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  • ‘Twas the week before Christmas (Weekly blog, 17 December 2017)

    Posted on December 17, 2017
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    Two things stood out this week.   Firstly, I was lucky enough to attend the Association Congress in Manchester.  Three days of intensive learning about how to run a trade association/network.    A perfect way to end the year, looking forward to the next.

    Olympian inspiration

    There were lots of fabulous presentations and conversations but the opening keynote by Roy Gluckman was excellent. (You can watch Roy’s talk about diversity and inclusion here.)  And another by Dame Katherine Grainger was also inspirational.  A five-time Olympic medalist (UK rowing), Dame Katherine spoke eloquently about motivation and how to ‘make your association elite’.  Time to articulate why we do what we do.   And what it would mean to win.   She also had a good mantra about looking at everything you do and making each part it a little bit better.    Daily gains towards a big goal.   She was amazing.

    What’s on the horizon?

    Other learning points for me included the need for more horizon scanning.  What is going on out there that might impact on National Trusts in the future? What should we be thinking about?  Ten years ago the hotel or cab industries weren’t thinking about disruptive business like Airbnb or Uber.  I have some ideas about how to involve INTO members in this.  So look out, I might come knocking at your door in the next week or so.

    Everyone is a content contributor

    Another tip is around getting every member of the team to contribute content to the website.  People are interested in what other people are doing.   And with some simple guidelines, everyone can create engaging stories to share.   There is a famous account of President Kennedy asking a cleaner what he did at NASA. To which he replied “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”.

    On content, I’m really inspired to explore different platforms now too.  How many of you are on LinkedIn and would be interested in hearing about INTO that way?

    Data protection

    There was a lot of talk about GDPR, the new EU regulations about data protection that come into force in May 2018.  Having spoken to Bill Turner, I’m confident that our web platform is compliant.  So now it’s just a question of making sure that all our data is held there.   Which has also inspired me to make sure that it is all up to date.  So we’ll be checking that with you in the New Year!


    I attended a couple of sessions on sponsorship, which is not how we should refer to it.  Partnership not sponsorship.  Activating the brand.  Experience centre not conference exhibition.  Lots of good tips about how to engage with corporate partners.  And, with the Bermuda conference in mind, not a moment too soon!  (By the way, put 26-30 March 2019 in your diaries now for the next ICNT!)

    All in all a great opportunity to ‘talk shop’ about running an association and to network with others doing a similar job in different sectors.   Lots to think about.

    Everywhere I look I see people with hope

    Secondly, on the way back from Manchester at the end of the week, I attended an event celebrating the first 25 years of the Darwin Initiative.   Launched after the Rio Summit, this programme supports UK organisations working with overseas partners to achieve sustainability outcomes.  INTO hasn’t done a Darwin project (yet!) so it was good to meet some grantees and the team managing the programme.  And I’m definitely inspired to consider working with some of our member organisations on a proposal.

    However, the most exciting part was Sir David Attenborough.  A long-term hero of many (including me), Sir David has made TV programmes about the natural world for the past sixty-odd years and is a national treasure.   He was very upbeat.  He felt that since he started out in the 1950s, things had changed hugely – mostly for the better.   Problems were increasing, he said, but ‘the tide is turning’.  And that is because of people like us (the audience!).  ‘Everywhere I look, I see people with hope’, he said.


    That’s a bit how I feel in this, my last blog of the year.   The INTO membership is a constant inspiration.  I am regularly bowled over by your dedication, your innovation, your optimism, your courage.  Week in, week out.  And I am feeling very optimistic about 2018.  It’s going to be a good year in so many ways.  And I look forward to working with you all.  In 2018 we will continue to develop the idea of a National Trust family, grow the capacity of individual trusts and be a united voice for matters of common concern.   Exciting times!

    And in other news …

    It’s been a weekend of failed attempts to play hockey.   Pitch inspections on both Saturday and Sunday led to cancelled training and tournament (due to frozen pitches) for our daughter Connie.  Although not before having driven her halfway across the county …  But this evening has restored good humour with a beautiful service of nine lessons and carols at our newly renovated church.

    Happy Christmas one and all!

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