Diagnosis of what is around us, who is around us
Firstly, look at your institution as one of the many elements making up the local ecosystem, as part of a dependency system. Locate partners for your activities, find out their needs and work out common goals. Notice how diverse this environment is: as well as local residents there are also various shops, service providers, housing associations, other institutions and organisations, and – we must not forget – non-human residents of our area. It is worth locating your institution in this rich landscape, looking for common matters of interest and contributing together to creating a lively pleasant place. We will then see many dimensions of a good neighbourhood: social, economic and natural, as well as institutional and political.
Initially, take a look at what areas need taking care of: what is the condition of the lawn adjacent to the institution where you work? Does your institution have a wider area which it manages? What daily practices from inside the building can affect the outside? What is happening in the nearest squares and parks? Is there living space for insects, worms, plants, small animals, fungi? When you define your area of activity and decide what you want to be co-responsible for, consider whether someone else is already dealing with this topic, which of your neighbours could become interested, who would it be worth inviting to join? Tools associated with social animation and education will help you carry out this diagnosis. It is worth asking colleagues from the education department for support or approaching local socio-cultural workers. You can find them in local cultural centres, community halls and centres and NGOs. Also, get in touch with local activists. In order to find them, it may be a good idea to trace authors of participatory budget projects from several editions. Consider organising an inclusive neighbourhood picnic.
It is worth checking the website of your local parks and greenery department. In many towns and cities such departments support pro-environmental action, e.g. Warsaw Greenery Department supports urban gardening, provides composters in parks and distributes rainwater containers. You will find many useful tips on easy-to-run ecological projects on the website of the Sendzimir Foundation. Another good source of information is www.bujnawarszawa.pl, where you will find proposals for concrete activities and texts explaining the wider context of taking care of the natural world in your area. The achievements of the Latin-American museology (new museology (II)) may be inspiring in this context. In this concept, a museum, and in a wider sense, an institution, does not concentrate on its building and objects/projects but focuses on broadly defined interdisciplinary heritage as a common good, requiring common care. It also concentrates on finding methods of co-managing. Here you will find a publication from the first edition of the Laboratorium Muzeum project entitled ‘Community’ which effectively explains how to understand and practically implement the concept of co-creating an institution together with a diverse community.