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Technology Infrastructure and Digital Capacity Survey

As a component of the Digital Access for the Arts program, CultureSource and the Rocket Community Fund commissioned 8 Bridges Workshop and Koven J. Smith Consulting to assess the needs of arts organizations as they work to adapt their programming to online environments.

Key Takeaways
  • CultureSource member organizations were able to transition to working remotely.
  • Most organizations shifted to producing some types of remote programming.
  • Organizations took the opportunity to try things, experiment, iterate and develop a new array of offerings.
  • Digital programs were organically seen as temporary solutions, but have become permanent additions for many arts orgs.
  • Most respondents struggle to raise awareness for their digital work.
  • Organizations are seeking more expertise and equipment to help them produce digital programming.
By The Numbers

71.8

orgs said they are using digital technology to display artwork and collections online

40–60

orgs will maintain a hybrid programming format post-pandemic

42.9

orgs said lack of staff experience in digital tech was a barrier to creating digital programming

53.6

orgs said lack of digital infrastructure was a barrier in making the translation to virtual
Key Recommendations for CultureSource & Members
  1. Vet and publish a list of potential service providers.
  2. Identify critical equipment for digital programming.
  3. Train members on appropriate rights and permissions for digital content.
  4. Train members to use analytics software.
  5. Professionalize and support online marketing at member organizations.
  6. Discuss learning from the pandemic period with member organizations.
From the Research Team

This research took place in spring 2021, when CultureSource members were driven by necessity to provide programs remotely and digitally, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The survey asked about the ways organizations created digital content during the pandemic—and for whom they created it—as well as how they were able to use technology to get operational work done. Survey results were complemented by in-depth interviews with five organizations.

Survey results document both the difficulties that respondents faced, as well as their creative responses. Many organizations lacked the basic building blocks of digital capacity, like computers for remote staff, reliable at-home Wi-Fi connections, and funds for software licenses.

But circumstances also fostered experimentation and innovation. Organizations shifted their traditional offerings—concerts, exhibitions, festivals—to virtual experiences; developed new programs specifically for digital formats and capabilities; and invited new audiences into their programs and artistic processes via digital channels. Coming out of the pandemic, half or more of the organizations envision a “hybrid” future in which digital offerings will continue when in-person programming resumes.

For CultureSource, there is a clear opportunity to help build collective digital capacity among its Southeast Michigan constituency. Our research paints a picture of a regional cultural ecosystem facing unexpected hardship, yet responding imaginatively to challenging circumstances. With access to training, equipment, and information, and with a robust effort to share innovations, progress, and results among organizations, CultureSource can help organizations become more able to contribute to civic life, and in more dimensions. By supporting digital capacity-building activities, CultureSource can also advance its forward-looking, catalytic role in advancing the creative economy of the region.

Many thanks to Kate Livingston, who helped develop, test, compile, and interpret survey results for our consulting team, and to the dynamic CultureSource staff, whose interest in digital capacity building stands out among arts service organizations nationally.

Sarah, Koven, & Greta

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