For me, one key thread running through the GEM (Group for the Education in Museums) conference 2016 was the idea of ‘agency’: taking steps to tackle change individually and collectively; encouraging our colleagues and organisations to recognise new realities and roles, and sharing spaces, resources and political power with users to enable our audiences to participate actively as equal partners.


Piotr Bienkowski stressed the importance of champions of change, people who create a critical mass of positive energy that can move mountains. I’ve heard this described as a "coalition of the willing" and seen the difference that positive peer pressure can make. Robert Janes challenged us to get off the fence, ditch ‘neutrality’ and take a stand on big issues such as social and economic inequality, runaway consumption and climate change. Bob’s keynote asserted that museums, because of their unique position as custodians of our planet’s history and unequalled levels of public trust, have a responsibility to lead the debate and search for solutions.

Change can feel scary and overwhelming. We can choose to deny it, run away from it or engage with it, but change is inevitable and unavoidable, as Ruth Gill memorably illustrated by reminding us that – on a cellular level – she was transforming before our eyes. The question is how are we going to respond now that conference is over? How can we apply what we’ve learned in our jobs, our organisations and networks? How can GEM play a role as an agent of change?