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Developing rich and rewarding partnerships: working with National Museum Wales

Take Charge at Innovate Trust

For over 10 years Innovate Trust has been working with the National Museum as a community partner. The relationship was initiated by seeking an opportunity for one participant, and it is Innovate’s person-centred search for valuable and meaningful opportunities for people with learning disabilities that has shaped all succeeding engagement. Following this initial contact we were asked to become a community partner to inform a process of organisational change within National Museum which took place alongside the physical redevelopment of St Fagans (read more at https://www.phf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Our-Museum-Report_April-2016-double-page.pdf ) What an opportunity to make the museum even better for adults with learning disabilities across Wales; how could we say no!

We also became involved with departments at the Cathays park site in the city centre. Participants from Innovate’s conservation project were asked by the Museum’s botanists to help develop a little-used area of lawn, wedged between a busy road and the museum’s car park, into a thriving wildflower meadow. Since then, our work replacing non-native species with native plants has resulted in a spectacularly diverse meadow, and useful foraging for the bees that live on the museum’s roof. Participants also worked with the Museum’s Opel scientists on sites all over Cardiff surveying insects and wildlife. This enabled them to improve their observational and numeracy skills as well as contributing to national findings of the Opel citizen science project.

More recently we were offered the chance to transform a small (non-public) garden on the St Fagans site. The Secret Garden has become a wildlife sanctuary due to the hard work of participants who cleared years’ worth of overgrown brambles and 8 metre laurels. The team created a wildlife pond and bog, planted hundreds of bulbs and other plants, and harvested their first vegetables last year. Innovate’s first AIF funded Take Charge project (2018-2019) was able to offer its participants valuable work experience there, and several have continued as volunteers.

Secret Garden participants were some of the first to engage with our current Take Charge project, also AIF funded through WCVA. Unfortunately work on the garden is currently on hold because of Covid-19. However, the pandemic has in no way put our work with the museum on hold. We have gone virtual! A previous blog post describes Take Charge involvement with Collecting Covid, and we have recently begun to deliver another exciting new partnership initiative with the Museum, Objects of Comfort. This new initiative aims to show how digital images from the museum’s collections, plus support from their expert staff, can improve wellbeing through reminiscence and discussion. Take a look for yourselves on the National Museum’s website from 24/9/20.

What arose all those years ago from finding work experience for one individual has blossomed into a rewarding relationship for all involved. From tiny work experience, acorns do giant oak tree partnerships grow! Keep nurturing those relationships, they really do make a difference.