The digital publication of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)

Breaking Down Barriers by Building Bridges

By Cristin Dorgelo

We’re using this first issue of 2020 to examine how to step out of silos to foster collaboration toward positive forward progress. Silos exist within organizations, preserved through cultures, practices, and habits that disincentivize teamwork and transparency. Silos exist between organizations and across fields that limit our ability to learn about promising practices in other sectors and to engage in transdisciplinary innovation. Ideological divides, political radicalization, and long-standing systems of oppression feed deepening societal silos that threaten our ability to make progress on today’s global and local challenges, such as the climate crisis.

Proven strategies can be used to build bridges across these divides, even if they seem like immovable barriers. By focusing on the importance of compelling shared goals and by engaging with humility, gratitude, and mindful listening, we can step out of long-standing silos and open up new avenues for collaboration. From effective partnership practices to cultural fluency to participatory design processes to network building, we have a robust tool kit of approaches available to us as we work to build bridges.

In this issue, you’ll read about efforts to foster collaboration across science-engagement networks; a group of three organizations in Missoula, Montana, partnering to deliver science learning, food assistance, and library services; a grant-funded project attempting to create equitable partnerships between universities and science centers; New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) staff breaking down silos across their organization; a network increasing STEAM literacy in western Canada; the Designing Our World project breaking down barriers that keep girls from pursuing STEM education in Portland, Oregon, and across the United States; and a science museum engaging underserved youth with cool maker activities at local libraries in Oslo, Norway. Whether you’re working on breaking down silos and building bridges at your organization or across your community, there will be plenty of inspiration for you here.

Cristin Dorgelo is ASTC’s President and CEO.

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