While most of our team at Techniquest were braving the wintry chills and rain during the world’s arguably longest January, some of us were lucky enough to take a trip to California last month as part of a very important global initiative.

A small team of us were fortunate enough to participate in the OF/BY/FOR ALL retreat based at Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, changing the way we engage with our communities and think about new opportunities. Here’s what we got up to…

What is OF/BY/FOR ALL?

The OF/BY/FOR ALL cohort has been a new global non-profit initiative, spearheaded by Community Participation expert Nina Simon at leading US museum, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

In 2018, the network announced that Techniquest was chosen as part of its prolific list of partner organisations across the world.

Since last year, we’ve been actively participating with the initiative as we identify new opportunities and methods that support us in our quest to become more of, by and for our communities.

The programme provides tools and support to help us embed best practice across the organisation and build capacity, whilst also change the way we engage with our colleagues, partners, stakeholders and communities.

The initiative aims to deepen community engagement and strengthen relationships across the globe, which gave our lucky team the opportunity to pack their bags and head to California.

Heading stateside…

Leaving behind the brisk January weather and winter blues, we headed to the States to join our programme peers, on a mission to join forces with organisations that share our vision.

The retreat was a small but vital part of the OF/BY/FOR ALL programme, giving us the chance to get to know our peers and tackle our mission of community engagement in a new way.

Before the retreat, our team enjoyed regular communication in the programme, which included worldwide webinar sessions and tasks to support the embedment of a new culture into Techniquest and our local communities.

New opportunities in the Golden State

During our stay, we participated in ‘Lightning Talks’ and ‘Unconference Sessions’ from organisations across the world, including the USA, New Zealand, Australia and Holland. The insightful sessions gave us a new understanding of challenges and successes that have been faced by various organisations.

We also participated in workshops from a diverse panel of experts which included Beck Tench, a practitioner, researcher and teacher from the University of Washington, Mike Murawski from Portland Art Museum, Jasper Vissar, a senior partner at VISSCH+STAM and Lauren Benetua who is supporting with OF/BY/FOR ALL’s facilitation.

Whilst in California, we also visited the Exploratorium, a unique science centre dedicated to transforming learning experiences in San Francisco. The staff kindly gave us a tour of the facilities and provided us with the opportunity to meet with various department members to discuss best practices of engaging with new audiences. We all agreed that the experience was insightful, inspiring us with ways to improve programming, facilities, community engagement, exhibits and merchandise. The Exploratorium has very much embedded art within STEM, using this to engage with people both within and outside of their centre, and even across the world, so we were honoured to have been able to see what they do and how they do it.

After an incredible journey of learning and meeting like-minded organisations, we were thrilled to discover that there were many ‘bring backs’ from the retreat that we are already looking to embed into Techniquest’s culture, so watch this space!