Digital leadership – Digital skills, literacy and capacity

Heritage leaders play a vital role in building digitally literate, skilled, confident teams. The second online seminar in the Leading the Sector 2022 series explored the role of digital skills and literacies in building organisational capacity, resilience and change, as well as how you can build your personal digital understanding as a heritage leader.

Lighthouse next to the sea
Photo by Ýlona María Rybka on Unsplash

Digital leadership – Digital skills, literacy and capacity

1. Full seminar recording

This resource contains the full seminar recording, alongside some shorter clips highlighting some of the key and interesting talking points made by the speakers: Zoe Amar (Director, Zoe Amar Digital and trustee, Charity Digital), Anra Kennedy (Culture24), Nora McGregor (Digital Curator, The British Library) and Sian Shaw (Digital Learning Manager, Westminster Abbey & Chair of the Digital Learning Network). It also features a number of useful resources, reports and toolkits to help you with digital skills, literacy and capacity within your own heritage organisation.


Download the video transcript

2. ‘People don’t know what they need to know’

Just relying on digital skills surveys to understand the skills needs of your organisation can be a challenge. If you ask people what they need to know, you’ll often not get a straight answer. Or, they might think they know what is needed, but in reality, what they need is unknown. There’s a great quote by Donald Rumsfeld which summarises this paradox quite well.

“… there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know”.

Donald Rumsfeld, American politician

This applies directly to digital skills. It is also important to remember that the digital transformation or evolution of your heritage organisation is never going to be pinned on specific digital skills, rather it’s about having a matrix of appropriate skills across all of your different areas of work. This framing for how you can understand and unpack digital skills is a useful resource to help kickstart those necessary conversations.

Nora McGregor, Digital Curator at The British Library, discusses how people don’t know what they need to know until they get stuck in.

Download the video transcript

3. Digital is so much more than technology

A significant part of understanding digital skills and literacies is about understanding people, how they use digital tools and technologies already and their concerns around digital. This applies to your staff as much as it does to your audiences. People often assume that everyone else is an expert and that, without lots of formal training, they will never be able to get their heads around the digital skills that they need for their work. Sian Woodward says that these are valid feelings, but feelings that they are feelings which need to be lightly challenged.

Sian Shaw, Digital Learning Manager at Westminster Abbey, unpacking how digital is less about technology and more about people.

Download the video transcript

4. Digital is everywhere and is used by everyone

Technology is just one aspect of digital skills, we also need to think about communication skills, leadership skills at all levels, problem solving skills. The list goes on. Digital should be used when it’s needed and when it’s most appropriate and we need to try and avoid the ‘light switch mentality’ of thinking about when we are and when we aren’t using digital. We also need to avoid the idea that there are people who ‘do digital’ and those that don’t. Digital skills application is about finding and using the right tools for the job – sometimes that’s digital, but it isn’t always.

Sian Shaw, Digital Learning Manager at Westminster Abbey, unpacking how digital needs to be the right tool for the job.

Download the video transcript

5. When should we focus on skills?

Digital skills should be the golden thread that runs through a lot of what we do, that connect projects and programmes and even departments. Digital skills are a bit like an ice-berg. It’s easy to focus on the product or the experience that you’re creating, so much so that you can ignore the necessary skills and literacies that lay beneath. If you don’t get those skills right at the start of any project, it can become a pitfall at a later point.

Zoe Amar, Founder of Zoe Amar Digital and trustee of Charity Digital, on the importance of not letting digital skills remain hidden.

Download the video transcript

6. Zoe’s three tips for heritage leaders’ digital skills

Zoe Amar closed off her presentation with three useful tips for heritage leaders who are thinking about their own digital skills, and the digital skills of their teams.

Develop a digital vision: how do you develop your north star, a digital vision or mission that speaks and aligns to your organisational vision and mission.

Understand trends: how do trends in digital tools, platforms, technologies, culture, etc, effect your organisation? As a leader, you need to be aware of these trends, how they will impact your organisation and what you need to do about them.

Developing and embed digital strategies: what do you want to achieve as an organisation and how does digital help you achieve those goals? How can you embed a strategic direction for digital, within your organisation.

Zoe Amar, Founder of Zoe Amar Digital and trustee of Charity Digital, sharing three tips for heritage leaders’ digital skills

Download the video transcript

7. In conclusion

Digital skills are a core part of any digital project or product. You can’t have one without the other. This seminar showed digital skills in a variety of different contexts, from digital skills in action on the ground to the necessity of digital skills as a part of your organisation’s strategic direction, aims and mission. As a leader, it is important that you are aware of not only your own digital skills, but the digital skills of the people who work within your organisation as well. What skills do you need to be an effective leader? What skills do your staff need to do their work and help fulfil your organisation’s mission? These are big questions which can’t be answered overnight, but below we have shared a number of resources which can help get you started.

8. Further resources



Reports and research


9. Attribution

Digital leadership – Digital skills, literacy and capacity resource (2022) by Culture24 supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0

More help here

A stone henge on grassland

Digital leadership — Hybrid heritage

Following Covid-19’s digital kickstart, what does a blend of in-person/digital working and services mean for heritage and the way you lead? The first online seminar in the Leading the Sector 2022 series focused on hybrid heritage.

A woman smiling on a fishing boat on a body of water

A simple guide to auditing digital skills

This guide explains why a skills audit is important for your organisation and provides guidance on how to identify where the skills gaps are and what support you might need. The resource includes an audit template which you can use to conduct your own analysis of your team’s existing digital skills.


Browse related resources by smart tags:

Capacity Digital skills Digital strategy Hybrid Leadership
Published: 2022
Resource type: Webinars and films

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Digital leadership – Digital skills, literacy and capacity (2022) by Culture24 supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

Arts Marketing Association
Heritage Digital
University of Leeds logo
The Heritage Fund logo