• Fundacja Polska Debatuje

A pair destined for success? On NGO – Museum cooperation

Combining the know-how and work cultures of multiple organizations has for a long time been seen as an opportunity to overcome struggles resulting from institutional structures.

Outsourcing and partnerships are both effective means of pursuing the mission of museums without costly and time-consuming restructuring of the entire organization. Let’s take a look into what NGOs can offer museums and how cooperation benefits both sides.

As the research survey conducted in six countries demonstrated, museums face serious problems concerning attracting new participants, communication and coordination with schools (the targets of most initiatives) and lack of effective promotion channels.

Further data demonstrates that only about 20% of visitors of surveyed museums are young people between 15 and 19 years of age. With some variation across the countries, between 60% and 100% of young visitors come to the museums as a part of organized groups – typically on a school trip.


While museums consider ways of countering that negative trend, they need to be aware of the limitations of certain methods. Restructuring entire exhibitions and including digital, interactive elements is one of the options, but it poses a risk of banalisation of the topics museums care about and requires substantial financial resources. Cooperating with NGOs to run debate educational programs, on the other hand, proves to be successful in reaching the youth, who are attracted towards competitive and discussion-based initiatives. At the same time, it enables museums to maintain and promote high quality discussion and enable civic engagement among the audience.

No wonder the 60 museums we surveyed stated non governmental organizations as their preferred institutional partner. The level of trust and compatibility between the two matches only that of selected, most innovative universities and greatly exceeds that of private companies and public administration. Museum’s reputation, connections and expertise fill the needs of NGOs, making the cooperation beneficial for both sides. It is worth noting that museums with separate educational units are usually more eager to introduce debating into their offer – trying to establish partnerships with them is the first step any NGOs willing to broaden their activities should take.

Author: Konrad Kiljan, he led the workshop – "Museums as a space for debates".

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