DASH Report

Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage

Heritage Organisation Types
Heritage Fund

Learning from the UK-wide “digital in heritage” surveys starting in October 2020

The Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) survey report offers vital insight into how heritage leaders can support their staff, trustees and volunteers.

 DASH report:
Two detailed reports, 2020 (61 pages) and 2021 (79 pages) are attached as PDFs

The initial report, published 14 October 2020, brought together the responses of 4,120 staff, trustees and volunteers working at 281 heritage organisations across the UK who completed the DASH survey.  The link to the initial report is here: DASH survey.

However, in case the link becomes obsolete, following is the initial report {Ed: consider the results in a different way, by replacing “Digital” with other types of skills.}

Sector needs during lockdown

The survey sign up is already informing our understanding of the sector’s digital needs, both in response to the immediate and changing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and for building its future resilience.   During the sign up process we ask: “What one thing would your organisation like to do with digital in the next two months that it is currently struggling with, or has never done before?”

We had responses from 162 heritage organisations that signed up in the first three weeks of the survey {increasing to over 200 organisations with time}. Between them, these 162 organisations identified 388 ways of using digital technology that they would like to get started with or become better at.

The results show that organisations want to use digital in a variety of ways. We’ve identified eight categories that encompass these 388 digital uses:

1. Marketing and communications – 27%

27% of the digital uses identified by organisations came under marketing and communications. Organisations want to use digital to:

  • develop online fundraising skills
  • better understand their audiences and make use of audience data
  • learn how to design and carry out marketing campaigns
  • develop communications strategies
  • grow social media followings
  • develop existing websites or create new websites, particularly using Wordpress

2. Creating content – 26%

Content creation skills came in close second. Of particular interest were:

  • creating videos, podcasts and virtual tours
  • creating content for specific social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok
  • effective storytelling techniques – bringing a range of multimedia content together to tell compelling stories about communities, projects, objects, places and histories

3. Community – 18%

Making, building, and protecting new and existing communities was often cited as a priority, including:

  • understanding best practice when working with children, young people and vulnerable groups online
  • making sure online activities are accessible and inclusive
  • supporting communities previously used to meeting in physical spaces
  • growing communities online – reaching into new geographical locations and attracting members with different outlooks and ideas
  • creating digital volunteering opportunities and making use of crowdsourcing
  • digital activism – online advocacy and organising for communities, causes and the environment

4. Strategy – 11%

Organisations want to make sure their use of digital helps them to deliver their objectives. They would like to:

  • review how they support their staff and volunteers’ use of digital and how they invest in training and infrastructure
  • learn about open licencing, with a view to opening up their collections and resources
  • be more creative, purposeful and joined up in using digital
  • evaluate the impact of their use of technology

5. Events and activities – 8%

Organisations want support with putting their activities and events online. They were keen to understand:

  • what needs to be done differently in digital environments compared to physical spaces
  • what opportunities online events offer
  • how online events can be better for some activities or participants
  • what skills are needed to host events online

6. eLearning – 7%

Organisations were keen to identify what eLearning approaches were best suited to their learners, including:

  • schools, children and young people
  • adult visitors
  • staff and volunteers

7. Working online – 2%

A smaller number of organisations are looking at honing their own online working practices, including:

  • running online meetings
  • managing teams at distance
  • overseeing workflows and projects

8. Data – 1%

Working with data appears throughout all the categories. However a few organisations are specifically interested in how they can better utilise their own data, including by:

  • making their data more accessible to visitors
  • presenting it in more engaging ways
  • supporting people to make use of their data

There were two quick insights 

Josie Fraser, Head of Digital Policy at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The report shows that heritage is fundamentally about people and culture. During lockdown, the role that digital can play to support that has become even more important for organisations to understand.”   Key initial results included:

Speak to people about their needs:  the report highlights how employees, trustees and volunteers have different barriers, motivations and needs when it comes to digital.
46% of volunteers say that they never discuss their digital skills with others”

For example, the report describes how “Trustees often want to enhance organisational (digital) strategy; volunteers are often motivated by improving the visitor experience; and staff want to be more digitally enabled and effective in their specific context.”

It is therefore important for an organisation to speak to its people before embarking on a digital strategy.  A skills audit can help an organisation identify its strengths, understand needs, set goals and manage expectations.   Speaking to staff and volunteers – including during recruitment and appraisals – can also help organisations identify untapped digital skills.

Only one in six heritage sector staff get the chance to share their digital practice with others.”    Many survey takers said they wanted support for their digital practice that was not related to training or resources.   Within an organisation, digital champions could be put to use to understand, support and empower fellow trustees and staff, tailoring their responses to specific needs. New volunteering opportunities that focus on digital could also be created.

“They wanted time to practise digital skills, mentoring from experienced colleagues and the opportunity to swap skills and collaborate with others.”   Outside of it, new networks could be key: “the heritage sector might benefit more from the creation of sub-sector and/or regional communities of practice that recognise and support a wide variety of different skills.”

Find out much more about the digital attitudes and skills of staff, trustees and volunteers by dipping into the full report and its recommendations;  interesting to everyone working in the sector, and essential reading for leaders and board members – those who can create the space for digital to happen.

One of its key recommendations is that leaders create a digital strategy or action plan. “This need not be a long, formal process. In fact, better if it is a living document focused on small, achievable steps that can be updated as you move forward.”

Our response   We will use the report findings to guide our Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, designed to raise digital skills and confidence across the sector. Training and resources are already available, including responses to several areas of need identified through the DASH survey.

The next stage of our work will focus on using digital to increase enterprise and resilience, including through the creation of networks of practice as recommended in this report.

{Ed: we could also consider the results in a different way, by replacing “Digital” with other types of skills.} 


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