Listening and sharing have been high on the agenda this week. In advance of our face-to-face board meeting this June, I’m talking to a lot of people about INTO. Board members, Secretariat volunteers, INTO members and other stakeholders. Open and honest conversations about what’s working well – and not so well. Ideas of how to resolve any issues and suggestions for new approaches for the future. I hope that these one-to-one listening sessions will inform and provide focus for our Board discussions.
I started the week in relaxed mode as my lovely brother had booked me into a spa for a birthday treat. Luxuriating at the beautiful Georgian country house called Dogmersfield Park, I found my mind wandering, however. The spa was situated in the stable block. How very like a National Trust tearoom!? Then I wondered whether Dogmersfield had ever been offered to the Trust? Had James Lees-Milne ever rode up on his bicycle to charm the owners into handing it over? Who knows? But I did discover that Dogmersfield has the oldest dovecote in Hampshire!
The report highlights examples of the sector’s expertise and explores some of their innovative projects in case studies (including an INTO one!). It explores how cultural relations developed by civil society organisations can complement government diplomacy. Which is increasingly important as traditional diplomacy with countries such as Russia becomes more challenging.
The report makes a series of recommendations including: support for back-filling posts when staff in small organisations are involved in international work; travel bursaries to help promote exchanges of heritage professionals and students; a development fund to facilitate international exchange in a heritage context; assistance with visas; recognition of the positive impact of such work … all great stuff and relevant across the National Trust movement.
One of my listening sessions was with a former NT colleague who has a background in communications. Hence we discussed – amongst many things – the role of INTO and our members in cultural diplomacy. Very timely indeed! The value of reaching around the world, of listening and sharing, of intercultural dialogue certainly remains as strong as ever. If not more so.
Now in France for a week – thanks for reading!