Rebuilding Heritage – Evaluation Summary

24th February, 2021

This summary is taken from the Rebuilding Heritage Evaluation, written by Dr Claire Antrobus & Dr Melita Armitage.

Rebuilding Heritage: Evaluation, 2020-2021

Our external evaluation, finalised in December 2021, has brought us many valuable insights into the running of the Rebuilding Heritage project and the needs of the heritage ecosystem.

This short article shares the executive summary and achievements that were highlighted to us by our evaluation consultants Dr Melita Armitage and Dr Claire Antrobus who worked with the Rebuilding Heritage team between October 2020 and December 2021 to carry out both formative and summative evaluation.

Further insights from the project will be shared on this website as a series of four infographics which we hope will be of interest to the people who have taken part in Rebuilding Heritage, and of value to other sector support programmes.


Executive Summary

The Rebuilding Heritage (RH) programme ran between September 2020 and October 2021 and provided a swift, bespoke and agile response to the demands of the UK heritage sector in the ‘Rebuild’ phase of the crisis caused by the pandemic. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, it was hosted by The Heritage Alliance (THA), who employed core project staff of two; a Project Manager and an Engagement Officer. The programme was conceived as a partnership with the Media Trust, Clore Leadership Programme, Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Creative United. The programme was delivered entirely remotely and comprised a mixture of 1-2-1 advice, online resources and group learning options. It left heritage organisations equipped with more innovative, resilient and collaborative skills and nascent networks so they are better placed to thrive in a continuously changing landscape.

The programme worked in a highly iterative way, structured via a series of six application ‘Rounds’, mindful of the evolving nature of needs of heritage organisations as the impact the pandemic continued throughout 2021 and as other funding streams and support work came online, e.g. the Heritage Emergency Fund and the Historic England two-tranche emergency funding. Starting with a consultation phase, the project continued to adapt to needs drawing on RH’s learning about how best to meet them, ongoing feedback and was informed by regular review and two interim external evaluations in January and April 2021.

The programme prioritised those at greatest risk; people in decision-making roles; organisations excluded from other support and the full breadth of the heritage sector (defined in terms of scale, organization type and heritage sub-sector). These were challenging targets and at times the RH Team found these priorities to be in tension with one another, for example those organisations with greatest need were rarely in a position to take up the offer of support. Significant RH Team effort went into engaging these target applicants resulting in a programme reach that encompassed all heritage sub-sectors, business models and scales. Over 1,000 people engaged with the live programme, from 634 different heritage organisations. The programme exceeded THA’s existing networks, with 568 individuals that were neither members nor subscribers to THA’s newsletter being reached.

The bespoke nature of the ‘By Application’ support (121 support and group training) enabled the programme to meet the needs of a sector that is highly diverse, differently experienced and differently challenged by the Pandemic. Rebuilding Heritage met organisations where they were.” – Rebuilding Heritage evaluation, December 2021, Dr Melita Armitage & Dr Claire Antrobus.

Participant feedback about the quality and relevance of the support is impressive and participants report increased confidence in terms of their core skills and expertise as a result of engagement. Considering many trainers and facilitators were new to online delivery at the start of the programme, the quality of live sessions appears to have been high throughout although feedback from interim reviews helped refine and improve delivery style.  New areas of support including Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Wellbeing were introduced in response to demand. Whilst the full impact of the support will be seen over time, there are plenty of examples where we can see learning has already been applied by participants.

As the pandemic progressed, those working from home felt increasingly isolated, the value of peer-peer learning and support emerged as an increasing priority and often an unexpected benefit of the group learning opportunities. Learning activities helped individuals to come together, to acknowledge that others were in similar situations and to work as a group to find ways through their professional challenges.

In terms of the design and delivery of support the research highlights two recurrent challenges; differentiation of learning and relatability. Differentiation was always going to be an issue given the deliberately broad range of organisation scales and types targeted. Relatability however is more complex; despite the inclusion of many heritage examples provided by the RH Team, some participants would have preferred even more specific examples from peer organisations, in terms of heritage sub-sector, business model or scale.

There was also a strong demand from participants for future learning opportunities, ideally six months on from their initial support, and evidence that the sector’s development needs will need further, and wider, support. Alongside ongoing need in the areas already covered – business, strategic and financial planning and management, leadership, EDI and income generation – future support is needed in terms of governance, recruitment and retention of volunteers; innovation and risk; creating change and influencing; community engagement; understanding impact. Shifts in attitude, or mindset, as well as skillset, emerged as critical if the sector is to create the change required to involve a wider range of people in heritage.

Rebuilding Heritage clearly made a positive impact to a large number of heritage organisations, across the breadth of sub-sectors and across the UK. The programme has also enabled The Heritage Alliance to test and refine new models of working, notably the highly agile and consultative process, and relationships with new support providers in the wider non-profit sector.

Equally importantly it uncovered the resilience needs of the heritage sector are significant and largely pre-dated the pandemic, although the past 18 months have exacerbated some of the pressures on individuals and organisations in the sector. Going forward, there is a need to develop awareness and attitudes as well as skillsets, which has implications for how future support is promoted and structured. As a result of the experience and data collected through RH, THA is now in a strong position to work with other sector stakeholders and support organisations to ensure future development support for heritage organisations will enable them to fulfil their potential as organisations critical for the UK’s cultural life.


A successful partnership between The Heritage Alliance, The Chartered Institute of Fundraising, Clore Leadership, Creative United and the Media Trust

Partnership expertise was appropriate to the interests expressed by applicants, so much so there was oversubscription

Participation in other THA activity suggests RH was gateway to broader learning on offer via THA (e.g. Heritage Digital, Heritage Chat, Heritage Debate)

1,018 people engaged with the live programme from 634 different heritage organisations

392 sessions of 121 and group training taken up by 196 heritage organisations

18 Webinars delivered and 1,206 individuals attended live

Ongoing learning portal providing opportunities for participants to re-watch and share links to webinars

Organisations across all heritage sub-sectors, business models and scales supported

Feedback confirmed high quality of facilitation and content that was relevant and easy to be applied

Programme development built on ongoing feedback mechanisms created sense of highly responsive programme leadership

The bespoke nature of the By Application support enabled the Programme to meet the needs of a sector that is highly diverse, differently experienced and differently challenged by the Pandemic: Rebuilding Heritage met organisations where they were

Confidence in core areas of learning improved as a result of participation in the programme

Facilitated peer learning combatted feelings of isolation exacerbated by the Pandemic

Participants in the By Application programmes left with concrete plans and strategy as well as actions to develop their organisations

Feedback provided some ideas for development future sector support to develop resilience: longer term programmes with access to professionals to review how learning has been implemented.

This Summary is taken from the December 2021 Rebuilding Heritage Evaluation by:

Dr Claire Antrobus

Dr Melita Armitage

More Resources

Sign up to our mailing list

If you would like to receive updates on the Rebuilding Heritage programme, please sign up for our mailing list