This week, we launched our INTO Incubator! Originally planned for March 2020, we postponed first to September and then took the programme online.
So, on Monday we welcomed delegates from all over the world into our virtual learning lab! From Jamaica to Syria; Albania to Singapore; Nigeria to Haiti we have been connecting and inspiring people with the National Trust approach.
The programme has been ably designed and led by Alex Lamont Bishop, INTO’s Deputy Secretary-General. And this has been no mean feat, particularly when converting to a digital format. How to deliver site visits virtually? How to create a sense of community and network amongst our participants? And how to avoid endless webinars and make space smaller group conversations?
Eighteen delegates have joined discussions about community engagement, volunteering and different membership models. We’ve talked about site management and conservation. And also about making heritage assets financially sustainable.
We’ve heard a lot about the ‘mother’ Trust of course. But we’ve also had presentations from other INTO members in Belgium, Canada and Spain. These have provided incredibly helpful perspectives on how the model can be adapted in different countries.
And this was indeed the goal of the Incubator programme. To work as a group to find answers to common questions. Which governance and business model is best for my country? How do we get our first property? How will we make money, involve volunteers and grow membership? What about relations with government? How will we communicate our cause?
It also aimed to connect participants to other people around the world who share their aspirations. We cannot do any of this alone and there is huge value in collaboration, connectivity and learning together.
For me, one of the most inspiring and moving parts of the programme was hearing everyone’s elevator pitches.
Adisa talked movingly about the destruction and politization of heritage during the Bosnian war. We heard from Kofo in Nigeria about an active but ready-to-reinvent itself 25-year old organisation. And this found echoes in Claire’s story from Gibraltar. Ai Lin spoke of her ambition to make the Singapore Heritage Society a more permanent entity with funding, staff and an office.
We heard of heroic personal endeavours, protecting and preserving heritage under extremely difficult circumstances in Egypt and Syria. Irina shared her plan to acquire property in Romania and we heard Przemek’s success story of castle renovation and management in Poland. Silvia and Ingrid both spoke passionately about natural heritage and their plans to acquire more sites in Spain and Haiti respectively. We learned of Esther’s efforts to save heritage sites in Addis Ababa in the face of increasing development pressures. And Vashti’s hope to establish a National Trust in Antigua and Barbuda mirrored Mirian’s ideas for a ‘trust’ to look after abandoned buildings in Gjirokastër, a World Heritage Site in Southern Albania.
The idea of a heritage network or alliance, as described by Natalie, could work well in Jamaica. Clifford highlighted the importance of traditional skills and industrial heritage in Aruba. In Sweden, Anna-Paula is very interested in urban heritage and parks, as well as ‘living with heritage’. Zeina told us about the wonderful and varied programmes of the Petra National Trust as well as their desire to increase volunteering opportunities. And lastly, Preeya spoke about making the most of connections across West Africa and nurturing future leaders and practitioners. Which is what we hope we’re also doing on a global scale with this programme!
The next phase of the Incubator will be unguided, as our participants continue to connect to one another and other INTO members. We’ve already identified some younger Trusts like the Czech or Georgian National Trusts who have been through the process ore recently and can provide valuable insights.
“The entire programme is really great and it’s such a wonderful group of people. I am really looking forward to the continuation of the programme and also to explore possibilities to create some sustainable model in my country.”
“At first, I was really overwhelmed by the National Trust and its successes, but at the same time, especially after the National Trust for Canada presentation and watching the Herita video, I am starting to believe we also can put the bricks together here.”
It’s been an intense experience, but one that we hope has been inspirational, enjoyable and the beginning of a successful transformation. We here at INTO HQ and our guest speakers have certainly really enjoyed the opportunity to learn and share in this way!
We remain deeply grateful to the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the 1772 Foundation for enabling and encouraging us to hold the Incubator programme. To Alex and Emma for organising everything so brilliantly. We thank all our speakers but particularly our delegates who have worked with the transition to a new format and engaged so brilliantly.
And it doesn’t finish on Wednesday! These are conversations and connections which will live on as we continue to support one another. The global family of National Trusts sends a warm welcome to all theses new advocates for our common cause.