Arts Council England Illuminate: Collaboration or Duty?

Our mission at Indigo is to empower arts and culture organisations by helping you understand and connect with your audiences. We talk a lot about the power of collective approaches to research and audience insight, but what do we really mean by this? Should arts organisations feel an obligation to contribute knowledge to the wider sector or, in a world where even the most brilliant organisations can struggle to keep their heads above water, should we all be battening down the hatches and focusing on ourselves? Is there perhaps a way to achieve both?

As someone who has spent time in my career on the ‘other side of the fence’, working in global commercial organisations and consultancies who are exclusively focused on profit, one of the things I have always enjoyed in the arts is the mutual support organisations offer one another and the opportunity to learn from, and build on one another’s successes and challenges. I’ve seen and benefitted from organisations eagerly sharing learnings on everything from marketing campaigns to data breaches (the British Library is a recent large-scale example of this), through informal and formal networks, conferences and conversations.

This same collaborative approach drives our free-to-use Indigo Share Hot Topics, which gathered over 61,500 audiences responses in 2023 alone and explored topics ranging from cultural organisations’ response to the climate crisis to how to grow and retain first-time attenders (and all the reports are freely available on our website, no strings attached).

It’s also why we’re not at all surprised when our Indigo Share Subscribers tell us that one of the things they most value in our post-visit surveys is the benchmark with organisations across the sector, a benchmark which includes both Arts Council England funded organisations and those not in the English national portfolio, providing a really robust cross-section of UK-wide data to compare themselves with. Hopefully they also feel great that they are contributing to a benchmark dataset for the benefit of the industry. This is why we bang on about Indigo Share Subscription as the perfect way to help you understand and grow your audiences and help to build a stronger sector - we can see that people care about supporting others. It will hopefully come as no surprise then that we also freely share the annual Indigo Share Subscription benchmark report even with those not using our surveys (register for the upcoming webinar now).

This collaborative vision is the reason why we still won’t be charging our NPO Indigo Share Subscribers anything extra for their Arts Council Illuminate upload files in 2024/25. With this week’s news that uploading to Illuminate is no longer mandatory, many organisations may choose not to do so; however, we support and encourage all our English Arts Council-funded Indigo Share Subscribers to upload their data if feasible, because we know that having better collective datasets will help ACE to advocate for the sector which helps us all. (The fact that we do all the hard work for you is a nice benefit.)

As a sector, we’re sometimes not the most coordinated in making our case for support to government, funders and the wider public, but we’re getting better at it, especially since Covid. Collective data will only help strengthen that case. So rather than a sense of duty, we see those working in arts organisations wanting to share, collaborate and cooperate to help everyone find a way to thrive.

If you are interested in joining Indigo Share Subscription and being part of this collective approach, book a free demo or explore the info on our website. We’d love you to join in.

Kerry Radden
Kerry Radden
Associate Director

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