Arts Council England
Creativity & culture
Advise, Design & Build
Arts Council England (ACE) is the national development agency for creativity and culture. Its 10-year strategy, Let’s Create, aims to build a country in which everyone’s individual creativity is valued, has the chance to flourish and everyone can access a range of high-quality cultural experiences.
In 2018, ACE recognised that data needed to play a greater role in their operations and stakeholder interactions. It enlisted Cynozure to review existing practices and develop a data strategy in support of its creative and cultural aims for the country.
Elizabeth (Liz) Bushell, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer at Arts Council England at the time, “Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Engagement with – and enjoyment of – the arts is more important than ever as we rebuild from the pandemic.”
“Between April 2018 and March 2022, we’ve invested over £2 billion of public money from the Government and National Lottery into a range of activities across museums, libraries and the arts – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.”
“Having public money at our disposal comes with huge responsibility. It is critical we invest in individuals, organisations and geographical areas that helps us to achieve our strategic ambitions and benefit as many people across England as possible.”
ACE commissioned Cynozure to develop a data strategy that advanced the approach it already had in place. Together, we identified the main issues it was facing when it came to managing its data.
Our challenge was to initiate the journey to transform ACE into a fully data-led organisation. The data strategy needed to support two important sides of ACE’s vision:
Liz explains, “We already held a large amount of data, but we did not have a reliable and effective method of sharing this across the organisation – meaning we weren’t using our data to its full potential.
“Cynozure helped us to begin this change and start using our data in a way that helped us to make better decisions.”
With this data strategy in place one subsequent, and notable, application of improved data usage was for the ‘Priority Places’ programme. 54 local authorities across England were identified where cultural investment and engagement were low and opportunities for improvement were high. Internal investment data was combined with external datasets to develop ‘needs’ scoring. Those that scored medium/high were then given a score for opportunity, using contextual understanding of the geography in question.
Sanj Jagait, Chief Data Officer elaborates, “We created a scoring model combining human expertise with data sources that showed us where in the country our resources are most needed. Ultimately this meant we could funnel support into areas that are most underserved. This clearly demonstrated to staff across ACE how an evidence-based approach could be used within a decision-making process.
“We are empowered to invest public funds in the most impactful way and where it will make the biggest difference – both for individuals and communities.”
By embracing the power of its data strategy to support the Priority Places programme, ACE is driving real, positive change in areas where it is needed most across England and creating opportunities for people of all ages to engage with the arts in a meaningful, and often life-changing, way.
Jason Foster, CEO and Founder, Cynozure, explains: “As we do with all our partners, we invested significant time in understanding ACE’s ways of working, identifying the priorities and agreeing outputs with stakeholders. In our experience, taking this people-first approach is the only way to secure wholehearted support for the data strategy by senior teams, which is ultimately a major contributor to success. We love the mission of ACE and have thoroughly enjoyed our ongoing relationship to support their data strategy.”
We were delighted to hear Arts Council England was shortlisted at the Data IQ Awards 2022 in the category of Data For Society – Priority Places: Levelling Up The UK’s Cultural Landscape.
A well-deserved inclusion for the fantastic work they do, driving a real and positive change in areas where it is needed most across the country.
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