Developing digitally literate leadership in heritage organisations

This Pathway resource is for senior leaders in heritage and other cultural organisations – CEOs, directors, trustees and others with management and decision-making roles.

It is designed to help you take stock, reflect and develop your personal digital leadership and your organisation’s digital confidence and capacity.

We were all thrown in at the digital deep end when the pandemic began, with digital tools and channels becoming lifelines for individuals and organisations. At the same time, as 2020 unfolded, a group of CEOs and senior leaders from a range of medium to large heritage organisations undertook Leading the Sector (LTS), a collaborative learning programme to develop their digitally literate leadership, supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage.

The Pathway explains several of the LTS programme’s starting points and shares reflections, insights and case studies from the cohort, illustrating ways in which they developed their digital leadership during 2020-2021. Those starting points are:

What do ‘digital’ and ‘digitally literate leadership’ mean for my organisation?

Digital encompasses many things, but what does that mean in practice? Here we share some resources, tools and activities to help understand what ‘digital’ means for heritage organisations, and suggest ways to approach digital activity by asking what needs to be used, to be managed, to be created and to be understood.


What kind of digital skills do my staff and volunteers have and need?

All organisations need digitally confident and skilled teams. Here we take a look at how we can understand people’s needs and create an organisational culture that supports learning and development as part of everyday working practices.


How do I begin building my team’s digital confidence and capacity?

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?


What role does digital culture play in your leadership?

Many of the most pressing social issues we face as an increasingly networked and connected society don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part of a complex, multi-causal ecosystem that has digital culture woven into its fabric. Being able to understand the nuances of this digital culture is a key aspect of digital literacy for anyone.


Heritage leaders’ reflections – bite-sized insights and longer case studies

The heritage leaders we worked with over the course of Leading the Sector in 2020-21 all took different routes to developing their personal digitally literate leadership and their organisational digital capacity.

In this section of our Pathway we share a selection of case studies, telling, in their own words, the stories of several of our cohort’s experimentation and development through Leading the Sector.


Further resources to support your digital leadership

In response to the success of Leading the Sector, the programme which informed this Pathway, the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded Culture24 further funding to run Leading the Sector 2022. In this section of the Pathway, we share a number of further resources which have been created through the latest iteration of Leading the Sector.


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

*This Pathway is informed by Culture24’s work on Leading the Sector, a professional development course in Digital Leadership for a cohort of 16 leaders from medium-to-large heritage organisations across the UK. The course was part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage and ran from April 2020 to May 2021. Project partners were Golant Innovation/The Audience Agency and specialist advisors were Professor Ross Parry, University of Leicester and Dr Nick Winterbotham

Pathway authors and editors: Anra Kennedy and Jane Finnis with support from Alec Ward and Helen Lewandowski


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