About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Identifying your problem, challenge or opportunity

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be passing on some tips, tools and things to think about as you finalise your application to the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales.

First up, we wanted to talk about what makes a good challenge or opportunity as it’s this that we’ll be using further down the line to think about how technology might help us increase our audience reach or develop new business models. This is the first section in the application form. It should ensure that you’re thinking about the things that need to change in order for you to enhance your audience reach or develop new business models.

There are a wide range of tools and techniques that can help you with this part of the process - you might want to take a look at the DIY Toolkit or the Making Digital Work toolkit as a starting point. Finding the right toolkit for you is very much about trial and error, but here are a few thoughts and tools that we think can be useful at this stage in the process.

Get the right people involved at the right time

It’s important to make sure that you have whole organisational buy-in from the outset - this isn’t just the domain of the digital person/team (if you have one). We’re looking to use digital as a tool to enhance audience reach or develop new business models. There are always more people involved in both of these areas of work than just the digital person. Remember, if you’re the person making the decisions, it’s important that the people who are going to deliver this work are also bought into the vision - ensuring that they fully understand why the decision has been taken and how best to implement the direction that’s been given.

If you’re not the decision maker, now is the time for senior staff to be involved in your application. In order for your project to have the greatest chance of both success and longevity, you need to make sure that it has support at all levels of your organisation from the outset.

If you’re not in a strategic, decision making position, make sure that the objective you choose genuinely fits with your organisational strategy, is seen as a priority by those above you and that you have their support to make an application and commit to the additional work that a successful application will entail.

Finding a starting point

So, where do you start? We find that good old fashioned brainstorming can play a role here. Use it to start the conversation and get a range of possible starting points out in the open.

One of the key criteria for a successful application is a demonstration of the strategic fit between the challenge or opportunity you want to tackle and your organisation. Starting with your organisation’s strategic objectives may also be a useful option. Which objectives cause you the biggest headaches? Are there any areas where you’ve not been able to move an objective forward? Or have you identified real opportunities to over achieve around one of your objectives? Are there new objectives you’d like to add that you’ve not had the chance to consider before now?

Once you’ve decided on your problem, challenge or opportunity, make it SMART. In particular, think about the M - we need to know how you’ll measure your work and understand whether or not you’re achieving what you set out to do. While we appreciate that not everything of value can be measured, there will almost certainly be measures of output or outcome that can be used to help us understand whether a project is on track and whether change is happening.

Make sure you deal with the cause, not just the symptoms

Once you have an challenge, it’s time to start thinking about what you need to do to overcome it. Often, there’s more than one outcome that needs to be realised in order for an objective to be fulfilled. For instance, audiences have to both want to attend performances (i.e. the programme is appealing to them) and be able to attend performances (i.e. they are able to travel to the venue, stay in hotels, etc) in order for you to be able to increase attendance.

The Five Whys technique is a good tool for helping you interrogate the root cause of your challenge, rather than just dealing with the symptoms. Similarly, Theory of Change, which we explored in our recent workshops, is another great way of exploring a complex challenge. We’ll talk a bit more about theory of change in another post soon.

We’ve been really pleased with the response to the fund so far. People are embracing what for many is a new way of thinking about projects and applications. Remember, if you’ve started to think about the digital solution at this point, you’ve gone too far. This stage is an opportunity for you to really focus on what you’re trying to achieve, not how you intend to achieve it. If you’ve started talking about technology, you’ve jumped too far ahead!

If you have any questions about the fund, the application process or your particular project, please don’t hesitate to drop myself or Dan a line - we really enjoy talking to people about potential projects. You can submit your application in either English or Welsh and the deadline is 12pm (noon) on the 11 December. Find out more about the fund.

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Rob Ashelford

Rob Ashelford

Rob Ashelford

Pennaeth Nesta Cymru / Head of Nesta Cymru

Rob is Head of Nesta Cymru - responsible for the delivery of Nesta's strategy in Wales.

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