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Echoes from the Directors Forum

2019 Ecsite Directors Forum, 13-15 November 2019, Trondheim, Norway
2019 Ecsite Directors Forum, 13-15 November 2019, Trondheim, Norway2019 Ecsite Directors Forum, 13-15 November 2019, Trondheim, Norway

Each autumn Directors and Senior Managers of Full Ecsite members gather for the Ecsite Directors Forum, a carefully orchestrated 44 hour mix of strategic talks, peer learning, networking and local highlights. 65 participants were greeted by crisp cold and sunny river views as they gathered in Trondheim on 13-15 November for the 2019 edition, hosted by the Trondheim Science Centre in partnership with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The theme was: "Future thinking - the Sustainable Development Goals as an opportunity for developing organisations".

Two years on from the Tokyo Protocol that saw science centre networks around the world commit to help deliver the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the event offered a collective moment for our field’s leaders to concentrate on the organisational and strategic level of SDG implementation.

Two representatives of Trondheim’s Youth Council reminded attendees of their power and responsibilities in a powerful speech delivered during the Opening: you are “the people that decide what appears in our imaginations when we hear the word ‘science’”, they declared. “If you are serious about reaching the UN’s goals”, they continued, “you will need the general public to want to reach the goals. You need to make it abundantly clear what is at stake, and you need to make it clear in a way that is captivating enough so that it inspires action”. Much of the next 1.5 days were spent discussing how this could be made possible.

Two very different keynote speakers shared their thoughts on the theme. Head of Learning and Public Programmes at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and Board member of the Happy museum project, Nathalie Ireland challenged us to rethink the mission of science engagement, sharing her experience of developing methods for the museum sector to respond to the challenge of a changing world. She addressed the ideas behind the Happy museum Project that links museums mission, wellbeing and sustainability – a way to re-position our missions, brands & partnership networks. She shared how different museums had undertaken this repositioning, starting from their local context. “We can be models for environmental sustainability” and “we can bring together people with shared concerns - even if they have opposite polarised views”, she argued.

Biology professor Hans Stenøien from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology took a very different perspective and invited attendees to consider humans' biological and cultural relationships with their environments from deep history until today. “Humans have always radically altered their environments,” he argued, showing that this started long before the industrial revolution. Cross-generational learning & culture seem to be at the core of our ability to shape - and damage – ecosystems, he explained. We need collective incentives and grand narratives if we want system level changes, he argued and challenged attendees: “Can we be fireplaces around which new grand narratives are invented?”

Three parallel workshops allowed to dig deeper and put ideas into practice, respectively exploring storytelling around the SDGs; the SDGs as a spring board for new partnerships and sponsorships; and how Happy museum ideas might be applied to our organisations.

The Directors Forum is also an opportunity for Full Ecsite members to exchange with their Board and discuss strategic issues for our network. This year participants were invited to build on a topic they had put on the agenda during the previous edition: Ecsite’s advocacy voice. Attendees worked in groups on the question: “What are the topics high on your own agenda that you would want Ecsite to do advocacy at EU level on?” Climate change communication and sustainability came out as strong priorities from all groups.

Last but not least, social and local highlights deserve a mention. Participants got the Trondheim Science Centre to themselves on the first night, enjoying performances, exhibitions and a beautiful vocal improvisation piece in the planetarium. On the second night they shared a “pilgrim’s supper” at the Grand Hall of the 13th century Archbishop Palace and enjoyed a stunning organ concert in the Nidaros Cathedral, a real sound spatialization masterpiece.

Want to know more? Browse through the pictures, check out the programme and get a glimpse of social media activity on Twitter.

Save the date: the next edition will be taking place in Manchester (United Kingdom) on 28-30 October 2020. It will be hosted by the Science Museum Group and will be coinciding with the Manchester Science Festival. Registration will be opening in May 2020.


  • #EcsiteDF2019
  • Trondheim
  • networking
  • #SDGs
  • sustainable development

Director's forum