Update – Activity Plans, Business Plans and lots of data….

Over the past few months, we’ve been a hive of Courtyard Project activity. Most of our efforts have been focused on starting to consolidate the draft documentation and plans that we need for our Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Round 2 submission – this has included progressing work on our building designs, Activity Plan, Business Plan and Management and Maintenance plan.

Building Designs

We’ve been paying particular attention to progressing the designs and layout of our new Special Exhibition Gallery (SEG), as well as our British Museum partnership South Asia Gallery (SAG). With the SEG, we’ve been considering things like how the ventilation, lights, power and data might work, where we can put heavy objects and how we can achieve maximum flexibility with our new 450m2 space. With the SAG, we’ve been thinking about many of the same issues but also how the performance space and exhibits might interact and how we will keep the space lively but cut out any unnecessary sound leakage. Alongside this, we’ve being working with our architects, Purcell, to think about the new entrance to the Museum and how that can be as visible and enticing as possible within the constraints of the site, whilst also ensuring maximum accessibility and comfort for our visitors. We’ve still got work to do in all these areas but it’s been great to see some real progress – it makes everything start to feel a bit more real.

Activity Plan

This has been a big piece for work for us and an important part of the HLF capital project process. HLF define the Activity Plan as ‘the document in which you set out everything you want to do in your project that is not capital works to engage people‘. It’s a really useful planning process for any organisation undertaking major change – we had already started this process and documented on here some of our workshops, in which we started to engage all staff in their ideas for the future. These workshops were really useful in helping us get the big ideas sorted – we started to define our understanding of our underlying principle of becoming a Museum for Life, as well as making strides forward with how we want to engage people. After all this fun creativity, we then had to get down to more of the nuts and bolts elements of putting this plan together. This involved sifting through a lot of data!

Some of this was Museum generated information and some from an external consultant, who looked at future audience projections for us. Using this information we were able to pull together some key elements of where we are now as an organisation, including important trends in our visitor patterns, confirm our target audiences, analyse where we are doing brilliant work and where there’s room for improvement and crucially start to make sense of the direction of travel we want to pursue as an organisation in the future. We’ve now drafted an Activity Plan document and are in the process of starting to plug the gaps, revise our definitions and properly cost up and look at the resources of our planned activity. This whole process is very well structured for helping you properly analyse and critique your future plans – which can easily become unwieldy in a project of this size – carefully narrowing down ideas to help finesse our future direction.

MFL for blog
Manchester Museum Museum for Life ideas

Business Plan

Alongside thinking about everything we want to do with and for our audiences, we also needed to produce a project business plan, which HLF guidance states should show how you achieve the following aims:

  • how you have assessed the full financial implications of undertaking the project
  • how you propose to meet any new financial commitments arising from it
  • how you have assessed the impact the project will have on your organisation and its finances
  • what changes you will make to your organisation to ensure that the outcomes of the project can be delivered and will be maintained for the long term.

Again, drafting this document and the work behind it has taken a long time. It’s also overlapped a lot with the activity planning process, as all of the changes we want to see in the organisation also have to be funded and their implications for the organisation thought through. Major areas of work for us have been in analysing our future costs and producing models of how we hope to achieve this. We’ve definitely not finished this process but using our audience projections for the future, we are now at a point where we can start to refine our preferred models and test some of the assumptions behind them.

What next?

Now we have some draft documents the work doesn’t stop! We are now challenging a lot of the assumptions and thought processes behind these pieces of work, as well as refining building designs and thinking about the long term maintenance aspects of the building for our Management and Maintenance plan. We are also starting to work in more detail on the potential exhibition programmes for our new SEG and the displays for our SAG – which are only at the very earliest stages. Parallel to this, we are also busy looking for interesting partners to work with on our activity development and hosting more consultation events, to check in with the public on our developing ideas and themes to ensure they remain relevant and exciting to everyone.


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