Why our Let's Get Real cohort programme offers a vital moment for reflection and learning.

March 26, 2024
Photo of the author - Jane Finnis

Jane Finnis

With our sector challenged in so many ways, cohort programmes like Let’s Get Real offer an absolutely vital moment for much-needed serious reflection and learning. There is a ‘do more for less’ mantra that is taking its toll on our ability to reframe and reimagine how we work. Our creativity is suffering and as a result it can feel almost impossible to innovate, experiment and shape the new models we need to thrive (if you want a good definition on exactly what innovation means for our sector then check our my colleague Patrick Towell’s post on LinkedIn).

It is great to see this view supported by NHLF in their recent evaluation of their ‘Digital Skills for Heritage’ programme, where one of their recommendations “highlighted the benefits of collaboration and working within a cohort structure, finding that it could deepen learning and insight”. This recommendation reflects the insights from the digitally literate leadership cohort we ran for them called ‘Leading the Sector’.

Leading the Sector used the Let’s Get Real methodology of learning together, learning from others and learning by doing. This approach has been developed, tested and refined over twelve years of working with nearly 1,000 diffferent organisations.

Our 2024 Let’s Get Real cohort is made up of 40 people from a mix of brilliant, brave and forward thinking organisations: Amgueddfa Cymru - Museums Wales, Bradford District Museums and Galleries, Bristol Museums, British Council, Edinburgh International Festival, English National Opera, Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM), University of Oxford, Goethe-Institut London, Museum of the Home, National Museums Scotland, National Trust, OperaUpClose, Royal Academy of Arts, Shakespeare's Globe, Thackray Museum of Medicine, The Box Plymouth, Welsh National Opera, Wellcome Collection and Wessex Museums.

LGR value cohort group.jpg

The group came together in February for the first of six workshops taking place between now and September 2024. Over the course of the project, everyone will scope, carry out, collect data and then analyse practical, small-scale experiments in their own channels. The goal is to learn, and because the work is framed as an experiment, it’s okay to make mistakes, take risks and try things out.

Running the programme in partnership with the new Institute for Digital Culture at the University of Leicester meant we were able to bring in two brilliant speakers to help frame our thinking around value and we covered things such as; ways of thinking about evidence vs thinking with evidence, the co-creation of value through digital interventions;, what we might learn from perceptions of how other sectors value digital, and the post-covid value of digital.

The real value of Let’s Get Real to the people who take part, and to the wider sector, is being able to find that sweet spot between mission, what you’re good at, what people want and what you have the literacy to deliver well! We know from our lived experience that you can apply this thinking to different cohorts, and that the approach translates across domains and places. Going forward our plans are to extend it beyond the digital to explore challenges around placemaking, audience participation and creative economy.

This is the kind of thinking that can help us do less better, and to perhaps even decide to let a few activities (digital or otherwise) go, in favour of diving deeper into what we know is working.

If you want to know more, have a look at the many case studies and insights published in the various Let’s Get Real reports from past cohorts.

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