Engaging the sector on heritage matters
Interview with Edmund Lee, Sector Resilience Manager at Historic England
Creating a safe and trusted environment
In 2017 we undertook an independent review of our training courses. These courses were delivered to local authority officers and those with a heritage, planning or environmental role. We wanted a way of keeping contact with course participants – to help them “reach back” and stay in touch and set up a new group.
Initially colleagues were reluctant and nervous about posting in the main training group. We needed more discreet groups – a trusted and safer environment for only those participants who were on the same course. This led to us needing more groups to support our different training areas. So, in early 2018 we created the Heritage Workspace digital network on Knowledge Hub to support the delivery of all our training courses.
The platform provided a good fit with our local authority audience and central government advisors on heritage matters.
Business integration and building a ‘sales’ pitch
We did a lot of reading around the subject of online community management including Knowledge Hub guidance. We used this learning to help build an internal ‘sales’ pitch for our network offer.
Our approach was also heavily influenced by community management expert, Richard Millington’s ‘Buzzing Communities’ book. This talked about the social sciences to online community management and the importance of integrating online groups into existing functions. This provided a deeper academic learning about why people engage in online communities and their motivation. We deliberately tried to follow this and make sure our groups integrated to fit our need.
“The platform provided a good fit with our local authority audience and central government advisors. The fact that I can talk to someone on the phone for support is a big selling point.”
Business integration is important – making sure it’s built into the strategy of the organisation. Our internal pitches to members of staff focused on what motivates colleagues and senior managers. This helped to present the research and underpins the science behind it. It’s been a big culture shift – and can be perceived as “another thing to do”. It was a slow burn but what really helped to make it work was our pitch to colleagues and a lot of internal promotion.
Developing an active and engaging digital network
The network is branded to make it look like a Historic England product, using our logo, corporate colour scheme and Twitter feed. The network was mentioned in a few key places and built into our thinking and our written strategy for the Heritage Workspace. Using the fact that Historic England has a lead role as an influencer also helped as a useful way of working.
What’s working well is the ability to set up new groups quickly – it’s a great help when supporting projects, e.g. the work we are doing with the Bid Research Council. Monitoring the Google Analytics for groups has helped to show colleagues the activity and early measures of success have increased interest.
“…we’re seeing cost savings, increased productivity while reducing our carbon footprint.”
The strategic development of a network requires a lot of resource internally and has been heavily reliant on me as the go-to person. Although this was a difficult time, as we were going through an organisation restructure, I have developed my personal learning through working with people to help persuade them on their terms and identify how the network could help them.
The levels of KHub support options available is helpful too – the KHub team, video walkthroughs and user guides. The fact that I can talk to someone on the phone for support is a big selling point. The technology is only part of the solution, it’s the support that really helps.
“Monitoring the Google Analytics for groups has helped to show colleagues the activity and early measures of success have increased interest.”
Growing the network and efficiency gains
Through use of our training groups on the Knowledge Hub platform, we identified other groups across the platform that were relevant to our work. This helped to attract membership from other groups who would benefit from joining our network and groups, e.g. the Aerial and Investigation Mapping group.
We invited fellow KHub facilitator, Barrie Minney, lead facilitator of the LACEF group, to join us at our staff conference this year. Barrie shared his KHub online facilitation experiences and this helped to demonstrate Knowledge Hub as a well-established and familiar platform to local authorities – our audience.
Now with over 25 groups and 400+ members, there’s still room to expand and we’re seeing cost savings, increased productivity while reducing our carbon footprint. We’re developing specialist skills in knowledge sharing, we’re regularly in the monthly top 150 groups on Knowledge Hub, and we have made plans for future groups.
“Business integration is important – making sure it’s built into the strategy of the organisation.”
Find out more about the Heritage Workspace
Sector: Local and central government
Article: Case study.