Title:Why Reinvent the Wheel Over and Over Again? How an Offline Platform Stimulates Online Innovation
Authors:Bart Grob, Lotte Belice Baltussen, Lieke Heijmans, Ralph Kits, Pepijn Lemmens, Edith Schreurs, Nikki Timmermans, Erik van Tuijn
Publication:MW2011: Museums and the Web 2011

In this paper, the case of an innovative Dutch think-tank for the cultural sector is described. The Heritage Innovators Network (INE in Dutch) is unique in the Netherlands. For the first time, creative thinkers from cultural heritage institutions come together every month and discuss current topics in their sector, such as crowdsourcing, interaction with the public, and open content. The discussions and results of these sessions have successfully influenced and spread innovative ideas and solutions for cultural institutions. The INE is an offline platform created for and by cultural heritage professionals. The project has been carried out within the scope of Images for the Future, one of the largest digitisation efforts in Europe to date. This paper will focus on how a bottom-up approach leads to a think-tank for innovative solutions for cultural heritage institutions.

An offline platform for online solutions

The Dutch cultural heritage sector is not yet exploring all the possibilities of the digital domain to its fullest. Often the activities of heritage institutions are limited to digitising the collections and filling image databases with this content. At the same time there is a strong drive to innovate and experiment in the Dutch cultural heritage sector. But often the will and enthusiasm is carried by just a few individual frontrunners in the field that do not have the support in their organizations to implement new ideas, strategies or experiments with new media. An often heard excuse is that there is no basis, not enough budget and too little manpower to work out a good strategy.

INE has evolved into an inspiring national platform where individuals with innovative ideas meet, share ideas and come up with possible solutions with their own knowledge and tools. Innovation, inspiration and entrepreneurship through the power within!

How we made it work

Since January 2010 INE has organized meetings on a monthly basis in Dutch museums and archives. The INE network has 50 active members representing heritage organisations nationwide who attend in different combinations these meetings. Members take part in the INE personally, not as representative of their institutions, but with the intent to co-operate and co-create. The meetings are organised and hosted by one of the member's institutions and co-organised by a small group of initiators. The host institution is responsible for the theme or agenda of a meeting. An online meetup-platform serves as forum, source for inspiration and a share point for knowledge and ideas.

Regular IRL meetings have proven to be a viable solution for bringing together the communal ideas and visions of this group of front runners who often battle a lonely battle in their own organisations. The themed meetings often provide concrete solutions one or more organisations can use in their daily digital routine, thereby strengthening inter-institutional cooperation, and rising above the pitfall of being just a think-tank. The INE prevents members from reinventing the wheel over and over again by joining forces both online and offline.

Challenges for the INE after his first successful year is how to go beyond usable ideas for some institutions towards solutions for the whole sector and expanding the enthusiasm deeply felt by members beyond the monthly meetings and deeper into their organisations.