Staying Focused on Audience and Outcomes, with Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen

Episode 112:

Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen brings more than 25 years of experience to her role as the third president of Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Kirsten’s energetic leadership during the last two decades has advanced informal STEM education. Her leadership activities at Great Lakes Science Center have included the launch of a new strategic initiative, Cleveland Creates, developed in collaboration with regional workforce development leaders to change the community’s manufacturing narrative through STEM education for middle school youth and families. Kirsten has worked at five museums during the past two decades and consulted for more than 30.

She is a founding leader of the Northeast Ohio STEM Ecosystem Collaborative and has been appointed to serve on the mayor’s steering committee on sustainability as well as the planning and Urban Design Committee of the Group Plan Commission. She holds a Ph.D. in science education from Vanderbilt University and a BA from the University of Chicago.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen about science, city-wide collaboration, and national partnerships in museum tourism. Kirsten also breaks down the vast difference it makes when other institutions speak with each other and work together, instead of being adversarial.


What You Will Learn:

  • How to work with competitors to establish points of differentiation
  • The power of saying yes
  • How to manage a challenge to attendance in what should be your busiest season
  • Working with other community players to achieve and exceed expectations around a huge community event
  • How to maintain your roots as a beloved institution while also connecting with first-time visitors
  • Working with other nearby cultural institutions to create a wider “campus”
  • Cathedral thinking – Looking at tourism development from a generational perspective
  • How strategic plans bring focus to both what you are working on and what you are not working on

From a “No” Organization to a “Yes” Organization

Organizations get reputations. When you have a reputation for saying no, opportunities start to dry up, and you get stuck in a rut of doing the same things year after year. Saying yes can also have its challenges, like when your city is hosting a national political convention.

Kirsten talks about how to bring stakeholders together to think through the best ways to face the challenges and opportunities when you invite the nation into your town.

Cathedral Thinking

We also revisit a concept from another episode – Cathedral Thinking – as we explore what it means to be a cultural institution with a long view, and a view to contribute and participate fully in the community where you are situated.

Planning isn’t just about the next year or two, but about laying a foundation for generations to build on. That may sound grandiose, but when you are a cultural institution in a community rich with art, sports, music, and science attractions, taking the long view together is just good stewardship.

What foundations are you laying down for future generations?


Episode Transcript

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