Hiring an Inclusiveness Coordinator: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

 

In year four of its inclusiveness initiative, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) hired an inclusiveness coordinator. What is an inclusiveness coordinator? Why did DMNS decide to hire an inclusiveness coordinator?

 

Ellen Winiarczyk is the inclusiveness coordinator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS). Sandi Garcia is vice president of finance and chief financial officer of DMNS. Judy Gordon is editor of nonprofitinclusiveness.org.  Judy met with Ellen and Sandi to learn more about what an inclusiveness coordinator is and does, and why DMNS decided to hire an inclusiveness coordinator. Below are highlights of that interview:

 

JG: How did DMNS come to the decision to create the position of inclusiveness coordinator?

SG: The museum started its inclusiveness initiative in 2006, and since that time, the effort has been predominantly research focused. We've studied our visitors, volunteers, and employee base, and we've learned a great deal. We have also focused on employee training, which has been a two-year effort. From our data gathering-and given the limitations of resources-we selected to focus on inclusiveness as it relates to race and ethnicity and to socio-economic status. We may expand those efforts to other dimensions over time.

As the inclusiveness committee generated ideas for its 2010 action items, it became apparent that the action items were growing in scope and depth and that to achieve them the committee needed someone specifically designated to their execution; someone to work across all departments of the museum. We are proud of what we've already accomplished, but we have high ambitions for continuing to move this forward.

There are twenty members of the inclusiveness committee and two co-chairs. Meetings take place monthly for ninety minutes each meeting. But the committee members all have full-time jobs, each distinct to a different discipline within the museum, and no one (on the committee or within the organization) individually has the skill set appropriate to the timely and concentrated implementation of the inclusiveness committee's proposed action items. We recognized that the inclusiveness initiative now needed someone specialized in the area of inclusiveness, someone who could perform a variety of tasks: training, project management, evaluation, and HR.

And with such a large institution, coordination is very important. We have 450 employees, 1700 volunteers, and 1.3 million visitors annually.

We advertised the position and received applications from 150 or so interested candidates. We were pleased to see that there was such interest in inclusiveness. We hired Ellen, and she began her work here in April 2010.

EW: I see my role as assisting the inclusiveness committee in furthering its efforts; in mobilizing a variety of resources to help accomplish its action items, in motivating people, and in coordinating all the efforts across all areas of the museum.

SG: We were pleased that leadership from the top recognized the need and value for us to hire an inclusiveness coordinator. Their commitment to inclusiveness is strong.

And since we started our inclusiveness initiative in 2006, the timing was right to bring in someone specialized in the field. We had already been working to build buy-in to inclusiveness internally, so when Ellen came, everyone at DMNS understood what inclusiveness meant.

EW: I'm still learning about the museum profession and culture and I ask lots of questions all the time, but I am finding that my skill set and past experiences fit right into what DMNS needs to move its inclusiveness initiative forward.

I am a member of the two exhibit development core teams (one for temporary exhibits and one for permanent exhibits), to which I bring consciousness about inclusiveness and help to heighten awareness for inclusiveness to be incorporated into the work of all departments. In these areas the focus is usually on helping to increase visitor diversification and honor and recognize the differences in our visitor audience.

SG: With Ellen here, it feels like the inclusiveness effort is ramping up throughout the museum. The staff sees our inclusiveness commitment as permanent and consistent, not just as one-time happenings, which is what inclusiveness efforts had taken before our inclusiveness initiative. We feel we have a holistic approach to inclusiveness now-sustained, continually evolving, and valuing and building on the efforts of many within the organization.

Inclusiveness is an issue that crosses all departments; it keeps our employees connected to the institution as a whole, not just to their own areas of expertise and responsibility. They see inclusiveness as part of their passion for education and science, not as something separate or add-on.

 

JG: Are other museums asking you about what you're doing around inclusiveness?

SG: We exchange information with other organizations in the SCFD Tier 1 group and we often bring up the issue of inclusiveness with those organizations.

We have utilized the inclusiveness resources of the American Association of Museums (of which we are a member) and perhaps one day, DMNS will be a presenter at an AAM annual conference on our inclusiveness work.

 

JG: What advice would you give to other organizations regarding designating an inclusiveness coordinator?

EW: It is definitely a matter of knowing what the organization needs at any particular point in time, and designating someone with the skill set that fits those needs.

SG: And it's not "all or nothing"-we know how to do a lot now and we are constantly evolving-but we know we can not do it "all." But we are always doing something, and we believe the action items we have selected are deriving great benefit for our visitors, employees, and volunteers and the organization as a whole.

We are finding that having an inclusiveness coordinator is the logical next step for advancing our inclusiveness efforts. It wasn't what we needed when we started our inclusiveness work, but that need developed over time. And having an inclusiveness coordinator working in partnership with an active inclusiveness committee, we can generate a lot of good ideas and support their implementation with greater efficiency, consistency, and timeliness.

 

See the Denver Museum of Science and Nature's job description for their inclusiveness coordinator.