Icon Publishes International Addendum to Strategy
In July 2019, the Icon Board of Trustees agreed an International Addendum to Icon’s Strategy 2017-2021. The Addendum has been published to respond to the opportunities presented by international engagement in supporting Icon’s vision for cultural heritage to be valued and accessible and for its future to be enhanced and safeguarded by excellence in conservation. The Addendum recognises that Icon has a significant role to play at a global level.
Engaging internationally can help us grow our membership and identify opportunities for members to develop their skills and access new markets. We can foster domestic support by demonstrating the value of conservation to key national agendas and priorities, such as soft power, tourism and business. Collaborating with new partners has the potential to facilitate the development of effective and innovative solutions to common challenges for the benefit of our shared global heritage. By reaching out to audiences worldwide, Icon can help cultivate widespread appreciation and understanding of conservation. Consequently, Icon will embed international engagement within its existing strategic priorities by:
- Advocacy – raising the profile of the conservation sector’s international work and its contribution to domestic agendas with decisionmakers and the public.
- Excellence – contributing to the development of knowledge and high standards worldwide by supporting the exchange of information and expertise with new and existing partners.
- Engagement – encouraging people from across the globe to value and engage with heritage and conservation by making use of the opportunities presented by a more connected world.
Cultural diplomacy is a priority for the UK Government, with a soft power strategy expected this year. Various government policies already encourage the cultural heritage sector to collaborate with global partners. The UK governments have signed several agreements with foreign governments to drive collaboration between their countries’ cultural sectors. International engagement has consequently featured heavily in the recent strategies of key sector funders, not least the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
A strong justification for engaging internationally is thus to increase Icon’s visibility at home. An international addendum will enable Icon to undertake work that attracts attention and support from UK governments and makes use of opportunities increasingly being developed by domestic funders. This in turn, will support Icon’s capacity to fulfil its vision and charitable objects. Icon has already seen evidence of an increased profile resulting from its engagement with China. For example, in 2018, DCMS Heritage Minister Michael Ellis invited Icon to a private meeting following the publication of Icon’s report on UK-China collaboration in conservation.
Icon regularly receives enquiries about accreditation from professional conservators outside of the UK. Recently this has included significant numbers of conservators based in the United States, but also individual conservators in Australia and Israel. In the past, Icon has undertaken assessments in Singapore, Italy and Belgium. Key to this process has been ensuring that the standard and method of assessment has been consistent no matter where assessments take place. This interest represents an important chance to increase the number of Icon accredited conservator-restorers supporting the care of cultural heritage across the globe.
International engagement was a marked feature of Icon’s recent triennial conference in Belfast. The Call for Papers produced a broad diversity of submissions from all over the world, with responses received from as far afield India, Mexico, Australia, and Egypt, with substantial engagement from conservators based in Europe and North America. Ultimately a full 30% of submissions came from conservators abroad, and recognising this Icon staged a dedicated International Delegates Reception to welcome them, while the Getty Foundation also awarded Icon a substantial grant to facilitate the travel and participation of conservators from emerging economies. Delegates at #Icon19 reported these movements had a transformative impact on their perception of the organisation, and conference feedback responses highlighted a new perspective of Icon as ‘a major player in the conservation world, both nationally and (as a result of this conference) internationally.’ As one delegate reported, ‘This is a feeling I had never experienced before.’
New connections abroad can help us identify opportunities for Icon members to develop their careers through skills exchange and access to an international pool of innovation and best practice. Our recent success in securing a grant from the Getty Foundation to create a programme to allow conservators from emerging economies to participate in the #Icon19 conference added to our international profile and generated links with organisations in a range of countries. In addition, Icon now has stronger contacts to European cultural heritage organisations through our Chief Executive Sara Crofts, who is a member of the Council of Europa Nostra and the Chair of Europa Nostra UK.
The Addendum will provide strategic direction and impetus for us to grasp these and other emerging opportunities to ensure we maximise Icon’s potential at home and abroad.