Shh... it's a Secret!, an exhibition produced with schoolchildren at the Wallace Collection in London, is a lovely example of co-creation that demonstrates the multiple benefits of inviting audience members to act as partners in arts organizations.
Here are the basics. For one year, a group of twelve schoolchildren age 9-11 were invited to work with staff at the Wallace Collection to develop a family-focused exhibition using the museum's artifacts. With the support of museum staff, children developed the exhibition theme, selected the objects, designed the space, developed interpretative materials (including interactives), managed the budget, raised sponsorship, created press and marketing materials, put on the opening party, led interpretative tours, and trained museum guides. The exhibition was open for 54 days and was visited by 14,000 people.
Pouring through these materials, I was struck by several key elements of this project that made it work. While the staff who led the project cheerfully commented that they didn't know what they were doing when they started, the process they ended up with bears remarkable similarity to other successful co-creative efforts, like the Wing Luke Asian Museum's community exhibition process or the Oakland Museum's Days of the Dead project.