The Story of Us? Heritage and communities. Report and propositions for change from my placement with HLF, supported by the Clore Leadership programme.

Download the report here:

For 5 months earlier this year, I undertook a placement with the strategic team at the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of my Clore Fellowship.  Ive blogged previously about what I learnt from that experience.  I brought together my thinking, interviews and observations about how to support heritage and communities into a report, now published by HLF. I also ventured some propositions for change. Here is the exec summary.  The full report, full of case studies and examples can be found here 

Heritage is the story of us. It is critical to communities, to building their sense of identity and how a more complex understanding of the past and place might inform and shape their vision for the future.


Set against a backdrop of austerity and the decline of community infrastructure, The Story of Us: Heritage and Communities seeks to identify strategic opportunities and new approaches to supporting communities to catalyse new heritage activity.

The research question asked ‘how might the Heritage Lottery Fund change its funding approach to support communities to catalyse new heritage activity?

The Story of Us: Heritage and Communities shares the WHY (motivations for and value of supporting communities and heritage), WHAT (case studies of heritage activity and models for catalysing change) and HOW (limitations and changes to funding approach and processes).

Three distinct themes and associated propositions for change emerged;

1          Be more relational

The Story of Us: Heritage and Communities calls for a more relational approach to enable HLF to be more inclusive, move beyond usual suspects and reach new people. It asks how they might share more of their thinking in public, shift the language and prioritise expertise in building relationships? The report proposes that HLF develop a relational, asset-based approach to grant giving which supports good ideas within communities, even if not fully formed or articulated

2          Focus on the local

Increasingly in UK, amongst funders and politicians, there is a commitment to and interest in place-based investment and localised decision making. The Story of Us: Heritage and Communities explores some of the implications of this for heritage and argues that that now is the time for new and ambitious thinking at HLF about ‘localism’ and place-based funding.


3          Find and support powerhouse people

Mavericks, champions, visionaries, activists, “powerhouse people”, the ones who drive things forwards – we all know them in our organisations, communities, lives.  With reference to key individuals and case studies, the report profiles their impact and explores might HLF might seek and support these individuals more effectively and consistently.



The Story of Us: Heritage and Communities seeks to support and influence HLF’s next strategic framework and contribute to the wider institutional and sector-facing conversation about the role, value and future of heritage within communities.

Let me know what you think, by email or twitter @ward_esme










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