Carol Scott

Intentional planning to achieve public value

Carol Scott - Sunday, November 17, 2013
This week, I have invited Randi Korn to be a guest blogger on the Museums and Value site. If we want to create public value and use ‘the assets of museums to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities’ (Moore and Moore 2005), we need to recognize that this involves a purposeful choice. There is no-one better to discuss what is involved in making this choice and the positive benefits that it brings for an institution than Randi Korn.

Thank you, Carol, for inviting me to share my viewpoints about the relationship between intentionality and creating public value—a topic near and dear to me.  Intentionality is a powerful philosophical concept with Latin roots to the verb intendrere, which means “being directed toward some goal or thing.”[1]  The importance of intentionality or of being intentional in one’s work has become, for me, an essential approach to my work with museums.  I would argue that any museum interested in creating public value must be intentional in all aspects of its work because creating public value requires unrelenting focus on the goal.  I believe that to achieve intended results all staff in a museum must be collectively “directed toward” the same goal or thing, and if the intended result is creating public value—all minds must be working towards that end.

Intentional planning differs from other museum planning activities such as strategic planning. Strategic planning focuses on organizational performance and outputs (such as completing projects and initiatives), while intentional planning focuses on results in the public domain where the return is achieved through value and impact. 

The first step in the intentional planning process is clarifying the unique kind of public value that a museum would like to create.  While one could argue that any public value that a museum creates will do, I believe that staff cannot be intentional in their daily and strategic work unless there is a clear direction of where they are headed.  Staff may not be able to make a decision about what to do (and not do) unless there is a specified result toward which they work. Intentional planning requires declaring the result in advance. The intended end result is the beacon on the hill that guides decision making and actions for all staff. 

While intentional planning is focused on “some goal or thing,” it also includes other important elements as part of a museum’s ongoing pursuit of creating public value.  Alignment is vital. Do staff members’ actions, decisions, and expenditures support achieving public value as articulated?  Perhaps the most difficult part of intentional planning is letting go of activities that may not provide public value and introducing new activities that do make a difference in people’s lives. Thus, museums need to know what will achieve their public value goals and what does not.  Evaluation is, therefore, another important part of intentional planning.  In the context of striving to achieve public value, evaluation can provide evidence of the ways in which a museum is achieving its intended aims and for learning what parts of museum practice need improvement to reach the museum’s public value intentions.  Finally, intentional planning becomes a tool for organizational learning when museums engage in reflection and ask “What have we learned?  How can we improve?” 

In the context of Carol’s book, Museums and Public Value, intentional planning presumes museums are focused on creating public value.  My belief is that museums have no choice but to focus on creating public value.  Adopting an intentional mindset is one way to begin that necessary pursuit. 


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