Good to know: New research into New Zealanders’ cultural participation post-Covid

New research into New Zealanders’ cultural participation in 2020 and future participation in a post-COVID environment has been released by Manatū Taonga the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Undertaken by ColmarBrunton, it looks at current and anticipated future participation, Covid-19 related concerns about participation and new participation behaviours (including digital).

The findings suggest that participation in arts, culture and heritage activities will increase from where it was in post-Covid 2020. While intention data always needs to be read with a grain of salt, it is good news that intended participation is higher than post-Covid 2020 participation for all arts, culture and heritage activities with increases most pronounced for activities which involve visiting a place or going to an event.

There is a clear preference for engaging with arts, culture and heritage in person rather than online, in particular among Māori and Pacific peoples, as well as women. Yet results also indicate that online engagement will continue with respondents typically saying they intend to engage both online and in person.

Still, concern about Covid-19 is the primary barrier to in person visits to arts, culture and heritage places in the next 12 months. Aucklanders (especially those living in South Auckland), people with disabilities, Pacific peoples and Asian peoples were more concerned than average about Covid-19. The research suggests that the most effective measure for encouraging attendance is reassurance that people will be refunded if the event is cancelled. Health-related measures are important to half of New Zealanders, but play a lesser role.

The study goes into participation and engagement by art form and for highlights demographic differences in engagement levels and platform preferences, find the full report here.

The changing age profile of society

The over 65s grow more than 10 times faster than the under 14s

Did you know that by the year 2036, there will be more people over the age of 65 in Aotearoa New Zealand than children under 14? The over 65s will grow more than 10 times faster than the under 14s.

The development is similar in the United States, where there will be more people over 65 than children 17 and under by 2035. And behind Japan, the EU provides one of the most distinctive examples of demographic ageing.

People are living longer than ever before and the age profile of society is rapidly developing – our age pyramid is turning into a skyscraper. 

I was looking into population data for a project recently and thought this is worth sharing as a reminder. I am wondering how this will influence plans of cultural organisation in relation to life-long learning, accessibility, inter-generational understanding and more? And how do we address the needs of this growing audience while not forgetting the needs of young people? Will there be more resistance to change with an older population or will the new older generations (including ourselves 😉 be more open to change? 

Here is more information about ageing population in New Zealand, the EU and the US

The New York Times looked at the world population development and found that a Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications, when toward the middle of this century deaths start to exceed births . While fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow climate change and reduce household burdens for women, it also leads to fewer workers and more retirees. This may require a reconceptualisation of family and nation when the current notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old will be upended.

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The most important metrics you are not tracking (yet)

Are you customer-centric or company-centric?

“Most leaders say they’re customer-centric, but if everything they measure is company-centric, how could that be true?” asks Gene Cornfield in the Harvard Business Review.

Revenue, growth, and similar Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measure how customers are performing for the organisation, but not necessarily how the organisation is performing for its customers. He suggests CPIs – Customer Performance indicators, and believes that the more an organisation’s attention is focused on outcomes important to customers (CPIs), the better it will perform on outcomes important to the organisation (KPIs). 

Customers (we might call them visitors or audience in the arts) bring a purpose, problem, need, intent, or question — a desired outcome — to every interaction along with expectations for how quickly or easily that outcome will be realised. The most effective approach for identifying them is contextual inquiry, an ethnographic research method speaking with or observing customers in the actual environments in which they think about or try to achieve specific outcomes. Examples of CPIs from the business world are mentioned in the article. 

What would the CPIs be for your audience?

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What audiences really want from theatre

Using neuroscience to understand what makes people enjoy theatre

Following my last post about the effects of theatre on audiences, I came across another interesting study. The National Theatre with the University of Reading (UK) used neuroscience to understand what makes people value, attend and come back to theatre. 

Focusing on actual attenders and demographics when analysing audiences can be deceptive. Demographics do not determine who values theatre, nor does frequency of attendance, especially when looking at annual attendance. The study finds that “only 65% of people who consider theatre a valuable use of their leisure time had attended a play or musical in in last 12 months. While only 50% of people who agree that they would like to go the theatre more often, had been actually been in the last 12 months. Thus, by focussing on those who attach a value to theatre, rather than simply those who attend on an annual basis, we increase the size of population we are considering.”

The research identifies some core values of theatre that are true across all demographics, they are: creative, social, memorable. There are two further groups of values, but they skew to different demographics: 
– Theatre gives perspective and offers learning – this skews younger, higher educated and ethnically more diverse, 
– Escapism and fun – this skews older, less educated and less ethnically diverse

The study also finds that theatre attendance is not as passive as it may seem, the brain is working in different ways while we watch. The ability of theatre to change mood state – to raise morale and give emotional release – is a key influencer on the decision to attend. 

You can watch the recording of a webinar about the study and/or read the report

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The science of live theatre

Does seeing live theatre change us? 

Does seeing live theatre change us? Does it have benefits beyond pure entertainment? 

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology tested the effects of attending live theatre through a survey with theatre-goers of three plays. It found that attending plays increased empathy for people depicted in them and changed people’s political attitudes about a variety of issues related to the play. It also changed behaviour – after attending these plays, people donated more to charity, whether or not these charities were related to the show.

All of these effects were associated with how “transported” people felt by the plays. In other words, the more immersed people were in the stories, the stronger the effects were. More about the study in this Psychology Today article

Image: Vlah Dumitru on Unsplash

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The hassle of visiting museums … has increased

Is visiting museums a hassle? Well, for some people the main barriers to visiting are things that can be summarised as the hassle of it – planning, getting there, purchasing tickets and the like.

According to Colleen Dilenschneider of Impacts, these barriers have increased since the pandemic. While the data is from the US and the effect of the pandemic on visitors might be different in different parts of the world, what I found interesting is that barriers to visiting post-pandemic aren’t necessarily new, but the existing ones have increased.

Pandemic or not, as Colleen suggests: “Let’s make sure coming through our doors is as easy as possible.” Read her full article here.

Image: pixpoetry on Unsplash

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Practising art can heal

The Healing Arts – a platform that addresses the growing mental health crisis

From lifting morale and emotional release in theatre, this initiative goes a step further: The Healing Arts is a fundraising platform and an educational programme that addresses the growing mental health crisis exacerbated by Covid-19 including societal and environmental health as part of a WHO series of events. In a week of activations in London, leading artists, architects and front-line workers shared how they know that practicing art can heal. Recordings can still be accessed on the website including a discussion between researchers, practitioners and policy makers about what the verifiable evidence is that art heals. More activation programmes will happen in other cities around the world in 2021 and 2022. As part of the event, Tate Britain raised artist Agnes Denes’ flag “The Future is Fragile, Handle with Care.”


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Setting the Table: service vs. hospitality

I found Setting the Table in my library recently. Written by Danny Meyer, an award-winning restaurant owner in New York City (Union Square Cafe and a range of others including the restaurant and cafes of MoMA), who is passionate about ‘enlightened hospitality’ and ‘being nice to people’. He distinguishes:

“Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes the recipient feel. … It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.”

Danny Meyer

He attributes his continued success to the way he prioritises his five primary stakeholders in his decision-making:

  1. employees
  2. guests
  3. local community
  4. suppliers
  5. investors. 

The book is a few years old, but his insights from 30 years in hospitality are inspiring as well as entertaining and feel timeless and relevant for any visitor facing organisation, not just restaurants. 

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10 truths about marketing after the pandemic

As the pandemic is challenging the existing rules about customer relationships and building brands, this HBR article suggests 10 new marketing truths.

I found it relevant not just in relation to marketing,  but in a broader approach to building audience relationships and experiences. The headlines are summarised below. 

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An innovative idea for advocacy: political internships

Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, did an internship in a museum. NEMO, the Network of European Museum Organisations, organised this “political internship” to offer a way to get insight into the value of museums and museum work, especially in times of the pandemic. The Children’s Science Centre Muzeiko in Sofia, Bulgaria, was chosen as it offered a good match with the portfolio of the Commissioner. 
What a great idea for advocacy for cultural organisations. 

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Touring re-invented

Organisations are developing innovative ways to keep touring content in times of the pandemic by developing blueprints rather than finished productions or exhibitions. This approach doesn’t require travel and seems less expensive and more environmentally conscious. 

Image: Sven Mieke on Unsplash

Greenwich Dance (UK) commissioned six artists to develop new dance work. The work is packaged as ArtsUnboxed, a virtual blueprint, and sold to venues, festivals and dance organisations. Those purchasing the works will then be able to deliver them using local artists, with a royalty going to the original creatives. 

The second such idea I have come across in recent weeks is Blueprint Packs by the Science Museum (UK). Blueprints for science exhibitions are shared digitally and without objects, partners then adapt them with their own objects and locally relevant stories and show them in their museum. 

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Memberships under threat

Arts organisations in the UK see their memberships plummeting due to the pandemic. Transactional memberships worked as long as the offer/product (such as free access or members rooms) were available, but are under threat due to lockdowns. Why members might leave you – and what you can do about it suggests to adapt by understanding members’ needs, offering different membership types and expanding reach with digital means – good suggestions to tackle the threat in the short to medium term.

Longer term my experience is that memberships that take a relationship approach rather than a product-focused or transactional approach can be more resilient. Members have more of an understanding of and a stake in the organisation and not only want to use your offer, but support you. 

MHM offers a practical roadmap for membership renewal. One of its elements explores this transaction – relationship axis, asking “Are you speaking to members as clients or patrons?” 

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Image: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The superpower of museums: sparking curiosity

One of museums’ superpower is the ability to spark curiosity. New research examines how museums can effectively employ this to cultivate more inclusive attitudes.

The American Alliance of Museums and Wilkening Consulting published Audiences and Inclusion: A Primer for Cultivating More Inclusive Attitudes Among the Public. It suggests that museums can play an essential role in creating safe and welcoming spaces for marginalised and at-risk communities, and in guiding museum visitors towards more inclusive attitudes and behaviours that benefit society as a whole. Using radical curiosity and courageous empathy, it offers 10 steps to crack open museum-goers’ worldviews and effect critical societal change while maintaining and broadening audiences. 

What stood out for me is that in a world where it seems to be getting harder to change minds with facts, it suggests instead to change the questions that are asked. How can we help people consider questions they might not otherwise think of? And spark their curiosity?

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Image: Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Beyond just your first answer: what creativity is/isn’t

It’s World Creativity and Innovation Week 15-21 April. You can still celebrate #IAmCreative joining or adding some of the final events.

Image: Jez Timms on Unsplash

Creativity is associated with and sits at the core of the arts, but it is a quality that goes far beyond the arts. Practicing and learning about the arts is not just for artists and should be an integral part of the education curriculum and our life in general.
The people from World Creativity & Innovation Week describe creativity aptly as: 

“…a mindset, a skill set, and a tool set. It’s a framework for approaching problems. It involves brainstorming a lot of ideas, seeking novelty, deferring judgment, and building off the ideas of others. When it comes down to it, creativity is about going beyond just your first right answer and discovering the second, third, or 124th.”

Curiosity fuels creativity 
Going beyond the first answers requires curiosity. Luckily, this is one of the superpowers of museums. More on this in a future post.

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Celebrating slow art

It’s Slow Art Day on 10 April.

In current times one might think of the Slow Art movement as answer to physical distancing and restricted numbers in museums and art galleries. But essentially it is about changing our way of experiencing art from a casual look as we wander through long rows of galleries to a deeper engagement with individual works. Which might in turn enhance our mental health and wellbeing.

Researchers found in 2017 that visitors to the Art Institute of Chicago spent an average 28.63 seconds looking at an artwork.

“If you just slow down and look at any kind of art, you discover that you can build a relationship with it” says Phil Terry, founder of Slow Art Day in this Washington Post article, and that this could also be a way to remove barriers that make people feel they need to know a lot about art to enjoy it.

How does slow art work? The Slow Art movement suggests to look at five works of art for 10 minutes each and then meet and talk about your experience. Jennifer Roberts, an art history professor at Harvard University and a proponent of slow art, has her students look at an individual artwork for three hours. That might be a bit challenging to start with, but definitely interesting what that experience leads to.

10 minutes or 3 hours – give it a try!