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Cornwall Museums Partnership

What can Museums Learn from the England Men’s Football Team?

I dislike a buzzword as much as the next person, and I keep hearing ‘resilience’ everywhere in the heritage and charitable sectors, applied to everything from finance to leadership, so what does it mean in simple practical terms?

Resilience actually makes sense. Why? Well, look at the World Cup, teams that are packed with star names have crumbled – Germany and Spain crashed out early on, and yet England, a team of young inexperienced players with no star names is in the semifinals.

This hasn’t happened by accident, Gareth Southgate has led the team to develop a mindset that is able to withstand tough challenges, can bend and flex and spring back when knocked down – a resilient team. So, whether it’s coming home or not in 2018, this team will continue to grow and build and achieve.

World Cup

Creating a resilient team is a crucial goal for any leader faced with uncertain times when the ground seems to be constantly shifting beneath your feet. Now more than ever heritage organisations need to grasp the idea of resilience as being central to their culture – and survival.

How you lead this change within your organisation will depend on your unique circumstances, but one thing is clear as the England team have shown, that the whole team needs to buy into the idea; from the Trustees to Directors, staff and volunteers.

Resilience is about not relying on one star player, you can apply this to museums – how many organisations rely entirely on one key income stream or funder, one person to get things done or one type of audience? In the end, that organisation will struggle to deliver its charitable objectives, letting down the most important people – its community and stakeholders.

So, how do you start? Having come from a business leadership role my feeling is that the first thing you do is to take a step out of your organisation’s day to day challenges and start to think about how your museum fits into the bigger picture. Think wisely and strategically with a focus on long-term, look beyond your own world for inspiration; be open minded – be flexible and open to opportunities, new ideas and doing what you do better; include people with different backgrounds, experiences and opinions to make sure that you draw on the best ideas; and think about the kind of leadership your organisation needs.

If organisations can start to think like this then the opportunities offered by, for example, Rural Proofing Resilience are there ready to help and support museums to develop into thriving and yes, resilient museums at the heart of strong communities.

Find out how you can get involved with the Rural Proofing Resilience programme here.


Clare Pennington, Rural Proofing Resilience Programme Manager –

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