Our biennial Conference ended yesterday. As I’m en route home, I’m posting my final day’s speech by way of a blog for today. (More to follow!)
As we close the 17th International Conference of National Trusts, I want to take you back to the first. Held in 1978 it was hosted by the National Trust for Scotland. Their then Patron, HM The Queen Mother sent a message to delegates. She said: “I hope that this Conference will result in a useful exchange of ideas and that it will lead to an even closer understanding between all those who serve such a great movement.”
Forty years later, on the other side of the world, the last five days in Bali have lived up to that expectation.
We started the week with a challenge from our first keynote speakers, Franklin Vagnone and Laurajane Smith, which was great and remained with us for the following days.
I personally believe that National Trusts are fundamentally about engaging people with the places and stories that matter to them. And if anyone has any doubts about what National Trusts do and are for, please check out our new resource. We launched ‘From Start-up to Sustainability: An INTO Handbook of Heritage Trusts‘ at the INTO Congress and it is full of great ideas and examples.
There’s always room for improvement of course. But the conversations I’ve had this week demonstrate that INTO members are doing pretty well on that front.
We heard from Fabrice about Rempart’s fight against the idea that only experts can ‘do’ heritage fifty years ago; from Emily about community museums and the wonderful idea of a ‘House of Memory’ in Uganda. We heard heroic stories of crowdfunding and engagement in Canada. And of community consultation and creative reuse in the United States. Of the efforts of the National Trust for Jersey to gain public support. Then using this to influence politicians, which has been so inspiring to Saint Lucia, amongst others. We heard about the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s focus on the visitor experience mantra: ‘teach, move, inspire’ and of such extensive youth involvement at FAI, the National Trust for Italy. And the Cayman Islands National Trust’s carbon offset programme which is proving so popular with the local community.
We shared so many examples that exemplified the shift from looking after ‘for’ people, to looking after ‘with’ people.
And we learned ideas from our new friends like Ester who told us about neighbourhood guides ‘sourced by locals; designed by locals and powered by locals’ or Willie Smit’s ‘preserving nature through the empowerment of local people’.
And that for me is the value of the ICNT. Of course, we had the most extraordinary experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. But we also did lots of great networking and learning from one another. This will continue once the case studies presented are made available on the website. (Watch this space!) And there was also a lot of talk of continuing the conversations started, such as through the new INTO Youth Group.
The conference also affirmed for me the value of bringing together people working in the same field to address common issues – the wisdom of crowds I mentioned on the first day. When we get together with our peers, we can have our best ideas.
One way INTO will be using the learning from this conference is by taking all the climate change best practice, along with the Gianyar Declaration, to the UN Climate Change talks in Bonn in November (COP 23).
Another is that we will pull together documentation around diversity, inclusion and indigenous heritage for our World Heritage Day event next year.
We’re also going to be celebrating INTO’s 10th birthday. Well, when I say ‘celebrate’: I can’t promise you dancing girls, kites or opera with a cast of thousands (including no less than 5 live elephants!) but we will provide you with some interesting content in the hope that you will help us celebrate.
What I can promise is that INTO will continue over the next ten years to do its best to help National Trusts and similar heritage organisations to do their best work.
I’m going to end with some thank yous.
Firstly, huge thanks to all our hosts for the wonderful and warm welcome we have all received. Thanks too to all our sponsors, but especially those that enabled the attendance of such a wide range of countries. Thanks to the International Steering Committee for their diligent preparation of the Conference programme.
And lastly, thanks to you. Thank you for your friendship, for inspiring us all, for your presence in Bali; for your hard work, your patience and your help without which INTO would not exist and this Conference would not have been the success that we all recognise it to be.