RELEVANCE FOR EVERYONE The cynical side of me thinks about OdysseyWorks and reacts, “it can’t scale.” It’s true. They can’t make millions of personalized experiences for the millions of people walking through our doors each day. But their approach does scale. It scales on the human level, one to one, with individuals learning about the
RELEVANCE FOR ONE If this work seems daunting on the scale of a whole community, break it down to a manageable size. Imagine a small community. A tiny one. Imagine making programming for a tiny island of just one person’s assets, needs, and interests. That’s the kind of art Odyssey Works makes. Odyssey Works is
COMMUNITY-FIRST PROGRAM DESIGN So how do you create relevant work? Whether you use the language of wants or needs, strengths or assets, doing relevant work comes down to the same idea: creating projects that speak to the people you wish to engage. At our museum, we’ve gravitated towards a “community first” program planning model. It’s
NEEDS AND ASSETS Instead of nitpicking over wants and needs, I find it much more productive to explore the differences between needs and assets. I’m using “needs” to mean things people want, desire, or feel necessary, and “assets” to mean things people are proud of, have in hand, or consider strengths. Many organizations have a
WANTS AND NEEDS You may have noticed that I have framed relevance strictly from the perspective of what the participant/community wants. Where they want to go. What they want to do. What they think matters. This is intentional. It’s not about you. It’s not about what you think people need or want or deserve. It’s
FINDING YOUR PEOPLE The Waukegan Public Library had a problem. By 2010, the city was over 50% Latino. But library patrons didn’t come close to matching these demographics. The library had several programs they thought were relevant to Latinos—English as a second language classes, GED certification, citizenship classes—but they weren’t getting the word out effectively.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE COMMUNITY? Close your eyes and imagine your organization’s “community.” Is it a mist of good feeling? A fellowship of uncertainty? Does it have a human face? Communities are people. They are not abstractions. They are not rhetoric. They are human beings. You can’t talk personally with each of the people in