OUM roof
Oxford University's Museum of Natural History

Reinventing leadership in the cultural sector

The Oxford Cultural Leaders programme is helping museum heads around the world to innovate in the face of challenges facing the arts sector.

The devastating fire at the National Museum in Rio revealed the range of issues facing cultural leaders as they grapple with funding and political challenges alongside increasingly complex internal demands and changing audience expectations. These multi-layered challenges require leaders who are dynamic, flexible and responsive, and who are able to steer their institutions successfully through change.

Oxford Cultural Leaders is a unique programme for directors and senior managers in cultural organisations, who want to redefine their identity as leaders and their vision for their institution at a time of increasing challenge and complexity for the sector. Designed and delivered by Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries & Museums, in partnership with Saïd Business School, the programme brings together expertise from the cultural and business sectors to encourage participants to explore how cultural organisations can reinvent themselves as not-for-profit hybrid businesses, with entrepreneurial ways of thinking and behaving.

'For some time now, the clear message from government’s around the world has been that cultural organisations need to look beyond the state for their income, to demonstrate their commercial capabilities and ability to deliver new and creative business models,' said the programme's director Dr Lucy Shaw.

'Oxford Cultural Leaders is delivered through a unique partnership between Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums and Saïd Business School. It brings together, and cleverly blends, academic thinking from the business world with cutting edge cultural practice creating an immersive, developmental space which stretches and challenges participants, and enables them to successfully embrace innovation and change.'

‘I firmly believe that the success of the sector is reliant on a new type of leader - one who embraces change; is entrepreneurial in outlook; who continually looks outwards to learn new things and yet is rooted in a strong sense of values, core purpose and public service,’ said Diane Lees, Director General, Imperial War Museums.

‘Oxford Cultural Leaders was a chance to reflect and think deeply about our joint values, purpose and responsibilities as leaders in the cultural sector,’ said Miki Lentin, Head of Corporate Affairs, British Library. ‘I came away energised and incredibly hopeful about the future, knowing that together we could inspire the organisations we all work for.’

Each year since 2015 Oxford Cultural Leaders has brought together a group of approximately 20 leaders from across the world in a five-day residential programme. This year's participants will stay at Corpus Christi College in the heart of Oxford, close to the museums, cultural venues and university buildings used to deliver the teaching, workshops and the social programme.

Anette Østerby, Head of Visual Arts at the Danish Arts Council, said: ‘What surprised me most was the programme's ability to suspend the participants’ status issues and positioning and create a trusting, open, generous and sharing environment between us. It allowed us to work really well together, and this did generate some incredible moments of co-creation.'

More information about the programme is here