Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Looking for Decision/Performance Measurement Tools? Here's a New Take

Eleanor Adams' report, Towards Sustainability Indicators for Museums in Australia, was released this month offering museums -- and all cultural institutions -- a set of pilot indicators built on a combination of economic, environmental and social factors.  "Whether they acknowledge it or not," Adams writes, "museums are inextricably linked to sustainability principles....However, most museums seem to be inherently unsustainable organizations."

Certainly museums occupy huge environmental footprints, deemed by many directors of large and small institutions as "energy hogs".  But libraries and performance spaces aren't far behind in energy consumption and insatiable need for storage.


How can -- should -- environmental sustainability shape vision and mission (and vice versa)?  They're inextricably linked, right?  Adams gets at this by remixing established programmatic and operational metrics with environmental impact indicators and clustering them around "four pillars of sustainability":  environment, society, culture and economy.  Might these pillars be the essence of cultural organizations?



Here are some of her indicators for the Environment pillar:

Sustainability Goal: To use resources in the most efficient way possible. 
Suggested Core Indicators:  

  • Total energy from non-renewable sources used over 12 months 
  • Total water used over 12 months
  • Ratio of waste recycled to waste sent to land fill in 12 months
OK, that makes sense.  What about some Economy pillar indicators?

Sustainability Goal: To have a balanced and diverse budget
Suggested Core Indicators: 

  • Ratio of Government funding to ‘other sources’ of income 
  • Number volunteer hours worked in 12 months 
  • Ratio of 12 month  growth of collection to 12 month growth of income 
And the Society pillar? 
Principle of Sustainability: Calibre and Diversity of Current and Potential Staff 


  • Number of workers with a PhD in their relevant field
  • Number of qualified applicants for the most recent curatorial opening
  • Percentage of staff involved in decision-making processes broken down into age, sex and cultural or minority group backgrounds
  • Ratio of staff who are within the first 10 years of their career to those within the last 10 years of their career
  • Ratio of paid staff to volunteers
  • Number of staff attending training sessions in regard to the organisation’s sustainability plans
  • Rate of staff turnover
  • Rate of board turnover

If you've made 2010 the year to get serious about developing criteria for measuring your organization's performance, definitely add this report into your mix.

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