Building Digital Leadership and Resilience in the UK's Cultural Sector


Clore Fellow Dr Ceri Gorton's AHRC research explores what qualities of leadership are needed to ensure the resilience of cultural organisations in the digital age. 

Ceri Gorton is a cultural researcher, creative strategist and Co-Director of Bird & Gorton, a design thinking consultancy which specialises in developing collaborative programmes, leaders, and ways of working fit for the internet-era.

Through practice-based interviews with seven leaders, this research project explores the leadership skills, capabilities and approaches that enable innovative projects and use of technology to contribute to organisational resilience.

The 24 days of desk research, interviews and writing time afforded by thisproject comprised of three main elements: a review of existing theory, research and best practice in digital leadership; interviews with leaders in manufacturing, technology, and the arts; and analysis of interviews.

The project aims to provide new insights for cultural leaders to consider how they can approach the use of digital technology, to enhance the resilience of their organisations. This research highlights that the effective integration of digital technology owes as much to the context in which leadership takes place, as to the qualities of particular leaders themselves.

The scope of this research has determined its key outcomes and outputs;

  • The identification of key characteristics and themes in the approaches of leaders and organisations recognised for their use or championing of digital technology. These are drawn directly from the research interviews.
  • Recommendations for areas of further study that could be of use to the cultural sector.
  • Transcripts and Trello mapping of interviews with seven digital and / or cultural leaders available to researchers to inform thinking and positive interventions for the benefit of digital leadership in the cultural sector.

Key findings centre around leadership structures and roles, organisational ways of working, and the digital tools that leaders found most useful for innovation and resilience. Characteristics emerging from the research include how leaders collaborate and innovate by learning from and with their users and networks, creating agile processes and ways of working, and drawing together diverse skills and teams.