A key element of the V&A’s Sustainability Plan is to harness the enthusiasm, creativity and expertise of our employees and volunteers to embed sustainable practices across the organisation. To help do this, we created a sustainability focused learning programme. Delivered predominantly online, the aim was to support and empower employees to develop their interests and understanding in various aspects of sustainability.
Where to start?
The subject area is broad, and we have so many different disciplines working with the museum, that choosing topics was the first challenge. We started with context setting sessions and then responded to colleagues’ needs, sometimes commissioning focused training for particular teams. Most sessions were open to all staff and volunteers, and slides/recordings of the webinars were made available on our intranet (via our internal learning hub), as well as being circulated to attendees. We wanted to encourage people to see the course as part of their continued professional development.
Over the course of one year, we ran sessions on:
- Behaviour Change Theory
- Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Social Change
- V&A Zero Carbon Pathways
- Waste and Recycling Refreshers
- Intersectional Sustainability Parts 1 and 2
- Tackling the Biodiversity Crisis
- Building Performance
- The finance system, inequality and the climate crisis – what can we do?
- Sustainable Materials Training (3 parts: NetZero & Science-based targets, Circular Design & Economy, Data for Sustainable Specifications)
A key part of the programme was offering externally certified Carbon Literacy training. This provides people with, ‘an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.’ The course consisted of 10 hours of group and self-directed learning, delivered by partners SOS-UK and we have now had three cohorts complete it, resulting in 57 ‘carbon literate’ learners – including attendees from the Wellcome Collection, British Library and The National Archives, as we always offer one space on each course to somebody outside of the V&A. Many museums have been running Carbon Literacy training for some time, and the recently launched ‘Roots and Branches’ project aims to train and certify 1,500 museum professionals and volunteers.
Our focus has been on outcome-based learning, through a clearly articulated framework of what learners will gain from attending sessions delivered in our programme. Throughout the programme we’ve encouraged feedback and suggestions for the future – with structured evaluation. This allowed us to assess the impact we were having, and to understand what employees are doing differently after attending a session. Feedback from attendees includes:
With the knowledge I have attained after the course, I’ve been able to deliver morning briefings, helping the Visitor Experience, Retail and Membership teams to understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint.
Great to have time to consider applying my ideas into actions and of course, to have the opportunity to meet other colleagues with similar interests.
In total, 822 hours of sustainability focused learning have taken place between January 2021 and February 2022. Momentum has really been building and staff are keen to upskill in this area. Equipping our people with the knowledge and tools needed to contribute to the V&A’s strategic sustainability goals is an ongoing activity – it takes time and thought but the benefits are huge!