Toolkit launched to unlock new audiences and revenues for the arts
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A new toolkit to help arts and cultural organisations grow their digital products and services has launched today - the first of its kind for the sector.

Designed to guide users through digital product development - including building a business plan, communicating need with stakeholders and user testing - the toolkit has been developed by Nesta, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their work on the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.

The three-year, £7 million fund is supporting 52 cultural organisations to collaborate with technology and research experts to explore how digital technology can be used to grow audience reach and/or develop new business models. The findings from the projects are being published over the course of the year.

The toolkit takes inspiration from the projects supported by the Fund such as Nottingham City Museums and Art Galleries which is using augmented reality to bring museum collections to life, and SingLondon, which encourages the public to listen to the capital’s statues speak via a mobile app. The Toolkit was also designed with the help of an industry panel that included the Imperial War Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre.

Techniques and suggestions discussed in the toolkit include:

  • Whys Technique: A simple technique which helps explore the cause and effect of a particular or recurring problem. It can also be used to interrogate an idea or assumption that needs boiling down before making a decision.

  • Business Model Canvas: A strategic tool which helps users describe, design and cost a proposed product, understand its value for an organisation and its audience. It also poses useful questions along the way such as “is local economic impact more important as a benefit than generating direct revenues”?

  • Performance Dashboard: Enables users to test and iterate against objectives and create regular reports on progress for teams and stakeholders. On top of this framework can be layered other indicators which will help show whether a product is successful or not such as Quality Acceptance Testing (QAT) criteria and User Acceptance Testing (UAT).

Available to download at, the toolkit will be accompanied online by a collection of written guides which explore four key themes; data, accessibility, mobile and business models.

Tim Plyming, Director of Digital Arts and Media at Nesta, and on behalf of the Fund, said: “Arts and cultural organisations are turning to digital technology to improve their offering and drive new forms of revenue but very little exists in the way of a guide. Many have begun to dabble with digital technology, but as the pace of development refuses to slow and more turn to it to deliver better experiences and services, we want to help embed it as a core activity.”

Maya Gabrielle, Senior Digital Producer, National Theatre: "The digital toolkit will be an essential first port of call for anyone new to creating digital projects and a great refresher for seasoned veterans. The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts projects have provided a varied and valuable landscape of learning for everyone interested in embracing and utilising digital media to enhance their companies, projects and productions."