Strategic Plan

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“THE FIRST FIVE YEARS HAVE SO MUCH TO DO WITH HOW THE NEXT 80 TURN OUT.” – Bill Gates The American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 study, entitled “The Power of Play,” highlighted the Academy’s research on the cognitive benefits that play has on children. The Academy’s research data asserted that “play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity...that are critical for adult success.” There is a growing body of evidence in early childhood learning and development that demonstrates that children need to play. But you don’t have to tell this to the 500,000 children (and adults) who bound through the doors of the Please Touch Museum every year. Once inside, they discover a world created solely for them. In this world of play they discover new things, explore new ideas, and create and build confidence in themselves and their potential. In these playful moments, as magical and as fun as they are, children are also learning. They are developing the skills that will help them get ready to learn in the classroom and in life. They are also meeting and making new friends, often encountering children from diverse families and communities. Their grown-ups often play alongside them, discovering ways to engage with their children that will last long after their Museum visit is over. Please Touch Museum takes play seriously, referring to it as “playing with purpose.” It was with this in mind that the Museum leadership, board and staff, came together to create our next strategic plan, Please Touch Museum 2023: Elevating Play Learning Together. The plan defines a bold new vision for PTM, “a world where all children are creative, compassionate, confident and curious.” We hope the plan will inspire you to join us as we create new and exciting ways to make this vision a reality. We believe we can change the world, and starting with young children is the key to it all. Yours in play,

Patricia D. Wellenbach President & CEO

Benjamin L. Johnson Chair, Board of Trustees



Since 1976, Please Touch Museum (PTM) has been an integral part of growing up in Philadelphia. From a small space on the Parkway in the Academy of Natural Sciences, then to its location on 21st Street and now to its current home in Fairmount Park, PTM has welcomed almost three generations of children and families to a place where learning through play happens every day. With over four decades of experience behind it, Please Touch Museum’s staff and board began to look ahead to the next three years where they knew there were opportunities for continued growth and evolution. When considering what they wanted to achieve by 2023, they knew PTM needed to be ready for reaccreditation by The American Alliance of Museums in 2022 and the possibility of an array of citywide events in 2026 for the 250th celebration of America’s founding. PTM also knew that the bold work that has occurred at the Museum since the January 2017 launch of PTM 2020: Reimagining Play to Empower 21st Century Learners would encourage them not to be afraid to think big. As they delved into the process, they asked questions that included: • How might Please Touch Museum best meet the evolving needs and expectations of its visitors? • What types of experiences will help today’s children grow and develop? • What investments in physical space should be made so that the exhibits and setting continue to feel fresh and welcoming?


• How does Please Touch Museum communicate its value and purpose in a crowded market? • Do all employees and stakeholders believe in and feel invested in Please Touch Museum’s work?

• How can the Museum create a space where children and their caregivers can find community in an increasingly diverse and complex world?

Ultimately, the Museum leadership arrived at the following overarching question that was foundational to how it began to consider its future: What does Please Touch Museum need to do to become a “must have” organization in Philadelphia, instead of a “nice to have?”

Please Touch Museum 2023: Elevating Play Learning Together affirms PTM’s mission statement: To change a child’s life as they discover the power of learning through play. It commits to a new vision statement: A world where all children are creative, compassionate, confident and curious. It unveils a new set of values: Curiosity, Engagement, Community, Excellence. Lastly, it establishes for the Museum four overarching goals:


The Museum addressed those and other questions that arose during the six-month discernment process. As a result, the new strategic plan builds upon the answers to those questions and the work completed over the past three years. The plan offers a promising path forward for Please Touch Museum and its stakeholders. If PTM’s mission is truly going to be realized, then the Museum must find opportunities to elevate the importance of play and must create opportunities for children to engage in learning together, with other children, with their families and with their communities. The Museum believes this strategic plan is the call to action needed to achieve its mission and more.




Please Touch Museum’s last strategic plan was released in 2017. PTM 2020: Reimaging Play to Empower 21st Century Learners introduced a new mission statement for the Museum:

TO CHANGE A CHILD’S LIFE AS THEY DISCOVER THE POWER OF LEARNING THROUGH PLAY. That mission statement and strategic plan were shaped by the Museum’s understanding that it needed to shift public perception about its purpose and more clearly define its role in early childhood learning and development. Please Touch Museum is a place where learning happens, just as it does at other museums throughout the world. The difference at PTM is how that learning takes place and what is learned. PTM’s hands-on exhibits and educational programming are purposely designed for children. The Museum’s play-based experiences teach them how to be creative, to play with others, to be resilient, to explore and discover. These experiences are essential to helping them become adaptable learners and fosters the social, emotional and intellectual skills that prepare them to meet the future, in the classroom and beyond. PTM 2020 provided a roadmap for the organization, identifying strategies and actions that the Museum would act upon to achieve its promise to the community to be a leading 21st century children’s Museum.

Ultimately, PTM 2020 was the catalyst for change that Museum leaders hoped it would be and set the Museum on a new, refreshing course through initiatives that included: 1. Exhibits and educational programming designed to engage visitors and aligned to educational Standards. 2. Programming celebrating the uniqueness of every child, family and neighborhood. 3. Engagement of the Parkside community through the Parkside Community Advisory Council and other initiatives that renewed trust and built relationships with its closest neighbors. 4. Assuring that physical or financial challenges would not be a barrier to any child or family experiencing the Museum. PTM 2020 achieved its promise and its goals. Stakeholders now view PTM as an organization that delivers excellent returns to those investing in it, and most importantly, to the thousands of children, caregivers, families, and partners it serves.



PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM 2020-2023 As Please Touch Museum’s board and staff began a new strategic planning process they reaffirmed its mission: To change a child’s life as they discover the power of learning through play. In PTM 2020, the Museum made a promise to the Philadelphia community: “To be a leader in 21st century children’s museums as a key resource of learning through play and expand our reach and impact in the Philadelphia region and beyond.” In interviews with stakeholders for PTM 2023, it was consistently noted that Please Touch Museum had made “considerable progress on this promise, demonstrating itself as a place that can get things done” and offering increasingly relevant programming in an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to the communities it serves. During the course of the strategic planning process for PTM 2023, a fundamental question was asked: What would change in the Philadelphia region (and even the world) as a result of the Museum’s work and why does it matter that Please Touch Museum exists? The conversations around that question led to the development of a bold new vision and values statements. These connect to goals designed to build on the success of the last three years and propel the Museum forward as an essential partner in advancing early childhood learning and development in the region and beyond.




We believe in the inherent value of curiosity and encourage children and their families to discover, imagine and learn through play.


We create unique learning experiences that are transformational and have lasting impact for our visitors, our community and beyond.


We embrace diversity in everything we do and encourage our visitors to think differently and open their minds to the world around them.


We invest in our employees, programs and exhibits to provide unparalleled experiences for every visitor.

PTM 2023: ELEVATING PLAY LEARNING TOGETHER PTM 2023 builds upon Please Touch Museum’s commitment to engage and partner with the community, offering unique Museum experiences and programs that advance the power of learning through play. It sets Please Touch Museum apart as a world class leader in early childhood learning and development. Please Touch Museum has articulated four goals to guide the Museum over the next three years. Three “impact” goals are focused externally and address the positive influence that PTM has on its visitors, community partners, and the childhood learning and development field at large. The fourth goal is “foundational” and is focused on building the Museum’s internal strength, resiliency and adaptability.




Please Touch Museum inspires children and families to have fun and dream big.

Please Touch Museum is welcoming and inclusive.

Please Touch Museum is a leader in childhood learning and development.


We are committed to developing exhibits and programs that empower learning in a place where all visitors are valued, respected, and appreciated.


We are committed to reflecting, supporting and celebrating the diversity of all individuals, families and communities.


We are committed to advancing new discoveries and advocating to ensure children grow up to be healthy, fulfilled adults.


STRENGTHEN THE ORGANIZATION Please Touch Museum is strong, resilient and adaptable. We are committed to investing in our people and operations, so that together we can fulfill our mission to change children’s lives with the power of learning through play and be a best-in-class Museum.


PTM2023’s goals are designed to move Please Touch Museum closer to realizing its new vision and achieving its mission. As the Museum looks ahead to 2023, it is excited to build upon past successes and move toward an even more dynamic and meaningful future.

Success will require collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. These are skills the Museum staff focus on when developing exhibits, programming and defining a best-in-class visitor experience.



PROVIDE BEST-IN-CLASS EXPERIENCES Please Touch Museum inspires children and families to have fun and dream big. We are committed to developing exhibits and programs that empower learning in a place where all guests are valued, respected and appreciated.

Please Touch Museum employees will work together to create memorable and valued visitor experiences and will have the skills, knowledge and tools to implement this strategy.

Achieving this goal requires thoughtful and intentional programming and exhibit design and a staff culture oriented to providing consistently superior experiences for each visitor who walks into the Museum. Children do not experience the Museum in isolation. They are there with parents, grandparents, educators, caregivers, siblings, and friends of varying ages. This multi-generational dynamic is seen as a differentiator for PTM. Child development research bears this out: studies published in 2014 and 2016 document that “parenting activities, such as playing and shared reading, result in decreases in parental experiences of stress and enhancement in the parent–child relationship.”1


As Please Touch Museum continues to evolve as a best-in-class institution, it will implement the following strategies:




Best-in-class visitor experiences require dynamic programming, exhibits, and physical spaces that intentionally promote learning and exploration through play. PTM will create and begin implementation of a broad Museum-wide plan that informs future exhibits, programs, and physical spaces.


PROMOTE MULTI-GENERATIONAL LEARNING THAT ENGAGES VISITORS OF ALL AGES. Please Touch Museum is committed to expanding its focus on multi-generational engagement in the Museum experience. This will provide families opportunities to find the joy that comes from playing together in the Museum and to continue enriching play activities at home.

Citations appear in The Power of Play, Berkule SB, Cates CB, Dreyer BP, et al. Reducing maternal depressive symptoms through promotion of parenting in pediatric primary care. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2014;53(5):460–469pmid:24707022


Weisleder A, Cates CB, Dreyer BP, et al. Reading is not just for language: promoting cognitive stimulation also enhances socioemotional development. In: Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Conference; April 30–May 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD. Cates CB, Weisleder A, Dreyer BP, et al. Leveraging healthcare to promote responsive parenting: impacts of the Video Interaction Project on parenting stress. J Child Fam Stud. 2016;25(3):827–835pmid:27134514



FOSTER INCLUSION Please Touch Museum is welcoming and inclusive. We are committed to reflecting, supporting and celebrating the diversity of all individuals, families and communities. Please Touch Museum consistently demonstrates its commitment to be a place of equality and inclusion for all visitors and communities. It does this through year-round celebrations of diverse communities and cultures; through collaboration and connectivity with the neighboring Parkside community; through assuring a balance of staff and board diversity; and through creating programs and spaces that acknowledge and accommodate the needs of children with different abilities. Board and staff know that children today are growing up in an increasingly diverse world with disparities and deep differences in social, cultural and economic circumstances. The Museum’s investment in this work can foster empathy and understanding that will help children become the future global citizens the world needs. As PTM continues to build and foster an inclusive community, it will pursue the following strategies:



Please Touch Museum recognizes the importance of designing environments that actively welcome and accommodate visitors from all backgrounds. PTM will continue to invest in exhibits and educational experiences that embrace all visitors equally and without judgment.


STAFF AND GOVERNANCE REFLECT, RESPECT AND CHAMPION PHILADELPHIA’S DIVERSE POPULATIONS. Please Touch Museum knows that having more diverse perspectives at the staff and board levels helps to ensure the Museum lives up to its promise to be a champion and voice for inclusivity in our region.


STRENGTHEN PARTNERSHIPS THAT HELP TRANSFORM MUSEUM EXPERIENCES AND SERVE AS A MODEL FOR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. Please Touch Museum values the community partners that play a key role in informing and ultimately enhancing the Museum experience for all visitors. PTM will expand opportunities for broader community engagement and invite diversity of thought and perspective as it continues to plan for the future.



ADVANCE OUR FIELD Please Touch Museum is a leader in childhood learning and development. We are committed to advancing new discoveries and advocating to ensure children grow up to be healthy, fulfilled adults. Annually, over 500,000 children and their families come to Please Touch Museum to discover and learn through play. As one stakeholder remarked, “it is critical that we address children and families at the root, creating a culture of curiosity and thirst for learning that is aligned with the understanding and research available. Please Touch Museum is the only place where all children and families can come together to learn and play.” Please Touch Museum is dedicated to ensuring all visitors experience exhibits and programs that are informed by the latest research on childhood learning and development. Further, as researchers seek to understand the critical connections between play and successful emotional and intellectual development, PTM is an ideal partner for hosting research initiatives. As the Museum continues to exercise leadership in childhood learning and development, it will implement the following strategies:



PROGRAMMING AND EXHIBITS REFLECT THE MOST PROMISING RESEARCH AND IDEAS IN CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT. As a best-in-class children’s museum, Please Touch Museum must continue to shift perceptions from being viewed as a fun indoor playground to a one-of-a-kind space where experiential learning happens, where children come to learn, discover and explore. PTM must differentiate itself by demonstrating the unique benefits that children can only experience there.


POSITION PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM AND ITS LEADERS AS EXPERTS IN CHILDHOOD LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT. Please Touch Museum will continue to inform the work of other experts and researchers by providing them with opportunities to conduct research at the Museum. Additionally, Museum staff will share findings and outcomes from internal evaluation and research projects with the field and more broadly as appropriate.



Please Touch Museum’s leaders will continue to inform policy discussions and share its experience and evaluation data about how learning through play has a positive impact on early childhood learning and development.

Increasingly, elected officials and educational policy experts have argued for deeper investments in early childhood education. Such investments include high-quality PreK, which is viewed as an important tool in preparing children for school and as a pathway to potentially reduce intergenerational poverty and increase economic mobility.



STRENGTHEN THE ORGANIZATION Please Touch Museum is strong, resilient, and adaptable. We are committed to investing in our people and operations, so we can fulfill our mission to change children’s lives and be a best-in-class museum. Success of the three impact goals requires PTM to continue to invest in its personnel, operations, and other core organizational areas. Having successfully transitioned into a period of financial stability and with a strong team of staff and board leaders in place, Please Touch Museum is now ideally positioned to focus on the foundational building blocks needed to propel it toward being a best-in class children’s museum. Key operational priorities defined to achieve this important goal include: •

Build an organizational culture that embodies Please Touch Museum’s newly articulated values and is focused on delivering excellent visitor experiences through collaboration across departments.

Continue to build Please Touch Museum’s board into a highly effective governing body that can further advance the Museum’s organizational goals and serve as champions for its mission.

Reaffirm Please Touch Museum’s brand identity and create compelling messaging that attracts visitors, donors, and community partners.

Continue to diversify Please Touch Museum’s earned and contributed revenue sources by articulating a strong value proposition to donors, visitors, and partners.

As PTM continues to create a strong foundation to support the Museum’s growth and success it will implement the following strategies:


BUILD A CULTURE THAT REFLECTS ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES AND A COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE, AND SUPPORTS ALL EMPLOYEES AS THEY BECOME AMBASSADORS FOR PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM. The Museum has recruited a highly talented leadership team focused on the Museum’s mission and committed to working collaboratively to advance its goals. They recognize that the Museum’s greatest assets are the employees who carry out its mission and connect with visitors each and every day. To that end, there is excitement and commitment to work collectively to build an internal culture that fosters buy-in and passion among staff and helps propel them forward as they tackle the ambitious agenda identified in this plan.

• Continue to exercise strong fiscal management and coordinated annual program planning. 20


CONTINUE THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES’ EVOLUTION INTO A MORE STRATEGIC GOVERNING BODY THAT REFLECTS THE DIVERSITY OF THE REGION AND SUPPORTS THE FUTURE NEEDS OF THE ORGANIZATION. Please Touch Museum’s Board of Trustees is focused on being engaged ambassadors for the Museum as they advocate for its mission and the financial support it needs to continue in its work.


BUILD UPON PAST SUCCESSES AND THE MUSEUM’S EVOLVING BRAND IDENTITY TO BROADEN ITS REACH AND IMPACT. Please Touch Museum will provide consistent messaging across all channels and build upon a brand that is immediately recognized for quality learning through play and experiences that can transform to everlasting memories.


ADVANCE THE MISSION OF THE ORGANIZATION BY LEVERAGING STRONG INTERCONNECTIVITY BETWEEN PROGRAMS, OPERATIONS, FINANCES, AND ALL ASPECTS OF EARNED REVENUE. Please Touch Museum will grow its earned revenue streams and manage expenses to build cash reserves and create long-term financial stability.



PROVIDE ROBUST SUPPORT FOR SHORT- AND LONG-TERM OPERATIONAL AND CAPITAL NEEDS THROUGH CONTRIBUTED REVENUE, WHICH IS OBTAINED FROM MORE DIVERSE, RECURRING AND SUSTAINABLE SOURCES. Please Touch Museum will implement a clearly defined contributed revenue strategy that builds excitement among donors about the mission and vision of the organization and instills in them the understanding that their philanthropy will be used efficiently and effectively. PTM 2023: Elevating Play Learning Together, engages all employees and the board of trustees in creating a best-in-class Museum experience that appeals to broader audiences and captivates the visitor. It reignites the charge to lead the way in innovative exhibits, groundbreaking programming, and participation in new discoveries and research that will require the focused dedication of many individuals. It is a journey and a commitment that Please Touch Museum is equipped to embark on with the expectation that the success of the past three years validates its ability to achieve all that it has planned in the coming three years and well beyond.


STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS PROCESS Please Touch Museum’s strategic planning process commenced in March 2019 and ended with approval of the three-year plan by the Museum’s Board of Trustees on September 25, 2019. The process followed a progression of three stages: 1. Immersion in Please Touch Museum’s past strategic plan and current operations, policies, and programming. 2. Analysis of how well current strategy, programs, and operations align with museum goals, priorities and future aspirations as articulated by leadership during the planning process. 3. Synthesis of major findings into a coherent, actionable set of goals and strategies to carry Please Touch Museum into, and through, the next three years.

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT During each stage of the planning process, there was regular engagement of staff, board and community stakeholders. Key points of interaction included: •

Individual interviews with all nine members of the Museum Executive Team, including the President & CEO; eight PTM Board members including the Board Chair; and seven external stakeholders, including key community partners and funders.

Facilitated meetings with the Museum Executive and Management Staff, the Board, and the Parkside Community Advisory Council.

Individual working meetings with the Museum Executive Team to support the creation of strategies, tactics, and success metrics.

The process included: •

Comprehensive review of organizational materials including the current strategic plan, budgets, annual program calendars, Board minutes and much more.

Review and analysis of policies and planning materials from across all operational areas of the Museum, including human resources, finances, fundraising, programming, exhibits, and communications.

Research of other leading children’s museums to understand trends in the field, as well as differing institutional approaches to achieving excellence in the early childhood development space, learning through play, and other relevant areas.



Benjamin L. Johnson, Chair Kate Shields, Vice Chair Christine Campbell, Chair-Elect Nikki DiCaro, CFO, Treasurer Patricia D. Wellenbach, President and CEO


David Davis Karen Griffith Gryga Kristen Han Ron Koch Arianna Orpello Lewko Sara C. McGowan Angela Monaco Aisling Murphy Christyn Rossman Tracey Santilli Christopher Scarpa Steven A. Singh Salima Suswell Richard (Dick) Tewksbury, Jr. Shawn Tuli


Elizabeth B. Cartmell Sharon Coghlan, Esq. Anne Hamilton Portia Sperr, Founder, Please Touch Museum Sally W. Stetson


The Honorable James Kenney, Mayor, City of Philadelphia, represented by Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer, City of Philadelphia The Honorable Darrell Clarke, President, Philadelphia City Council, represented by The Honorable Curtis Jones, Jr., Philadelphia City Council, represented by Joshua Cohen, Chief of Staff to Councilman Jones The Honorable Vincent Hughes, PA State Senator, represented by Marcella Daniels, Chief of Staff for Senator Vincent Hughes Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation, City of Philadelphia, represented by Tiffany W. Thurman, Chief of Staff, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation * As of January 1, 2020 25

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