In the latest instalment of the Historic Environment Forum’s Sector Resilience Interviews series focussed on the theme of Diversity and Inclusion, we speak to Pen Foreman, Senior Inclusive Heritage Advisor at Historic England.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your organisation’s role in the sector.

I’m one of Historic England’s Senior Inclusive Heritage Advisors, working as part of the Inclusive Heritage Team. My role is a blend of project managing sector-wide programmes designed to gather data and set strategy on improving access and inclusion to heritage, and connecting with people across the sector to share and imbed inclusive practice. At the moment the main project I am working on is a heritage sector workforce diversity survey, to gain a baseline insight into current demographics across the sector, and signpost where actions are needed. I am also a PAO (project assurance officer) for several of our Everyday Heritage projects, helping to monitor and guide their progress.

My background is in archaeology and teaching, and over the last few years I have focused on projects that heavily involve community-led projects and improving access to heritage, including roles at the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust and the British Museum. I’ve balanced this with volunteering in various roles including CIfA (Chartered Institute for Archaeologists) to advance EDI in archaeology; I now sit as Chair of the Board as well as being Board Champion on EDI. I have the privilege of being in a position to champion and platform voices that aren’t currently being heard.

What can you tell us about your organisation’s work in relation to Diversity and Inclusion? What does this work aim to achieve?

Historic England has IDE (inclusion, diversity, and equality) embedded at every level of the organisation, thanks to it being fundamental to our work as part of our Corporate Plan, and driven by core priorities of the Heritage Sector Resilience Plan. Across the organisation we have commitments to both internal and external-facing work that has IDE as a core remit, all the way from improving our own recruitment practices and Board procedures, to delivering projects that develop heritage career opportunities, build sector-leading advice on inclusive governance and spotlight diverse stories through grants such as Everyday Heritage.

Historic England has the ambition to work to ensure that “Everyone can connect with, enjoy and benefit from the historic environment” – and work happens across all of our teams towards this.

What contribution will this make towards resilience in the heritage sector?

We know that to be resilient, we need to maintain relevance and value to people – not just to one audience, but to many. We need future archaeologists, archivists, planning experts, policy writers, and communications leaders – but we also need audiences, visitors, researchers, enthusiasts, and fans of heritage. By working on making heritage more inclusive, more accessible, and more representative, we ensure that that reach of potential stall, volunteers, and visitors is as wide as possible.

We also know that a diversity of voice makes for stronger leadership and strategy. Projects and programming informed by a multiplicity of voices takes into account lived experiences, backgrounds, and identities that can significantly impact how people experience and engage with heritage. Working with as many different perspectives as possible helps us to develop truly inclusive work, that can avoid pitfalls of inaccessibility, exclusion, and exclusivity. It also makes the sector more able to handle change – with diverse voices, we can better understanding the potential impact of change, and have a better pool of knowledge and experience to work on developing solutions.

What does success look like for your work?

To us, success is measured in several ways. We are currently doing a lot of research and benchmarking – into the diversity of the sector workforce, into what governance currently looks like, about volunteering in the sector – with other projects looking at things on a more granular level in the pipeline. We’ll use these benchmarks to look at how our interventions and outputs affect change over time. We also gather data through our grants such as Everyday Heritage – on what types of heritage are being represented, who is applying for grants who has never accessed one before, and what types of audience or participants people are working with. It builds us a picture of who is represented, and who isn’t yet.

That is just the quantitative though – we are also embedding ourselves across the sector to gain more insights into the qualitative, too. The Inclusive Heritage Team are spread geographically across England, and are working to build a strong network of heritage organisations that we can regularly keep in touch with, hear progress or challenges, and work with to share good practice and tackle challenges together. We have also embedded a lot of consultation with individuals and communities into our work, to hear personal experiences and to gather case studies to enrich our understanding. From this we’re learning the qualitative picture of what is needed, and how our work is having an impact.

Pen Foreman on collective work, collaboration and resilience
Inclusion only works where there is buy-in across organisations and across the sector, genuinely embedded in workplace cultures and across all levels. Sharing learning, sharing challenges, and sharing resources is essential to building this shared culture of inclusion.
Pen Foreman, Senior Inclusive Heritage Advisor at Historic England
#HeritageResiliencePlan

How can sector colleagues get involved or find out more?

You can visit out Inclusion Advice Hub to see the resources we have already put up, keep visiting regularly as we are constantly adding new content, with the next big batch of uploads coming in July.

The Inclusive Heritage Team are always happy to field questions, have conversations, be invited to meetings, or advise on specific issues – please feel free to email us at Inclusion.Team@historicengland.org.uk

We have the very important first run of our Heritage Sector Workforce Diversity Survey live now – it is running until the end of June 2024 and we need as many responses as possible to form a solid dataset. You can find the survey here: https://forms.office.com/e/3FPzdZuipW

Guidance for individuals completing the form can be found here: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/training-skills/heritageskills-cpd/inclusion/workforce-diversity-survey-guide/

Guidance for organisations on how to share and talk about the survey can be found here: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/training-skills/heritageskills-cpd/inclusion/workforce-diversity-survey-value/

Overall, what do you think is most crucial for ensuring a resilient heritage sector?

For me, resilience lies in collective work and collaboration. Inclusion only works where there is buy-in across organisations and across the sector, genuinely embedded in workplace cultures and across all levels. Sharing learning, sharing challenges, and sharing resources is essential to building this shared culture of inclusion. The heritage sector is very diverse in terms of job roles, workplaces, specialisms – so we can naturally silo ourselves. We need to start breaking down this separation and working together on work of all scales to build a resilient whole.

This Sector Resilience interview was shared by Pen as part of our Heritage Sector Resilience Plan activities.

If you’d like to contribute an interview as part of the series, follow the link below to find out more:

Sector Resilience Interviews – Historic Environment Forum