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What’s Innovation Look Like? And How Do You Measure It?

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

A few weeks ago, we used this spaceto invite museums to participate in the Nonprofit Listening Post Project at Johns Hopkins University. Reminder: the LP Project is a national research initiative designed to identify the challenges facing the entire nonprofit sector, including cultural organizations, human service agencies and community development groups. The LP Project also highlights solutions to the challenges. Now there’s a brand-new blog about the Project and its findings.

And it’s not too late to participate in the next LP research sounding, which will look at both problems and solutions. Here is what Lester Salamon (one of the country’s leading experts on the nonprofit sector) and his team at Johns Hopkins have to say:

The Obama Administration has indicated an eagerness to support programs that “work” and to promote “promising innovations.” But it is far from clear what it means for programs to “work” or how this can be demonstrated. Moreover, in the quest to identify these “promising innovations,” most attention has been focused on private businesses and new social entrepreneurs, rather than on traditional nonprofits. But as the results of our previous surveys demonstrate, there is far more innovation and creativity in the nonprofit sector than is widely recognized.

The purpose of the next LP Sounding is therefore twofold: 1) to document some of the innovation that organizations such as yours have been pursuing; and 2) to assess how you gauge the success of your programs. In the process, we hope to identify some of the barriers to innovation, and to the scaling up of innovations, that you face. We hope to share the results with the White House Office of Social Innovation —the federal office charged to help mobilize volunteers, to catalyze partnerships between nonprofits, foundations and social entrepreneurs, and to foster an environment that nurtures nonprofit success and innovation—and with a broader audience.

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So, do you think your museum is innovative? Are you feeling outside pressure to evaluate and measure what you do? Do you want to help museums have a voice in the nonprofit sector? Then think about turning your museum into a Listening Post.

For more information, contact Hillary Belzer at Johns Hopkins University: or Philip M. Katz at the American Association of Museums:

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