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International working builds stronger heritage sector at home

Our report sheds new light on how building the capacity of the heritage sector can assist working internationally
12.09.2019

​The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s new 2019–2024 strategy wants “to see the UK’s heritage grow and learn by taking opportunities to engage internationally.”

International working benefits audiences, at home and abroad. Supporting cultural diversity and connecting with diaspora communities extends the audience reach of UK heritage and makes our stories richer and stronger. Building relationships across national and cultural boundaries nurtures the tolerance and understanding we need in an increasingly fragmented world. Last but not least, international working is an opportunity to develop new approaches to financial sustainability.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund commissioned us to provide a snapshot of international activity in the heritage sector. Report will inform their approach to building the capacity of the sector to engage internationally.

We found:

  • Almost half of heritage sector organisations surveyed are already active internationally, with a significant minority (13%) very active
  • International activities with a relatively low barrier to entry (such as short time scale, narrow scope, low cost, or all three) were accessible to a larger number of organisations. However, between a half and a quarter of those surveyed had taken on more challenging and resource intensive international work
  • Most heritage sector organisations surveyed saw international working as a chance to explore best practice, learn and diversify their offer to audiences. Fewer organisations saw the value of international working as financial
  • Barriers to international working were most commonly financial, but also included identifying strategic relevance of international working for the organisation, and accessing contacts and information around opportunities or partnerships.

Our report highlighted several areas where the heritage sector could benefit from capacity building support:

  • Facilitated opportunities to network with and learn from others in the sector already working internationally, including sharing contacts and information
  • Facilitated opportunities to learn from heritage sector private businesses (e.g. in areas such as commercial awareness, marketing, identifying legal issues to be aware of)
  • Strengthening recognition and support for language skills in the sector
  • Enabling creative problem-solving skills, allowing for the development of unique/locally adapted solutions
  • Structuring projects to create opportunities for two-way learning or skills development.

These and other recommendations will inform the design of potential future Heritage Fund capacity building initiatives, in order to support the UK heritage sector to grasp the opportunities that working internationally can bring.

Full report here.

For more on BOP’s research see here.

- Lucy Minyo, Senior Consultant

Image credit: Working Holiday Programme at the Strahov Monastery in Prague, 2018 © Czech National Trust