3. How do I approach building my organisation’s digital capacity?

This definition of digital maturity, drawn from One by One, is a useful starting point here:  

​‘An individual’s or an organisation’s ability to use, manage, create and understand digital, in a way that is contextual (fit for their unique setting and needs), holistic (involving vision, leadership, process, culture and people) and purposeful (always aligned to the institution’s social mission).’

Finding successful, manageable and actionable ways to build your organisation’s own digital skills and capacity can be the key to unlocking your organisation’s digital maturity. But how do you create the right conditions for change for this to happen? 

Building digital skills and capacity requires leaders to:

  • consciously focus on the ways your organisation uses, manages, creates and understands digital 
  • create an organisational culture that supports learning and development as part of everyday working practices. 

Within organisations, individuals or small groups, acting as what we call ‘agents of change’ in developing digital skills, mindsets, processes and capacities – whether that’s from below, from management or from boards, can be very powerful. The importance of empowering your staff to become agents of change cannot be underestimated. 

An agent of change can be a person from any role, regardless of organisational hierarchy, who is given the space, support and resources they need to develop digital skills. For these agents of change to succeed, they need to take action, try something, in order to show what can be possible and then to articulate the challenges, the benefits and the way forward.

People who are good ‘connectors’ or ‘translators’ between colleagues and teams, either because of their formal role or their ability, often make particularly skilled change agents. 

‘Harness the enthusiasm of early adopters to champion the project and build momentum’Christne Luxton, CEO, Suffolk Wildlife Trust

As a digitally literate leader, your job is to create space for an agent of change, to support them to create a culture of experimentation that can be a safe and contained way to conceive, plan, track and analyse new digital ideas and initiatives.  This is about creating a way for your organisation to iterate its approach to digital tactics and tools within a culture that supports openness and learning from failure.   

With our Leading the Sector cohort of heritage leaders we encouraged them to think of themselves as agents of digital change to begin with, leading from the front, trying out new digital approaches or developing new digital skills.  

‘Lead by example so that staff don’t fear failure, it’s all learning.’Tim Graham, CEO Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

This is often about evolution rather than revolution, enabling you to work more intelligently with what you already have. 

It is true that there will always be some cultural organisations who have the capacity and are able to push at the edges and explore new technological developments, and others who will pick them up and run with them – but there will also be those who are unable to act as they simply don’t have the funding, capacity, skills or leadership to do so. None of this means that those organisations can’t be innovative or transformative in their processes, or with what they do with what some might consider to be ‘old’ digital technologies – things like email or e-newsletters. 

For many organisations it would be innovative, and potentially transformative, to simply get the digital basics right.

Let’s Get Real reports

Read Culture24 Let’s Get Real reports as they illustrate the value of experimentation and the power of agents of change. Let’s Get Real is a collaborative action research programme supporting arts and heritage people and organisations to become more relevant, resilient and responsive to digital cultural changes. You can find further information about the Let’s Get Real Programme on Culture24’s website.

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This Pathway is also available, as a PDF, in Welsh: Fersiwn Gymraeg

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence. Please attribute as “Digital Pathway: Developing digitally literate leadership in heritage organisations (2021) by Culture24 supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0