How to involve as many people as possible from all backgrounds in heritage.

The Public Engagement group is focusing on youth engagement and diversity as two particular opportunities to increase public engagement with the historic environment.

Youth engagement with the historic environment

We know from the 2017/18 DCMS ‘Taking Part’ survey that 72.8% of adults had visited at least one heritage site in the past year and from a range of other sources that significant numbers of primary school children and volunteers engage with heritage.

The Heritage 2020 Public Engagement working group has identified the 16-25 age group as under- represented in terms of engagement with heritage. It wants to bring about a culture change in how heritage and historic environment sector organisations approach youth engagement, and going forward, want to see a greater emphasis on involving young people in all aspects of heritage work. The group want to make what the sector does more transparent to young people from all backgrounds and demonstrate that heritage is relevant to their lives. To do this, it’s been mapping out the work that is already happening across the sector.  

The July 2018 #HeritageChat fed into this. It provided a forum for institutions and individuals to ‘pool learning from youth engagement projects’. Greater collaboration with the creative industries, the adoption of a shared authority approach and the role of interactive technologies were all raised as talking points. Moreover, lessons to be learnt from social action programmes and natural heritage were discussed, as well as where and when conversations between heritage institutions and young people should be happening. You can read a more detailed summary of the chat here.

The group hosted a follow on chat in October 2019, which explored why the 16-24-year-old age group are underrepresented in terms of engagement with heritage. Discussion points during the hour focused on what problems there are that impact upon a ‘heritage offer’ for 16-24-year olds, and whether low engagement could also be caused by perceptions of heritage among the age group. Participants also shared what has worked and been popular in their experience and ideas of what could increase engagement in the future. You can catch up on all the conversations that took place here.

The group is now focusing on how to bring together organisations with a strong track-record in youth engagement with heritage sector organisations. It plans to look at what’s been learnt through the ‘Kick the Dust’ programme as a starting point and identify the conditions for success for joint working between organisations in the two sectors. The goal is to transform how we encourage more dialogue and shared understanding between the varied interest groups in our communities.

  • HLF’s Kick the Dust programme– Twelve grants of between £500,000 and £1 million were awarded to heritage projects that specifically worked to involve more young people in heritage.
Community engagement with heritage

One of the Heritage 2020 Framework goals is to empower communities to become more actively engaged in the planning system as it affects the historic environment and to promoting people’s entitlement to connect with the historic environment.

A couple of our monthly Heritage Chats have explored ways in which communities can engage with aspects of the planning process and sector professionals.

Diversity and inclusion

A lack of diversity in the historic environment is a cross-sector issue that is a priority for all of our working groups. We, therefore, explored the topic at our 2017 Foresight meeting which brought together members from our working groups with the Historic Environment Forum to generate practical suggestions to address the issue through collaborative working.

Recommendations from the day were split into three strands; Data, Process and Perception (a summary of which can be found here). The Public Engagement working group are taking forward these recommendations, and they are currently bidding for funding for a project that will help improve diversity and inclusions practices in the historic environment sector.

The group ran a Heritage Chat, a year on from the Foresight session to explore the following questions:

  1. Is the issue of class overlooked in conversations about diversity in heritage?
  2. How can we best enable those from working class backgrounds to participate equally in a sector dominated by part-time and casual contracts?
  3. Does the intersection between class and ethnicity in part explain the underrepresentation of BME in heritage?
  4. How can targets be used effectively to drive improvements in diversity?
  5. Does the historic environment sector need a self-assessment process to enable an organisation to evaluate its performance – and a toolkit to address areas for development?
  6. Where are there examples of innovative practice in improving diversity that could be shared with the historic environment sector?

A summary of the Chat is available here: Diversity in the Historic Environment Sector (February 2018)

Notes from the 2017 Foresight workshop on diversity and inclusion can be found here.

The Heritage 2020 Framework document outlines the vision and priorities for collaboration for each working group.