Making ‘people places’ inclusively: Connecting conservation

IHBC introduces Heritage MarketPlace as a forum for professional, community, trust and amenity bodies to benefit from a wide range of outreach opportunities.

Connecting the community and cultural stakeholders with those in practice is a core objective shared by BEFS and the IHBC.  The IHBC’s charitable role, as the professional body for built and historic environment conservation specialists, means we have conservation outcomes as our primary charitable objective.  For that to be effective, we know we have to connect our members with all the players – communities, charities and volunteer – as much as with clients and practitioners.

As co-founder and first Treasurer of BEFS I have long been aware of the challenges faced in such ambitions.  The legacy of polarisation across so much heritage sector engagement – originating in the historic planning model that relies on ‘objections’ to manage inappropriate change – means there is sometimes little opportunity to secure common understanding.  BEFS works to bridge that gap, as does the IHBC.  For us our virtual conference – which this year includes our virtual ‘Heritage MarketPlace’ and ‘Stallholder Listing’- is designed to offer a whole new bridging strategy.

We were inspired by the familiar marketplace or exhibition hall, but with ‘virtual stalls’.  Here, though, we’ve innovated, and made ‘learning’ a priority, in its broadest sense; whilst still including networking and understanding, as well as services.  IHBC MarketPlace stalls can tie their content to a wide range of outreach – education, information, showcasing services, as well as highlighting priorities for planning, or promoting advocacy or membership benefits.  In the MarketPlace, any organisation or individual (quality assured by the IHBC) can engage directly with delegates and IHBC Members on matters of mutual interest.  Each stall also gets its own Social Media digital networking link – their MarketPlace Billboard.  To see what that might look  like, the IHBC’s can be seen here.

As the MarketPlace engagement happens in the shared environment of conference discourse – not the potentially siloed setting of casework, regulation or planning – it offers a real chance to share perspectives and build a common awareness, and mutual understanding.  That is not the only solution to divergences in our heritage world, but it may well help.

Historically, the barrier to such experiences has been the fees.  But now, the ‘virtual’ world with which we have all become so familiar (perhaps currently too familiar) offers the potential for more equitable access. The unavoidable costs of live events almost disappear in virtual environments, so specialists, communities and volunteers can participate, together, and on a more level playing field, without the ‘cheque book’ drawing demarcations. With this in mind the IHBC’s conference costs, benefitting from the light infrastructure of virtual environments, are kept as low as possible to encourage participation across all players. Costs that are intended to remove some of the barriers to active participation in the kind of inclusive discussion we want to promote. (About £25+VAT for day delegates, and about £100+VAT for stalls offering sector-wide outreach.)

That agenda of inclusion is encapsulated in the School’s title – linking history, people and places.  It is not our only strategy though: that aspiration to connecting conservation is also represented in the IHBC’s next issue of the our membership journal ContextContext is always available free online, but in the next issue we highlight how people across community, voluntary, public and private sector roles can actually maximise the ‘public good’ and amenity on offer in our places.  Do keep an eye out for it on the IHBC website.

But for now, our 2021 School MarketPlace is the location and platform we are offering for affordable and accessible engagement and outreach beyond the well-trodden, often siloed, terrain of planning, consultations and individual policy perspectives.  Many organisation are on board, BEFS included (BEFS note that their place at the Conference is funded by BEFS, but thank the IHBC for a complimentary Marketplace Stall in return for offering to share this topic with Bulletin readers). But, if hosting a stall is not for you, why not enhance your personal capacity to make a difference by contributing to discussions as a School delegate, and connect better in the future by hearing what others are saying today!

From: Seán O’Reilly, Director IHBC