the retreat; and stipends of up to $1,200 per organization for members of the team who are not employed by the museum.