Welsh Resilience Network – supporting each other in challenging times

AIM spoke to consultant Nick Winterbotham and Carrie Canham, Curator of Ceredigion Museum about the many benefits of the Welsh Resilience Network.

“It was a proposal from AIM supported by MAALD to address the fact that there was very little in the way of museum training and updating for the leaders of the (usually small) non-national museums in Wales.

I was approached by AIM after co-Directing MRL (the ACE-funded leadership programme in England led by the Black Country Living Museum) for five years. The programme was aimed at museum leaders and lead heritage officers in Wales – local authorities, National Trust, independents,” explains Nick Winterbotham, who facilitated the group.

“We kicked off in March 2018 with a training retreat in mid-Wales at Buckland Hall – halfway between Brecon and Abergavenny in Powys.”

“Over the last three years it has delivered three leadership retreats (the last one virtual because of Covid), eight one-day training events, a dozen ad hoc one-to-one mentoring events and a fortnightly lunchtime Zoom meeting for all comers – we don’t minute but do record the challenges of the moment but without attributing to individuals.”

A key strength of the Group has been its generosity in dealing with the challenges of recent events according to Nick, alongside developing a strong leadership cohort that is more confident about sharing the trials, tribulations, and successes of contemporary leadership issues.

But as well as welcome mutual support, the Group has offered a number of additional spin-out benefits during the pandemic, as Carrie Canham, Curator of Ceredigion Museum explains.

“The community of leadership in Wales is quite collegiate, so after the retreat at Greynog Hall we naturally started staying in touch with each other, initially through WhatsApp to share knowledge and check in with each other. During the early days of the pandemic, it was a space to think ‘ok I am not the only one going through this’, as it can be quite isolating, the geographic situation in Wales.”

And it’s not just mutual support that the network is offering. Carrie has recently established the Welsh Museums Commercial Group as a spinoff of the Resilience Network. It seeks to help museums to benefit from collective purchasing power and the sharing of resources, expertise and processes relating to many commercial activities including setting up online retail. The future of the group is looking bright, too, according to Carrie:

“We’ve just had some more financial support (for the Resilience Network) through the Welsh Government, which is fantastic as it will enable more people to benefit. We’re also looking at how we might support the next generation of leaders coming up. ‘None of us is as smart as all of us’ as Nick often says, so that group problem solving, drawing on each other’s expertise and experience is so important.”

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