Our Heritage Compass evaluators on their findings from the 2023 Symposium 

Heritage Compass Symposium at Coventry Cathedral - January 2023
Heritage Compass Symposium 2023
Heritage Compass Symposium at Coventry Cathedral – January 2023

We invited our Heritage Compass evaluators, Tamsin Cox and Kate Rodenhurst (of DHA Communications), to facilitate a workshop at the Heritage Compass Symposium in January 2023. Their session centred on the challenges and opportunities that Heritage Compass participants faced through the course of the programme. Below, Tamsin and Kate have collated some of the outcomes of these conversations, with some insightful conclusions.

Heritage Compass Symposium 2023

At January’s Heritage Compass Symposium at Coventry Cathedral, we ran a session looking at all things resilience – what are the different elements which combine to make an organisation resilient? Is organisational resilience most affected by internal factors such as staffing and planning, or by shocks and changes which come from the outside?

Heritage Compass Symposium 2023

In light of this, to encourage positivity and collaboration, participants spent a few moments at the end of the session to share their most useful learning from the Heritage Compass programme. From these ideas, we’ve been able to compile a list of tips and advice for the programme’s current cohorts and alumni.

Four distinct themes emerged:

Heritage Compass Symposium 2023

1. Take a good hard look at the data when setting your strategy

Few people go into the heritage sector, whether as a career or giving up time as a volunteer, because they love Excel spreadsheets. However, our contributors highlighted the importance of understanding your financial situation and the data which underpins your activities. This can help you to foresee problems and create better strategy.

“Understand the finances!”

“The data matters on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. It tells you when you’re succeeding, when you need to change course, when you need to stop something altogether, and when your plan is working.”

Participants passed on the best exercises they had encountered in training; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis and/or Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Strengths (TOWS) Analysis has been particularly useful way to think how to play to your strengths and address weaknesses.

“SWOT into TOWS helped us to recognise our threats and weaknesses and think about positive ways to change them or accept they will never change.”

2. Plan, but be flexible!

Many participants on the Heritage Compass programme are now beginning to implement changes in their strategy. A number of organisations agreed on the importance of proper, well-considered project planning – and cautioned against procrastinating!

“Every project needs proper planning.”

“After every session write down three action points and put deadline dates next to each one.”

They also reminded us that it’s better if your strategy is realistic in the first place:

“Have strategies that are pragmatic and aligned to core purpose.” 

“Be realistic about capacity.”

“Go to your audience where they are.”

“Good enough is OK, you don’t have to be perfect.”

The participants acknowledged that sometimes things go wrong. Flexibility should be built into plans wherever possible. One participant advised that you should ‘take decisive action when faced with a social media pile on’ (Unfortunately, we don’t know the story behind this tip).

3. Attitude is everything

Organisational culture should ensure that everyone understands the vision, everyone feels valued, and people are happy coming to work. This requires leaders to be creative, open and positive:

“The development of creative leadership (in turn governance) is one of the best indicators of an organisation’s ability to navigate change.”

“Keep all communications open, open, open!”

“Make sure everyone in the team understands and agrees with the aims.”

“It takes three months for new enthusiastic staff to be demotivated by a negative organisational culture.”

One participant had a specific suggestion about how this positive culture could be created:

“Find an opportunity to get together in the pub. Call it training.”

Participants also encouraged others to think bigger, and to have faith in the work you do, and its value to others.

“Face your fears and take on challenges.”

 “Find the confidence to monetise your assets.”

4. You are not alone

Participants in our resilience session highlighted the importance of reaching out beyond your immediate network and finding organisations that are experiencing similar challenges. Many people, especially those running start-up projects, hadn’t realised that across the country there are thousands of people doing similar work. Participants encouraged each other to make use of this network:

“Talk to other organisations. It helps you to feel like you are not alone in your challenges.”

“Be comfortable to share your story and experiences.”

“Engage more in networking activities. Other’s experiences could build your resilience.”

“Remember you are not the only one going through it.”

“Gain a sense of solidarity from networking – plenty of other organisations are facing similar challenges.” 

“There is value in sharing challenges and opportunities with peers.”

As well as the importance of tapping into the Heritage Compass peer network, participants had ideas about how to get the most from time with a critical friend and mentor:

“Get help from your mentor to pass on your ideas to other directors.”

“Make space for the overview and seek out mentors.”

“Have a critical friend to question your decisions.”

“Utilise and learn from experts.”

One tip highlighted the potential to adapt the relationship with your mentor to suit the organisation’s needs:

“Our mentor was helpful in working with other directors and developing vision and mission. See if there are other ways of using their time.”

We are so grateful to the participants who shared their advice and hard-won experience with colleagues.

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