Building a better Digital Strategy - Step 1: Seek Connections

20 March 2018

In the first of three posts, AND Trustee Eylan Ezekiel shares his tips for creating a better digital strategy for Arts, Culture and Heritage organisations engaging with schools.

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(Photo by Alan Levine - CC Licence)

This is the first of 3 posts sharing steps to a better digital strategy for Arts, Culture and Heritage organisations engaging with schools - read the other two in the series below:

Step 2: Spread the Load

Step 3: Share the Risk

As a newer trustee at A New Direction, not only do I offer a fresh perspective to the work of this important organisation, working hard to support young Londoners in their creative journeys; but I’ve gained a new angle on a sector I know so well. With over 20 years experience working in and with schools, producing learning resources and education services: my focus is always on impact. This is especially true of digital projects - where the investment of time and money is not always reflected the depth of learning experience, or numbers / diversity of children benefitting.

I’ve written elsewhere about how to plan, build and deliver better digital resources for the schools sector, and pointed to many smart commentators and creative makers who do wonderful work: such as Amy Burvall and Paul Clifford.

That said, as I discovered in my report for Arts Council England into teacher perceptions, there are hundreds of beautiful cultural education digital resources being woefully underused, and (unfortunately) too many very boring lesson plans being shared as pdfs, and classed as ‘Digital’. Speaking at Oxford University Museum Partnership event and the Culture24 Let’s Get Real Young Adults conference, I’ve shared evidence for this view and made suggestions for producers, schools and engagement managers about how to turn this around.

But, since joining A New Direction as a board member, I have noticed some broader strategic issues for those leading arts, culture and heritage that might be useful to Trustee and Senior Leaders, and offer three steps to improve your impact.

Step 1 - Seek Connections

The arts, culture and heritage (ACH) sector has a reputation for being notoriously insular, but that doesn’t mean you need to be too! I am amazed by how few ACH organisations have working relationship or knowledge of key players in the broader sector. They don’t know their Regional Schools Commissioner, local Multi Academy Trusts, research groups, related national education agencies or industry bodies.

For example, in more general terms, the Education Endowment Foundation does fantastic work sharing evidence of what works in schools, and provides a framework for evaluating learning - of all types. Nesta does targeted work in education to develop innovative responses to educational challenges. Jisc work in the post 16/HE sector to improve and develop use of technology.

When Ross McGill and Louis M M Coiffait updated their list of 52 influential organisations in education policy, it was worrying that there were NO mentions from the ACH sector in this map.

52 Orgs that influence National School Policy Teacher Toolkitpng

(Credit / source: Teacher Toolkit)

The benefits of connecting better might seem self-evident, and some will be covered in more detail in following posts, but include:

  • Influencing policy
  • Raising profile
  • Sharing development costs
  • Improving funding opportunities
  • Academic validation - through research
  • Accessing new talent
  • Improve engagement and take up in groups of schools
  • Supporting staff development


  1. Create your own map of who you engage with, tagged by purpose, type and location.
  2. Seek to deepen and enrich your network by one organisation a year.
  3. Prioritise those that support your strategic goals.
  4. Ditch those that don’t add value! ie. Don’t put loyalty to existing relationships before impact on children’s lives.

In the next post, Spread the Load, I’ll be exploring how these partnerships might provide value for money and reduce the impact on your team, for maximum benefit for your audiences. In the last of the series, Share the Risk, I’ll look at innovating your business model to get more bang for your buck.

Please feel free to share your maps or ask questions with me on Twitter @eylanezekiel

Eylan Ezekiel is a Trustee at A New Direction. He is an edtech producer and teacher, with a specialist consultancy in digital education.
Eylan Ezekialjpg

Posted under Creative Commons Licence - CC BY-NC

Read Eylan's other posts on building a better digital strategy below:

Step 2: Spread the Load

Step 3: Share the Risk