A Third Leg of the Stool: Addressing Community Need

By: Holly Truitt, University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area Director

This trip focused on learning about Sweden’s culture house model, which places educational, cultural and social services and institutions under a single roof to work systemically and reduce overhead.

In our eight days of travel, we visited three popular culture houses and one in the making, as well as numerous libraries and museums. On the trip we met nearly 30 Swedes working in the museum and library field as well as in local government. We also were interviewed by a Swedish newspaper as well as its national library journal. Everyone we connected with was kind, welcoming and generous with their time and ideas.

Fika (coffee break) with Kulturmagisnet staff.

Fika (coffee break) with Kulturmagisnet staff to discuss a number of topics including program integration and governance. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Visiting with Kulturmagisnet staff about their model.

Visiting with Kulturmagisnet staff about their model. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

 My Greatest Take Away

The culture house model creates a rich learning ecosystem that easily adapts to and reflects the unique needs and interests of its community.

A director of a library we met on our trip referred to the culture house model as having three legs: education, meeting space, and addressing community needs. In many ways, this third leg was unique for each culture house we visited:

  • In downtown Stockholm, it was incorporating theater;
  • For a community facing a contracting workforce and recent loss of major employers, it was the creation of co-working spaces and a retraining site;
  • For a young, hip community, it was recreation (they have a climbing gym in their facility – fine art, library and climbing under one roof – get out, right?!);
  • And for a community with high rates of unemployment (~25%) and decreasing enrollment in higher education,  it was a dynamic teen center with other support social services.
  • But for all, they were hosting very recently created programming to assist the wave of refugees arriving to Sweden each day. Very powerful work and reminder of how these spaces can respond rapidly to community change.

    Teen center at Kulturmagniset.

    Teen center at Kulturmagniset. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

In our model – by integrating an array of leading organizations to create a world class learning experience for children, rich with exhibits, role models, books and much more – a key aspect of our third leg will be Missoula children, which are one of our greatest hopes and treasures as a community and society.


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