By Catherine O’Donnell, Engagement and Events Officer from People’s History Museum
People’s History Museum (PHM) is the national museum of democracy and the home of ideas worth fighting for. We’ve been involved in Parliament Week since its inception for obvious reasons: we’re a museum that connects people with Parliament and democracy on a daily basis, so we’ve been keen to use Parliament Week as a platform to showcase our offer and experiment with innovative ways to engage people with democracy.
Over the past few years our activity for Parliament Week has grown and in 2013 we launched POLLfest, our politics festival. The weekend of discussion, debates and comedy explored the theme of Women in Democracy. Last year, we wanted to build on the success of the previous festival and explore how partnership working and targeted events could develop audiences. Instead of a weekend of activity, we planned a series of events over the week, each tailored to a different audience.
Democratic Dialogue was delivered in partnership with The Democratic Society. We invited young people, MPs, MEPs, councillors and democratic experts to sit down as equals, discuss issues selected by the young people and develop a manifesto on how young people would like to communicate with Parliament. Feedback showed that young people had high levels of engagement with the issues and appreciated being treated as equals.
The Power of Parliament welcomed three local primary schools to the museum, who attended an Introduction to Parliament talk, visited the museum galleries and participated in workshops on debating and consultation for our Election! exhibition. The programme was developed in partnership with Parliament’s Education Service and PHM’s Learning and Exhibitions teams.
Pecha Kucha: Politics and the North was an informal evening event with a range of speakers discussing the theme of Politics and the North. Speakers were curated by Pecha Kucha and had one simple rule – you can only use 20 slides and each have to be up for 20 seconds. This allows for quick, straight-to-the-point presentations which both engage and educate.
We found that the approach of targeting events was successful as it allowed us to consider each audience in greater depth. Working with partners allowed us to curate expert content, learn from best practice in other sectors and freed up time to implement a targeted marketing strategy. For example, for the Democratic Dialogue event, The Democratic Society used their expertise and industry contacts to develop content for the event, while we used our local knowledge to contact MPs, schools, colleges and youth groups to attract a diverse and representative audience. We also found that targeting events at different audiences for Parliament Week resulted in greater attendance and engagement.
Benefits of partnership working
- Shared expertise: there are opportunities for mutual learning, especially when working across sectors
- Shared contacts: you can tap into new networks to generate new audiences and work with new speakers, performers, etc
- Shared workload and resources
- Exchange of ideas
- We found that working with partners such as The Democratic Society resulted in higher quality content and increased resources to target events.
- Be selective with partners in order to learn from best practice in other sectors.
- Communication is key!
- A partnership is an opportunity for each party to benefit and learn from each other. Define a list of shared objectives at the beginning of the relationship to ensure that your goals, ethics and outlooks are aligned
- Agree a clear single point of contact and establish an agreed project timetable with defined deadlines from the outset to avoid any problems later on.
- Think outside the box. Often some of the best ideas come from cross-fertilisation across sectors, or putting on events in unusual locations