Sharing evidence of impact

DCMS enquiry into the vast and vexed area of cultural opportunities in a digital world is most welcome.  Opportunities are endless, while resources are finite, which makes the question about what is the most effective way to engage audiences all the more important.  Could DCMS help to facilitate a cross-culture network which co-ordinates and shares audience research and data – evidence of what works (and just as importantly, what doesn’t)?  This could help to fast-forward digital engagement in culture by avoiding duplication of effort, and of error, and building on best practice.

To give our own experience as an example.  The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is an independent, self-sustaining charity with a monumental remit on an international scale: to lead the world’s enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times.  Last year, by our conservative estimate, 5m people of all ages and backgrounds engaged with our work in Stratford-upon-Avon and around the world.  830,000 of those were paying visitors to the five Shakespeare family homes in Stratford; the rest were online engagements through diverse initiatives ranging from Shakespeare Week (2m primary school children), online resources and courses developed with partners including British Council, RSC, BBC and University of Birmingham (0.5m), our main website (1.2m), the Shakespeare Documented free online exhibition in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library and 30 US and UK cultural organisations, and our new Discover Shakespeare website featuring 20,000 items digitised from our collections.   By our internal yardstick all this was a quantum leap in terms of our digital engagement, but without external benchmark data it is nigh impossible to measure success in the context of the wider sector. 

Of course one size does not fit all, and engagement can be as much about depth (with a few) as breadth (with many), particularly when it comes to local community audiences.  With a subject as huge as Shakespeare, it is a major challenge to track the online behaviour of our myriad audiences, from schoolchildren to academic researchers, international and domestic tourists to literary ‘pilgrims’.  As funds allow we plan to establish an ongoing digital audience research programme, which could be shared on a reciprocal basis.  Perhaps a central fund could be established to kickstart cross-sector pooling of learning and audience data.  We could all progress more quickly together than by individual trial and error.

Why the contribution is important

Facilitating cross-sector sharing of audience research and data, along with best practice insight, would enable organisations to learn from each other, helping us all to progress more quickly than by working in isolation.

by ShakespeareBirthplaceTrust on July 31, 2017 at 03:17PM

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