05 May 2010

the value of recognition

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on the value of recognition; and in particular, the recognition that arises from awards.  In the heritage conservation sector in NSW, the annual Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards are the most prominent; a range of professional organisations include a heritage award within their annual awards (e.g. the Australian Institute of Architects' annual Lachlan Macquarie Award); and an increasing number of local governments hold annual heritage awards.

All of these awards programs have several things in common:
  • They promote best practice in heritage conservation
  • They recognise and acknowledge the work involved in achieving good heritage conservation outcomes
  • They publicise the efforts of owners of heritage items or places, and of the participants in the heritage conservation process
And of course, because awards have to be presented, they usually provide an opportunity for members of the sector to gather together and share experiences.

The catalyst for my reflection on the value of heritage awards was the recognition given to several projects that International Conservation Services has contributed to over the past couple of years at the 2010 Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards presented at the Westin Hotel in Sydney on 12 April 2010.

Christ Church, Bong Bong
Award, Conservation of Built Heritage

Dunbar Anchor
Award, Maritime Heritage

Royal Botanic Gardens Heritage Statuary Conservation
Commendation, Conservation of Built Heritage

Sydney Harbour YHA, The Rocks
Commendation, Development

But the real purpose of this blog post was to reflect on how we can all do better at sharing the knowledge, the skills, the experience, and the conservation outcomes, that derive from these award-winning projects.

First and foremost, we need to promote the awards.  We need to tell stories about the awards, and about the award-winning projects.  We need the winners of the awards to post the information on their websites, send newsletters and emails about the awards, and not be shy about promoting the news that they received an award.  Why?  Because publicity about the awards builds interest and builds recognition that the award winning projects represent a benchmark, a level of practice that is desirable and that is achievable.

Secondly, we need to share stories about the work that was done on the projects that were awarded.  We need to publish the reports (online preferably); create photo galleries (online again); give presentations and tours; tell stories about the challenges, the successes, and the failures (yes, the failures) that occurred in the course of completing these award-winning projects.  Sharing these experiences will help us all develop our skills, and disseminate the knowledge that will help more of us do better work more of the time.

Finally, we need to encourage our peers, our partners, our clients, our consultants and our contractors to nominate their projects for awards.  At International Conservation Services, we have been nominating projects for the National Trust Heritage Awards for more than a decade.  Along the way, we've had a number of projects which were recognised with commendation, and this year, 2010, two of our projects received awards.  We're proud of all of these projects.  Just as we're proud of all our other projects that were nominated and not recognised, or the vast array of projects that we didn't nominate for a wide variety of reasons.  Our challenge to ourselves is to share more information about our projects with our community.  Which in a way brings me full circle to the reason why we write this blog!

David West
International Conservation Services

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