2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday March 25, 2021

Updated on Friday April 23, 2021

portrait of Harry Verwayen

Harry Verwayen

General Director , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Elisabeth Niggemann

Elisabeth Niggemann

Former Director General , German National Library

How we developed the Europeana Foundation Business Plan 2021

On Europeana Pro today, we launch the ‘Europeana Foundation Business Plan - Towards a digital public space for cultural heritage’. In this post, we look at how we have approached our business planning during these turbulent times. 

Men and woman are sitting at tables in the open air reading newspapers. Aquatint.
Title: Men and woman are sitting at tables in the open air reading newspapers. Aquatint.
Date: 1822
Institution: Wellcome Collection
Country: United Kingdom
CC BY

The business plan outlines the areas of work that the Europeana Foundation will focus on - our activities on improving data quality and infrastructures, on improving engagement with our collections and on building capacity for digital transformation. Equally importantly, we outline the philosophies and thought processes that drive us to play our role in supporting the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation. So who decides what’s important to the Foundation? And how are those ideas shaped? 

New boards for the Europeana Foundation

Last year, the governance structure of the Europeana Foundation changed. We welcomed both a Supervisory Board of seven, who supervise the management of the Foundation and help set strategy and policy, and an Advisory Board of 17, who represent the sector at large, providing expert insight, knowledge and recommendations relating to the strategic direction of the Foundation.

One of the very first tasks for these new boards was to stop and think about what the Foundation is, what it represents and how we see our role in the sector. Put simply, to think about what is important to the Europeana Foundation

A series of workshops

Through a series of facilitated workshops, the Advisory Board discussed a range of issues related to the world around us and how they affect the cultural heritage sector, including the effect of the pandemic on our institutions and working practices, the implications of climate change, and the sector’s role in developing a digital public space that is equitable, inclusive and green. 

We discussed further the issues we felt most strongly about, both within the board and then with groups of Foundation staff in order to start to visualise the world we want to operate in. There were, naturally, many differing points of view throughout these workshops. But through discussion and using a variety of tools, we started to discover common ground, and it is this that lays the foundations for our new business plan, which outlines the themes that will guide us over the next 18-24 months and the activities we’ll undertake this calendar year. 

Looking towards the world we want, we talked about the importance of participation in the enjoyment and use of digital culture, and how we can make it easier for our audiences. 

We talked about collaboration, which is and always has been at the heart of the way the Europeana Initiative works, and how we can deepen our partnerships and use collaboration as a tool for transformation. Europeana is after all, only possible because of  the collaboration of three interlinked expert organisations who share the vision of a cultural heritage sector transformed by digital, and a Europe transformed by culture - the Europeana Foundation, the Europeana Network Association and the Europeana Aggregators’ Forum.

And we talked about diversity and inclusivity, and the work we need to do to ensure that everyone feels welcome, represented, equal and safe both when working within the broader Europeana Initiative and when accessing and using Europeana’s digital collections.

In looking towards the world we want, we have to acknowledge its challenges - such as climate change. That’s important to the boards and to staff, and we are working out what our role is, where we fit, and what concrete steps we can take. 

We also have to see how we fit in the context of our world’s big society, one that is evolving, particularly in its use of digital technologies in every aspect of life. A digital society needs a trustworthy digital public space; it’s an idea that is increasingly coming up both in civic and political forums in Europe and we need to make sure we’re part of it in the way that is most beneficial to the sector and its audiences. 

What happens next

We are working through these themes and have agreed to make them priorities both for this business plan and beyond. We are grateful to the Advisory Board and to Foundation staff who have participated in this process so far. 

You’ll see the principles of participation, collaboration and inclusivity reflected across all our activities - from our work on content and metadata, to copyright, education, editorial and events. And we’ll continue to work on how to integrate them, developing actionable strategies. Keep an eye on Europeana Pro News for updates on these topics.

And we'll continue to work on how to keep those strong driving forces at the top of our minds even on the days when the deadlines are short and focus is on the detail. Because they really are at the heart of the Europeana Foundation and the good we can do.

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