This Eventswatch post, written by Kelda Roe talks about the Northern Region Mini Conference.
Friday 27th June saw the annual Northern Region mini-conference take place at King’s Manor in York – This year focussed on advocacy and was entitled ‘Making the Case’.
I have now been to three Northern Region mini-conferences can highly recommend these events to other new professionals; as well as being a highly affordable training option for new professionals (costing only £1 for ARA members and £2 for non-members) they tackle real workplace issues with a mixture of formal presentations and active group work.
Advocacy Speed Dating!
This year’s conference began with advocacy ‘speed-dating’(!) in which small groups worked to quickly create a list of reasons for the creation/retention of a particular service (examples included a business archive, a records management service, and a conservation unit) and the stakeholders you would need to appeal to. After 5 minutes a whistle was blown and everybody moved tables – a slightly anarchic, but effective way of drawing on collective experience and introducing the delegates to one another!
Three presentations focused on case-making scenarios which many, if not most, record keeping professionals are likely to encounter at some point in their career.
The first presentation was delivered by Sarah Wickham from the University of Huddersfield, and examined making the case for funding cataloguing. This presentation emphasised the need to first do background work such as creating a collections management policy and prioritising the cataloguing backlog. Sarah also stressed that funders generally don’t get excited about cataloguing for its own sake; funding bids need to focus on the outcomes that cataloguing will achieve, and do this in the language of the funding body – for example discovery and use.
The second presentation focussed on making the case for digital preservation and was delivered by Chris Fryer who used examples from his work with Northumberland Estates and the Houses of Parliament. Chris made it clear that making the case for digital preservation, particularly in a large organisation, can take considerable time and that long term resource input will be required, so assessing sustainability is key. He also drew attention to The Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit, an invaluable (but free to access!) resource for anyone who needs to build a case for investment in digital preservation.
The final presentation was delivered by Keith Sweetmore on behalf of the National Archives and looked at new ways of running a service. Keith first outlined the changing landscape for archives services – both financially and in terms of audience expectations and access behaviours. He also looked at new ways of running a service, for example as a spin out as York City Archives have done. Interestingly, Keith referenced the fact that the National Archives are trying to consider the changing digital landscape, particularly around internet and mobile use, in the way that a large market driven organisation such as Tesco would. He also stated that fundraising and maintenance of relationships are likely to become core work of all archive services.
Group Advocacy Problem Solving
Following the presentations was an interactive group work session where everyone rotated around the room to examine imaginary (but highly plausible) case studies to try and solve advocacy problems in a variety of contexts. This not only got everyone thinking about how they would approach different problems but also mixed up the group, meaning that different experiences and expertise could be shared. This was something I found really useful as delegates’ experience ranged from postgraduate students to professionals with more than 20 years of technical expertise and knowledge.
The practical sessions and the conference’s structure (there were lots of tea breaks and group tables set aside for lunch!) helpfully facilitated informal networking and learning opportunities. Sometimes working directly with much more experienced colleagues can be a little intimidating, but the conference provided a supportive environment and sought to bring together experience and expertise to move towards solving problems.
Overall the day encouraged me to start thinking strategically about service provision and it provided some great take home messages to bear in mind, most importantly:
- Take time to research and formulate your case (whether this is for funding, support for a project, or something as seemingly straightforward as publicity)
- Be realistic: do you need to do this project and can you achieve the outcomes you are looking for?
- Always get support from your immediate managers for projects even if they won’t be directly involved
- Learn the language of the people you want support from and use it
- Work with other people within your profession, within your organisation, and within related sectors
All in all this was another fantastic mini-conference from the Northern Region – I’m looking forward to next year already!