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Carolyn Royston, A guide to managing a large multi-institutional project in the cultural sector
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Carolyn Royston, A guide to managing a large multi-institutional project in the cultural sector



A presentation from Museums and the Web 2009. ...

A presentation from Museums and the Web 2009.

The National Museums Online Learning Project is the most significant UK national museum partnership project to date. It is a government sponsored project involving nine national museums: British Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum, Royal Armouries, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Tate, The Wallace Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum, working together to get their websites better used, engage new audiences and transform the way they think about and use existing digital collections. The project will launch in March 2009.

The project involves the development of a range of innovative online resources across the nine websites for pupils, teachers and lifelong learners. These resources include a large-scale social media application; school-based resources to promote critical thinking; and a federated search linking the nine collections together for the first time. In order for the project to be successful, participating institutions have had to work in new and innovative ways – both inter-departmentally and intra-departmentally, sharing knowledge and expertise as well as risks and successes. This unique project required the participating national museums to work together in a truly collaborative and creative way.

This paper will describe the approach to the management of this multi-institutional project. It will discuss some of the key partnership issues that were addressed, and some of the specific challenges it has raised in order to deliver resources that meet the expectations of the stakeholders, wider sector, the government and the public. The paper will focus on how we found solutions to problems and worked with the partners to gain consensus on key decisions, enabling the project to be successful and move forward. Practical examples and outputs from the project will be used throughout to illustrate these points.

Some of the challenges discussed include:

* Developing a collective vision and agreed aims and objectives
* Ways of working together to ensure delivery to time and budget
* Choice of technologies
* Copyright agreement
* Approach to Web 2.0 and user generated content
* Gaining advocacy for the project
* Developing a legacy strategy that ensures that the project is sustainable and manageable for the partners

The outputs from this project are not just the final deliverables on the partner websites. Outputs also include the learning that has been achieved from the partners working together on a project of this size and scope. The experience and learning (including mistakes) from managing this landmark project has applicability to anyone managing a digital project in the cultural sector, whether it is one institution or several working together.



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Carolyn Royston, A guide to managing a large multi-institutional project in the cultural sector Carolyn Royston, A guide to managing a large multi-institutional project in the cultural sector Presentation Transcript

  • Managing a Complex Partnership Project Museums and the Web 2009 Carolyn Royston, NMOLP
  • Aims of the Workshop
    • Focus on 3 areas:
      • Understanding your partnership
      • Gaining commitment and working with constraints
      • Legacy and sustainability
  • About me
    • F irst time I had worked in the public sector
    • Previously 10 years experience as Head of e-Learning in a UK new media agency
    • Teacher
    • What question(s) about partnership working have brought you here?
  • About NMOLP
  • NMOLP – what is it?
    • Large-scale UK digital learning project
    • Audiences are students, teachers & lifelong learners
    • 9 UK national museums working in partnership
    • First time national museums have worked together collaboratively on public facing project
    • 3 year project launched March ‘09
    • Funded by the UK Government – Treasury Dept
    • British Museum
    • Imperial War Museum
    • Natural History Museum
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Royal Armouries
    • Sir John Soane’s Museum
    • Tate
    • Victoria and Albert Museum
    • Wallace Collection
  • Funding Criteria
    • ‘Invest to Save’ budget:
      • No new website or portal
      • No new digitisation or curatorial content
      • Must be sustainable for at least 3 years post-launch
  • What have we delivered for our audiences?
    • Resources for schools (WebQuests)
    • Resources for lifelong learners (Creative Spaces)
    • Linking together 9 national collections via a cross-collection search
    • Resources that can be used & shared across all 9 national museums
    • Engaging new and existing audiences with museum digital collections
  • This is what we made
    • WebQuests
    • Creative Spaces
  • Issues when I started
  • Issues when I started
    • Implementation plan written and funding provided
    • Partnership already determined by project funding
    • T echnical solution promised but implementation not scoped out
    • Content deliverables outlined but not fully defined
  • Issues when I started
    • Visited every partner for fact-finding
    • Discovered d ifferent expectations about what the project would deliver for each partner:
      • I nstitutional
      • D epartmental
      • Individuals
  • Focus on Partnership
    • Decided initially to focus on partnership and ways of working rather than technology and deliverables
    • Most important lesson I learnt:
    • It’s not about technology, it’s about people.
  • Focussed on …
    • Developed c ollective aims and objectives for project
    • M anaging expectations from the start
      • W hat this project will deliver and what it won’t deliver
    • Establishing people’s commitment to the project
      • Not just showing up at meetings – active participation
    • What were the potential barriers to success for:
      • Institution
      • Departments
      • Individuals
  • Focussed on …
    • Setting up clear lines of communication
    • Understanding that milestones and deadlines have to be met otherwise they impact on everyone
    • Gaining advocacy – being a project champion in your organisation
    • How will you embed the project – think about sustainability and legacy early on
  • Why was this important?
    • Partners needed to take responsibility for the project in their own institutions
    • I couldn’t solve their institutional issues
    • What I could do was provide space in the project for those issues to be shared and discussed
      • Enabled us in many cases to find collective solutions and offer support
      • Built relationships between partner representatives
      • Ownership of project brought more commitment from partners
  • Building commitment
    • How do you gain commitment from people in the project?
      • Assigning different roles and responsibilities for people
      • Having different types of meetings e.g. practical workshops – giving people opportunities to input into developments and ideas
      • Creating resources so they understand the challenges
      • Setting realistic deadlines – gaining momentum and keep project moving forward
      • Acknowledging achievements along the way – however small
      • Being transparent about your decisions, not afraid to course correct when things don’t work out
      • Be the leader of the project – the vision holder
  • Activity 2
    • On the basis that it’s about people not technology
    • What do I need to do differently in my partnership?
      • M eetings
      • C ommunication
      • E xpectations of people and what they can deliver
      • Represent the project in my organisation
  • Working with Constraints
  • Working with constraints
    • Lots of constraints on this project:
      • Number of stakeholders and meetings
      • D ifferent capabilities and capacities
      • T echnical differences
      • C opyright restrictions
      • Brand conflicts
      • M arketing and PR conflicts
      • S ustainability issues
  • Working with constraints
    • Build in time to deal with each issue and be decisive about ways forward – need agreement on how to tackle these issues
  • Q&A
    • Questions about gaining commitment and working with constraints?
  • Legacy
    • Needs to be built into original project plan
    • R e-visited throughout project
    • S ustainability plan for technology
    • Sustainability plan for partnership
      • H ow will the project continue to be managed? A nd who will do it?
      • How will decisions be made?
      • What happens after the evaluation?
      • How do you disseminate what you have learnt?
      • How does the project impact on future developments both within the sector and outside?
  • Post-its
    • Have we covered all questions that we asked at the beginning?
  • New thoughts
    • What new thoughts have you got about your partnership projects?
  • Carolyn Royston [email_address]