The Audience Agency has merged with Culture24, bringing together two established and trusted independent charities with a shared mission and values. Together, they offer a vital new resource for the cultural sector combining complementary experience and expertise, built over many years of supporting and leading positive change.

Responding to urgent sector needs

Recent research with stakeholder arts, museums and heritage organisations, and local authorities emphasises the pressing need to increase audience engagement right now - and to anticipate future changes in behaviour, taste and demand. Stakeholders want a combination of strong evidence to help them manage risk today with insights that will help them adapt to inspire coming generations. Findings show that while driving up income and securing funding are the major challenges of the day, many want support to become more relevant to their wider community, to address social justice, climate change and stay on top of technological change.

The new team’s plans respond to these findings and will support innovation in these areas, combining substantial experience and expertise in research, action learning and human centred design to co-develop solutions to the sector’s most urgent problems.

Five pillars to support innovation

With this purpose, The Audience Agency has restructured and developed its business model to offer a new five-pillar programme of services and products, hallmarked by an evidence-led and people-centred approach. The Culture24 team will lead on a digital pillar, consolidating their prowess in cohort learning programmes, leadership development, and digital transformation. The other four pillars are: participation and engagement, impact and evaluation, cultural and creative places, data and evidence for policy. The Audience Agency will also continue to offer a suite of popular, reliable data services which support all five pillars. Similarly, peer learning/action research programmes will be a major new, cross-cutting feature.

As well as delivering services in these critical areas in the UK, the merged organisation will also build on strong international connections, brokering new dialogue and spreading emerging practice. All services will be offered on a paid-for but affordable basis, often with a sliding scale designed to support smaller organisations.

Merger protects legacy for the sector

The Audience Agency and Culture24 were both long-term recipients of funding from Arts Council England. Services and jobs were put at risk following the decision to drop both organisations from the Arts Council Portfolio in March 2023. Although both organisations have had to make redundancies, the new business model and merger mean that years of ACE investment in tools and resources, skills and experience will continue to benefit the sector. It also means The Audience Agency will be able to continue to provide services for Arts Council Wales and Creative Scotland.

Let’s Get Real: Using digital to add value – 2024 programme announced

One of the first opportunities to come from the merger is the next Let’s Get Real initiative. This year’s action research and learning programme will focus on the ways that using digital can add value for audiences, communities and organisations. The programme will be hybrid, taking place remotely and in person with our programme partner, the new Institute for Digital Culture at Leicester University.

Since 2010 the Let’s Get Real collaborative action research programme has involved 650+ organisations, 1,100+ people, generated 10 action research projects, eight conferences, six published reports and 34,000+ report downloads.

Sign up is now open for up to 25 forward-looking cultural organisations. Read more here.

“Merging with Culture24 is one of the most exciting aspects of our new model. We’ve worked in partnership on a lot of projects so we already had a keen sense of shared values and how well we complement each other. Plus, between us, we’ve got a pretty awesome network in the UK and internationally. But our Boards challenged us to go further, to ‘make one plus one equal three’, to create an offer together that would more than double the value and impact we had on our own.
For me, some of the highlights people can look forward to include fresh new research about digital change and opportunities to take part in action research following the Let’s Get Real learning blueprint. When people choose to work with us, they can expect to navigate an uncertain future with more confidence.”
Anne Torreggiani, CEO The Audience Agency Anne Torreggiani

“This is the perfect moment in our histories to join together the expertise and ambitions of our two organisations. Understanding how to meaningfully capitalise on the value of digital has never been more critical for our sector.
Equity, inclusivity, climate change and environmental sustainability are major challenges our sector faces. We know that a key part of what is needed to meet these challenges is high levels of digital literacy, and confident digital leadership. Together, we can offer the sector a new generation of services, built on our shared learning, that will support the kind of positive change so urgently needed. This merger harnesses the expertise, knowledge, insight and relationships of both organisations.”
Jane Finnis, Consultant Director, The Audience Agency and former CEO at Culture24 Jane Finnis

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