Stop, collaborate and listen: innovators and inhibitors in the 21st-century

Posted on October 18, 2019


Another session we videoed at the CIfA conference:

Session Abstract

The professional practice of archaeology requires skills and knowledge from a diverse range of subject areas. Inspiration from these adjacent sectors enables us to study and communicate the progression of human society; yet, as a profession, we have yet to wholeheartedly embrace innovation in practical terms, understand and embed it in our practice, or protect space for it within our processes.
Our frustrations have been the same for decades: value; diversity; impact; access; legacy; engagement; pay; conditions; lack of communication; lack of cohesion; etc. We are now at a critical point where both the profession and the academic pursuit of archaeology seem on the brink of a fairly desperate situation. At the same time, there are innovations working for other sectors all around us that enable success – and which could be just the catalyst we need to effect real, lasting change. Can we adopt them? Are we willing to stretch – or are we permanently stuck?
This session will present specific cases for discussion, drawn from provocations identified through a sector-wide survey examining innovation and inhibition. Key issues will be highlighted where innovation has been challenged, hampered or deferred, introducing discussions which focus on what is stopping us, and why.
The session will include a keynote lecture from Geoff Mulgan CBE, CEO of Nesta (the UK’s innovation foundation) and co-chair of the World Economic Forum group on innovation and entrepreneurship. Geoff will share thoughts on what innovation looks like in the world outside of archaeology: what are the behaviours we should be modelling, the strategies and tactics we can employ, and most importantly the key leadership principles that need to be embedded if we are going to make any real progress?
The plan for this seminar will be to provide time to STOP and explore what prevents innovation within the archaeological profession; to COLLABORATE in order to find solutions, and to LISTEN to each other, and to those outside our sector, in order to work out how we can effect lasting change for the future of archaeological practice in the UK.

Organisers: Manda Forster, DigVentures
Lisa Westcott Wilkins, DigVentures

Innovation, what it means and what it looks like

Nesta is a global innovation foundation who apply innovation expertise in a number of priority fields including the inclusive economy, data analytics, future skills and innovation policy. Under Geoff’s leadership Nesta has moved out of the public sector to become a charity (in 2012), launched a range of new initiatives in investment, programmes and research and has implemented a new strategy involving partnerships with foundations, governments and companies in the UK and internationally. Geoff is also an author, writing on collective intelligence, capitalism and the economy.

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta

The innovation survey results

Lisa and Manda present the results of a sector-and-beyond survey which DigVentures undertook at the close of 2016. The survey, entitled ‘Stop, Collaborate and Listen’, was designed to inform this session and asked participants from across archaeological spheres of interest to think about innovation and what it means to them. The survey results have shaped this session and provide the starting point for our afternoon.

Lisa Westcott Wilkins and Manda Forster, DigVentures

What empowers innovation: money and value

Our second discussion looks at issues of funding: first, we will discuss new economic and business models that challenge the existing ways of working and point towards a more efficient, value and impact-driven way of working. Second, we’ll examine the impact that restricted resources can have on preventing, as well as stimulating, innovation and how this affects the value of services delivered.

• Brendon Wilkins, DigVentures will discuss economic and business models and where we should be looking to create opportunity for innovation and change.

• Victoria Bryant, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service talks about how the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeological Service has met the challenge of funding head on, driving innovation and delivering local value.

What inhibits innovation: structure and outcomes

This session provides a hard look at the structures of professional archaeology, and how we might be our own biggest enemy when it comes to embracing and enacting change. What inhibits innovation in professional archaeology, and what can we change about how we operate to make room for the growth the sector so badly needs?

• Doug Rocks-Macqueen, Landward Research Ltd will be looking at the issue of a fluctuating and unpredictable jobs market following the 2017 Landward Research report: ‘Have we reached peak archaeologists (in the UK)’.

• Gavin Macgregor, Northlight Heritage will discuss how archaeology is traditionally defined and invites us to consider how adjusting what we perceive to be the outcomes of our work might help us innovate.

Who’s leading the charge: leadership and innovation

Our penultimate discussion session looks at leadership, which was identified through our survey by many archaeologists as a key response to the question of innovation.

• Rebecca Jones, Historic Environment Scotland joins us from an organisation which has innovation listed as one of five core values. Having launched as a new public body in 2015, HES have articulated their role as leaders within their corporate plan. Rebecca discusses how they intend to be a body that ‘helps things happen and that makes things happen; that embraces and prioritises collaboration, conversation, openness, accessibility and innovation’.





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