Explora is very proud to announce that Kristin Leigh, deputy director and director of community engagement at Explora, was recently awarded the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for Leadership in the Field by the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC). The ASTC annually presents the “Edgies” to members and their employees in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments in visitor experience, business practice, and leadership in the field that not only enhances the performance of their own institutions but also significantly advances the mission of science centers and museums worldwide.
The 10-member jury of science center professionals representing a broad spectrum of ASTC’s worldwide membership honored Leigh for her work in developing a “listen, welcome, co-create” approach to learning from and collaborating with highly diverse audiences with the goal of improving the lives of Albuquerque’s children and families.
Over a period of eighteen months, Explora held a series of fifteen listening sessions, and Leigh explains that they learned about the aspirations, concerns, and challenges of community members: “The sessions led to new collaborations and programs that extend Explora’s ability to help spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, art, and math in the children and families of our community. They have taught us a new process for working with partners and have shaped Explora’s three-part community engagement strategy: listen, welcome, and co-create.”
The New Mexico Autism Society (NMAS) and Partnership for Community Action (PCA) provide two examples of the listen, welcome, co-create strategy in action. At a listening session with NMAS, families affected by autism talked about the challenges they face. This conversation initiated a partnership in which Explora welcomed families affected by autism with no-cost Community Partner Memberships and co-created a new set of resources that transforms how families affected by autism can visit Explora. At a listening session with PCA, immigrant mothers spoke of a deep commitment to providing children with educational opportunities, despite many barriers to access. Explora welcomed PCA’s families with Community Partner Memberships, and staff from both organizations worked together to design a bilingual afterschool engineering club that provides the families of PCA with a dedicated resource available in their neighborhood.
Leigh said her project grew out of an increasing awareness that our community needs to bring people and resources together for positive change, and that an approach combining expert knowledge with critical public knowledge would have the greatest impact in the community. She says, “The Science Center field has become increasingly aware that it’s time to turn outward, look outside our walls, and listen to traditionally unheard voices. This project has been transformational both for me and for Explora.”