Nesta - adopting digital technology in the arts

Innovation is more important than ever for the publicly-funded arts sector, which is facing both budget cuts and heightened expectations from funders. Even more importantly, technological progress means that audiences are bringing new expectations in terms of ways to connect with arts organisations and the content they produce.

Arts organisations need to adopt digital technologies if they’re going to stay relevant – and become sustainable. But keeping up – and making digital an integral part of their work – can often seem like an overwhelming task.

The Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales, a collaboration between Nesta and Arts Council Wales, was created to help arts organisations undertake R&D projects around digital technology. But the fund recognised that “the adoption of new digital technology is a complex and demanding process for many of the arts organisations the fund has engaged.”

We were commissioned by Nesta to provide an evidence review that would help them and others to successfully navigate the process of organisational change that is required to make effective use of new technologies.

Our report aimed to answer five big questions, centring the needs of the users for whom the report was designed:
  • What’s the point of investing in digital technology? 
  • Where can we find inspiration and support?
  • What kinds of technology could we use? 
  • How can we make new approaches stick? 
  • How can digital help our resilience and sustainability?
Our approach:
  • Started with the philosophy that digital is not an end in itself – the focus must always remain on the goals it supports
  • Recognised that new technologies and new innovations for creating value often come from outside the arts sector 
  • Emphasised the need to integrate digital across an organisation and pursue external collaborations 
  • Drew on the experience of experts and practitioners from the Digital Catapult to the Knowledge Transfer Network, National Theatre Wales to FACT, and Culture 24 to Proboscis

We created a practical, down-to-earth guide focused on the needs and issues of the publicly funded arts sector, enabling them to take a more informed approach to the multi-faceted challenge of adopting digital technology.