D9 is an international forum of governments who lead in pioneering digital practices to improve citizens' lives. The network of the world's Leading Digital Governments, recognised by the letter D [for Digital] + the number of participant nations, is an international forum which aims to share best practices, identify how to improve government digital services, collaborate on common projects, and support and champion their growing digital economies. The world’s Leading Digital Governments’ focus of digital policy is, understandably, on cross-cutting, high-level themes such as data, rights, identity management and artificial intelligence.
The UK’s Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (as ‘DCMS’ had stood for since 2017) is unusual in having explicit policy for this in Culture is Digital launched the year after, in 2018. Digital cultural policy internationally tends to focus on public funding – with a strong emphasis on digitisation, technologies providing access to culture and research, and innovation around this. It’s largely within a funded, non-profit world view.
UK policy is different because it positions culture (encompassing the full gamut from performing and visual arts to heritage and archaeology) firmly within the creative industries. As our research for Arts Council England on resilience found, those working in culture often seem to forget that they fall within more or less everyone’s definition of the creative economy. However, government and the rest of the creative industries – including the digital and high-tech sectors – are extremely mindful of this duality.
Our creativity and technical brilliance are then not only ways of expressing ourselves, understanding our and others’ identities and widening access to culture – but also key drivers in the UK’s future economic growth, high-skills employment, international exports and status. Thus arts, culture and heritage – especially in association with ‘digital’ – are positioned within national industrial strategy and embedded into its creative industries sector deal.
Whilst it’s tempting to think that this policy wonkery isn’t going to impact on someone running a small gallery in Carmarthenshire or a theatre in Yorkshire, it is – and it will… Increasingly, as local and combined authorities and LEPs develop the creative economy elements of local industrial strategies, as long as we all help them remember that arts, culture and heritage have an important role to play. Pairing them with digital is not the only way they can contribute, but it certainly helps non-specialist officers and elected members to understand why scarce regen and destination marketing resources should go their way.
(This is why we’re excited to be developing guidance and case studies for the Local Government Association to go out to all English local authorities on how they can better help their local creative economy. Due out later this year – watch this space!)
In addition, research around culture and digital can then be seen as industrial research and development developing new products, services and experiences – supporting start-ups, spin-outs from universities and new models of partnership and innovation between commercial ‘Createch’ and culture. Thus, it can attract funding aligned with the industrial strategy from the UK Research & Innovation family – Innovate UK or one of the Research Councils.
So, it is in that context, that the teams at The Audience Agency and its enterprise arm Golant Innovation have helping to deliver a number of Culture is Digital policy commitments.
Section §3.1 of Culture is Digital is about using digital to drive audience engagement:
- §3.1.1 addresses arts and collecting, using and sharing audience data – explicitly referencing our Audience Finder service, which has since been extended to Wales and Scotland and will be relaunching, totally redesigned and reengineered, later this year. Sign up today!
- §3.1.2 addresses metrics for audience engagement – and we have worked with The Space, BBC and Nesta to create a metrics framework and a tool to help you choose the most relevant metrics and tools for specific objectives – this is out for public consultation so please try out and comment!
- §3.1.3 wanted to see how community-led Creative People & Places projects are making use of ‘digital’ and where there are opportunities to grow this – our report for Arts Council England has implications for cultural democracy way beyond CPPs, discovers interesting comparisons to the Tech4Good sector and spots opportunities for CPP-style interventions to reduce digital as well as cultural divides
Section §3.2 is about digital skills and organisational capability:
- §3.2.5 talks about a ‘Digital Maturity Index’ – for which we have worked with The Space, Culture 24 and The University of Leicester to create the Digital Culture Compass, a framework that enables people to assess and plan for improving their organisations’ digital capability. We’ve put in a lot of the combined organisational change models of The Audience Agency and Golant Innovation into framework. As you’d expect, we were keen to ensure audiences and other customers were represented, data was threaded throughout and the role of digital enterprise recognised. It’s just launched within this online tool – try it out!
- §3.2.6 promises also a ‘Digital Culture Code’ which has morphed into the Digital Culture Charter – we were involved in co-designing both the charter and compass with stakeholders from 80+ organisations in workshops across the regions and nations, which was fascinating. You might spot some user-centred and inclusive design and organisational resilience themes in there. Download and get your organisation to sign up to it!
- §3.2.7 had Arts Council England setting up their Digital Culture Network – with whom we collaborate to ensure cultural organisations are using data intelligently, including around Customer Relationship Management systems – and who kindly promote as regional training opportunities our Data for… and upcoming Digital for… workshops. Please do sign up – or suggest new topics to cover, locations to visit…
- §3.2.8 deals with greater digital capability in the heritage sector, which National Lottery Heritage Fund has just launched as Digital Skills for Heritage where we are delivering the first training ‘out the gate’ in this campaign Leading the Sector, in partnership with Culture 24. If you’re a senior leader in heritage, sign up by March 16!