We partnered closely with Qatar Museums as they changed from a museum manager into a cultural instigator – an organisation with the potential to shape the career choice of a generation. With a number of outreach programmes, they are now making moves that will echo through the Qatari cultural landscape long into the future.
Qatar is a small but influential nation in the Arabian Peninsula. One that is changing rapidly, as it develops significant international influence and welcomes in expats from around the world.
By 2011, Qatar was reflecting on its own identity and the role that arts and culture could play in shaping it. Plans were already well underway for an astonishing collection of national museums and great collections were being built to be housed within them.
We were approached with a modest brief: to help the organisation behind the museums and archeological sites be better understood. Over the next two and a half years, we worked very closely with our client teams to identify, extract and hone a much bigger ambition – one that we then turned into a visible, organisation-wide action plan. Qatar Museums – as it is today more simply named – now behaves not solely as a museum manager, but as an organisation with the potential to change the career choice of a generation of young Qatari residents.
During our time with Qatar Museums, we helped shift the outlook of the organisation to ‘local first’. The new brand sets out to help the country originate art, culture and heritage experiences from within, rather than from abroad. This effort will span generations. To aid the undertaking, Qatar Museums are building a new arts infrastructure for the nation, that will broaden opportunities long into the future.
This mission raises huge and ongoing questions: How to truly engage local audiences? How to address negative preconceptions among the international community? How to build a creative future for the people of Qatar rich enough to enable new careers and release untapped talent?
Our work for Qatar Museums hinged on the creation of a single-minded brand purpose: to be ‘a cultural instigator for the creation generation’. This sat alongside three strategic priorities that fed into a wider transformation programme led by the COO. Each of these priorities set out to take the experience of arts and culture out of glass cases and hushed buildings, and into the hustle and bustle of people’s daily lives.
The strategy touched almost every part of the organisation – from finance to curatorial. And we designed a vibrant creative expression to carry the organisation’s new purpose, as well as a robust brand architecture to help manifest its role in different ways across the city and the world.
It was important to make all this change real within the organisation, so we worked with individuals, coaching them to think, plan and act in a unified, mission-led way.
We delivered proof-points that set the intention at launch, including an internal event for 650 people chaired by H.E. Sheikha Mayassa, a brand education centre constructed on site and a website presenting the wealth of work to the public.
Through constant collaboration, and dedicated teams in London and Doha, we became true partners. We encouraged senior executives to stay true to the long-term vision, despite significant leadership changes, including at government level. As a united team, we earned license to push work in new directions, taking the strategic lead in partner relationships and striving to get the most out of every deliverable. We were steadfast but flexible, learning to uncover new opportunities by embracing the unexpected.
“The building has served the community for thirty years and will continue to do so. Our goal is to support artists in Qatar and provide a platform for creative exchange” Hala Al Khalifa, Director of the Fire Station
Although these are early days on a generations-long journey , the output is extraordinarily impressive. Courtesy of Qatar Museums, Richard Serra has installed his greatest masterpiece in the Western desert, as a response to that special landscape. The MIA and Mathaf are world-class museums setting global agendas and – increasingly – fostering local audiences. The National Museum of Qatar – an ethnographic celebration of the history and culture of Qatar – is well underway and at the Fire Station, fledgling Qatari artists are finding their voice while talent is nurtured through a number of Qatar Museums leadership programmes . There are now also a number of highly-regarded mentoring programmes to help young people take their first steps towards becoming museum professionals or recognised arts practitioners.
All these achievements are celebrated alongside the new website, which we created with Qatar Museum’s digital team and our partners Cogapp. It offers the bird’s eye view on cultural life in Qatar - www.qm.org.qa
This brave organisation is redefining the sector on its own terms, and prevailing. We’re privileged to have played our part.