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Improving the reach of arts and culture in Wales

National Museum Wales and Arts Council of Wales have been supported by Y Lab's Digital Innovation Fund Accelerator to collaboratively develop and pilot new data systems that provide new insights into the cultural sector and enhance customer communications across both organisations.

I've been thinking a lot about the term 'innovation' since our last Digital Innovators Network Meeting in Cardiff, which was facilitated by Satori Lab. Our first task was to discuss and define innovation in small groups, and even after being presented with definitions I still felt a varying amount of subjectivity in its understanding and use.

However, our network - a cross-sector collection of people with considerable experience of using technology - seemed in common agreement that innovation is a term that is too frequently defined as a technology solution. The quote that stuck with me was Tim Kastelle's definition of innovation as 'the process of idea management'.

My colleague from the Arts Council, Lisa Matthews and I have been developing ideas around getting more people to experience the arts, culture and heritage. Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales) and Arts Council Wales provide access to creative and cultural experiences, directly through our buildings, online, outreach services and through the organisations and projects we support. We are working together to use and improve our audience data to find out more about the motivations and behaviours of people in terms of participation in the arts and culture.

I pitched our project ideas on the day. The aim of the day was to put us out of our comfort zones and to help us clarify the problems we're trying to resolve the Digital Innovators Fund. As quoted to us during the session, Einstein once said: "If I had only one hour to save the world, I'd spend 55 minutes on defining the problem and only 5 minutes finding the solution", which was Satori Lab's way of reminding us not to start developing a solution.

Exercises such as the '5 whys' and collaborative questioning helped to reveal more fundamental challenges around capacity, skills and compliance. And relevance - how do we reach people that don't know what we have to offer them or don't think that we represent them?

Our project is a piece of data insight work that will also explore the audience alignment between the two organisations. The scope of work will explore existing data sets to identify audience synergies and common themes. This will hopefully enable us to tailor activities and communications, create cross-cultural programmes and reach more people. We are excited to work with our technology partner, Nuance & Fathom, a digital agency specialising in using data to optimise communication.

In our meeting, we were also introduced to four different types of innovation: Incremental, Radical, Disruptive and Open. We're yet to classify our project in type, but I'd like to think there are radical ways in which our organisations are collaborating to use business intelligence to improve the reach of arts and culture in Wales.

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Author

Dafydd James

Dafydd James leads the Digital Media department at Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales), which is responsible for delivering digital projects and strategies for the seven national...