Facing the future

Chief Executive, Sara Crofts, shares the insights gleaned from Icon's recent series of strategic workshops

24 Sep 2021

Over the last six months I have been running a series of workshops to gather insights and ideas to inform Icon’s next strategic plan, which will be launched in April 2022.

As part of this work I co-ordinated a series of strategic workshops with a range of stakeholders, including members, group and network representatives, funders, and senior staff in a variety of heritage organisations. I have also talked individually to others. My notebooks are now filled with many potential actions and projects, and I am sincerely grateful to everyone who has given their time to share thoughtful insights and creative ideas.

Each of the strategic workshops opened with a “horizon scanning” exercise where we tried to capture the key external opportunities and threats that are likely to arise over the coming decade. To help focus our thinking we used the PESTLE structure to group the opportunities and threats under the following headings:

  • Political e.g. devolution, Government priorities, political issues
  • Economic e.g. funding priorities, competition, markets, impact of Coronavirus
  • Socio-cultural e.g. social trends, public attitudes, workforce diversity
  • Technological e.g. skills, IT, digital divide
  • Legal e.g. legislation, regulations, policies
  • Environmental e.g. climate crisis

Having identified the opportunities and threats we then went on to consider what impact they might have on the conservation profession. Working collaboratively in small groups we were able to collate the suggestions in a series of Google sheets. These have now been combined into a summary report.

Horizon Scanning

The findings from this research are unlikely to be a surprise to many. Some of the most frequently cited threats were the obvious (and longstanding) issues such as lack of Government support for culture, cuts to funding, climate change, and barriers to entry into the conservation profession. However, the topic that came up most frequently in conversation was recognition, or rather the lack of recognition of the value of conservation and the ways in which conservators’ work benefits society.

Over the last few years Icon has worked hard to raise the profile of conservation, but this is not a task that will ever be completed. We must continue to do all we can to champion not just the intrinsic value of what we do, but also its relevance to people and communities. We’ve become skilled at articulating why conservation matters in the abstract, but now we need to focus on demonstrating more clearly why conservation should matter to clients, employers, decision-makers and the public more broadly. We also need to show how conservation can contribute to solving wider societal problems such as inequality and climate change. This vital work will be a key strand of the next strategic plan.