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Lisa Westcott Wilkins, Managing Director, Flag Fen Lives Paper presented to the 18th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Helsinki, 31st August 2012 PowerPoint presentation available to view here: http://www.slideshare.net/DigVentures/social-‐contract-‐archaeology-‐a-‐business-‐case-‐for-‐ the-‐future Audience tweets available to view here: http://storify.com/TheDigVenturers/digventures-‐at-‐eaa-‐2012-‐helsinki Abstract In July 2012, DigVentures pioneered an entirely new procurement model for archaeology, hosting Europe’s first crowdfunded and crowdsourced excavation at the internationally significant Bronze Age site at Flag Fen (www.digventures.com). The DigVentures approach can best be described as ‘Social Contract Archaeology’ – a value-‐led archaeology situated within the emerging trend for social commerce, entering into a social contract with as wide a constituency of funders and stakeholders as possible. Assessing the success of this new business model in terms of audience reach and engagement, this paper will present key metrics for breadth, depth and diversity of on and off-‐line participation, evaluating our contribution to the public good. Introduction To begin, and at the risk of marking our cards as cyber-‐utopians, we’d like to start by making an archaeological statement about the present: Never before in the history of our species has it been easier to unite a group of people in pursuit of a common purpose. We’re thinking of course about the Arab Spring; about the election of Obama; even the London riots. This is the defining motif of our age, and our question to the EAA conference is: what does this now mean for archaeology? How can we work this to our advantage? We believe we’ve found at least one of the answers to these questions. Six months ago the custodians of an internationally significant Bronze Age wetland and visitor attraction approached us. The archaeology was drying out, the visitor numbers drying up, and the money to excavate had long since gone. In that short space of time we have: • Assembled a team of specialists. • Raised over £27,000 from a network of 250 people. • Brought a site team of over 100 people together to complete a 3 week excavation. • Raised site visitor numbers by 29% and are now assessing the excavation results and writing a management plan for the future running of the site.
We’d like to share the learning from this experience with you today, and set this new model – something we are calling ‘Social Contract Archaeology’ – into a wider social and economic context. Crisis and Opportunity It’s fair to say that we are the product of the era of austerity, and whilst the following narrative may not have any direct relevance to some of our European colleagues, I’m sure you will all share similar circumstances. Cast your minds back, if you will, to the heady days of January 2006. With Lehman Brothers 18 months from bankruptcy, the party was still in full swing and archaeologists were busy bees. So busy in fact, that the biggest problem facing the profession was finding time to talk to each other. In that month Richard Bradley presented a paper to the Society of Antiquaries arguing that there were two different cultures of archaeology: academic, committed to research and the pursuit of knowledge; and commercial, devoted to the ‘preservation by record’ of archaeological remains threatened with destruction (Bradley 2006, 1). If excavation projects were to be fit for purpose, and if we were to fully realise our public benefit as archaeologists, then bridging this disciplinary schism was the most pressing issue facing archaeology. Fast-‐forward to 2012 and such concerns pale into insignificance. • The ‘Northants Effect’ looms large on the horizon, with an unofficial 11% cut in frontline local authority archaeology posts creating ‘black holes’ in service provision (ALGAO 2012). • Withdrawal of grant-‐in-‐aid for the Council for British Archaeology and English Heritage may yet see those organisations change beyond recognition (Thurley 2011). • The tripling of university fees for entry-‐level archaeology qualifications, for which there is a substantially decreasing market (Schlanger & Aitchison 2012; Horton 2012). Opportunity And yet it is said that archaeology has never been more popular. Membership of the National Trust, English Heritage, and the Council for British Archaeology is growing (Thomas 2010), whilst the CM&S Select committee identified that heritage tourism contributes £20.6 billion to the UK economy (HLF 2010). With no certainty that commercial, academic, or community archaeology funding models will survive much longer in their current form, creative solutions are required to square the shortfall in excavation funding. Certain activities remain off limits however, such as the sale of artefacts, which archaeologists fear would undermine key messages about the value of archaeology to society. But there are other alternatives that still sit comfortably with a social conscience. Admission fees to historic sites are common, whilst ‘Time Team’ and ‘Current Archaeology’ are two of the most established and lucrative archaeology businesses in the UK. Following Garrod and Willis’s statement that ‘...in some cases it may be possible to subsidise the public good attributes of a site through exploiting certain of its other more marketable assets,’ (2002, 50) DigVentures set out to leverage the public’s fascination with the past to financially support the world’s first crowdfunded excavation.
So what are ‘Crowdfunding’ and ‘Crowdsourcing’? There are currently over 450 crowdfunding platforms globally that can be summarised into 4 different types. These include lending-‐based; equity-‐based; reward-‐based and donation-‐ based. We have adopted the reward-‐based model – essentially a system of micro-‐patronage – that has been most successful in creative industries such as film, music and drama. Supporters can launch projects such as films, records, exhibitions and runway shows through buying perks and rewards on crowdfunding hubs like Kickstarter or Sponsume. Ideas that may not fit the pattern required by conventional financiers therefore achieve traction in the marketplace, supported by what has been called the ‘wisdom of crowds’ (Surowiecki 2005; Shirkey 2008). We combined this approach with crowdsourcing, inviting the public to become part of our process – either via a robust digital platform from the comfort of their armchairs (in real time), or with their sleeves rolled up on the site itself. Crowdsourcing is a term coined in 2006 by the journalist Jeff Howe, who wrote an article in Wired magazine called “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”. “Crowdsourcing is a when a company takes a job that was once performed by employees and outsource it in the form of an open call to a large undefined group of people generally using the internet.” (2008 – Crowdsourcing: why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business). Crowdfunding technology is yet to be thoroughly tested in archaeology, although close parallels can be seen in the ‘citizen science’ model successfully used by conservation organisations like Earthwatch, who have sought to democratise access to scientific research (see Feyerband 1978). The difference with DigVentures comes from the use of social media tools – what have been called ‘architectures of participation’ – to facilitate information sharing, interaction and community formation (O’Rielly 2004). Hence our tag line: Archaeology in your hands. Who are ‘DigVentures’ and what is ‘Flag Fen Lives’? DigVentures Ltd is a social enterprise committed to providing seed capital and building audiences for archaeology projects worldwide. The company was incorporated in November 2011, and launched its first project, Flag Fen Lives, on 29th February 2012. The project was fully funded by June, and a three-‐week field school was delivered by mid-‐ August… and now we are here, in Helsinki, less than two weeks later to share the initial results of our project. ‘Flag Fen Lives’ is a crowdfunding and crowdsourcing campaign, excavation and post-‐ excavation programme built around the Bronze Age monument of Flag Fen, near Peterborough in the United Kingdom. The £27k of crowdfunded start-‐up capital was used this year to undertake a three-‐week evaluation of the site, with view to constructing a fully funded five-‐year research programme at Flag Fen. This field season’s work was therefore limited in scope, and focused on targeted trenching on the dryland and test pits over the waterlogged structures to assess the impact of dewatering. The aim is to generate data across key metrics in support of a fully funded five-‐year excavation project. Given that only 5% of the site has been excavated thus far, the potential for further learning is significant. As a research project on an internationally significant site, the project will adhere to English Heritage’s MoRPHE framework. Project partners include Vivacity, The British Museum,
English Heritage, Durham University, Birmingham University and University College London. An evaluation of the community impact of the project (on and offline) was undertaken by public archaeologists from UCL, assessing the success of the new model in terms of audience reach and engagement, and the breadth, depth and diversity of on and off-‐line participation. In addition to the archaeological imperative, there were two additional objectives for Flag Fen Lives: to reinvigorate the failing visitor attraction which has experienced a sharp decline in visitor numbers since the end of live excavation in the early 2000s, and to provide hands-‐ on, marketable archaeological field skills training to our Venturers. Spectrum of Engagement The critique levelled at the use of social media in archaeology centres on concerns over digital participation and barriers to entry. How meaningful can social media really be when compared with traditional forms of engagement… and by extension, how sustainable can this new model actually be? By any yardstick, raising £27,000 from a networked community is a very real indication of commitment. People parting with their hard earned cash is one way of measuring this, but we also put a rigorous public archaeology evaluation in place to assess the quality of the depth and breadth of that engagement, and we will outline the initial results below. To frame these results and this debate, we’d also like to introduce the concept of a ‘Spectrum of Engagement.’ We opened by saying that social media has given us the capacity to bring people together as never before. On that basis we believe that the money we raised through crowdfunding – no insubstantial sum – is actually secondary to the fact that we have built a community of advocates around our site. We’ve done this by providing a spectrum of engagement levels, starting with something very small but meaningful (a one click engagement – a Facebook share of our Videos) and graduating upwards to actually visiting the site or funding our campaign. From one minute a day, to ten minutes a day, to digging with us for a day, a weekend, a week or longer. This means that people are able to move up the scale, and in future years, just as easily move down. The point is that we are all pulling in the same direction, and if we continue to be focussed on our venturers, we can ensure that we carry these people with us into years 2,3, 4 and beyond. Far from the ‘one-‐click engagement’ being a meaningless statistic, it can instead be viewed as an essential building block for meaningful public impact, and through these means we believe that we can grow our support year on year. Evaluation – Visitors and Venturers Susie Thomas’ research for the CBA indicates that there are over 200,000 people in the UK that self-‐identify as members of a local history or archaeology society (Thomas 2010); these were the people we considered to be our primary market. When built the community for Flag Fen Lives, we made a deliberate decision about the tone of our website, the language we would use, and the methods of communication we would employ. We knew that in order to reach our funding goal, we would have to get beyond our first and second circle contacts; beyond the ‘friends and family’ boundary that has proved an insurmountable obstacle for other archaeology crowdfunding campaigns.
In order to better understand whether we achieved this, we conducted two separate evaluations, one looking at our Venturers, and the other at casual visitors to the site. We looked at where they heard about us, how they felt about seeing archaeology on site, what they learned from visiting, what they learned from digging, and most importantly, where they came from. The results are astounding. Even up against the Olympics and the first decent bit of summer weather for 2012, when the lido in Peterborough had 5,000 visitors per day, we still managed to raise visitor numbers at Flag Fen by 29%. Here is a snapshot of our initial results: • We engaged over 250 people as funders (Venturers), from 11 countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and China • We trained over 120 people in archaeological field skills, including students from five universities and four countries, as well as retirees and those employed in other professions • Our website and online communities achieved 100,000 unique visitors • We brought over 2,000 visitors to Flag Fen in three weeks, including international visitors • Visitor numbers at the Flag Fen Archaeology Park were raised by over 29%; of these, nearly 60% had never been to Flag Fen before • Estimated traditional broadcast audience of 5million • We hosted a children’s Dig Tent in cooperation with Vivacity, which welcomed over 100 children (up to age 12) over two weeks to learn basic skills and engage with the archaeological team What did we learn? We have learned that you can construct an archaeological experience for the public that satisfies what they want to understand or feel. It’s possible to undertake internationally significant archaeology on a Scheduled Ancient Monument with a team of all skill levels, satisfying research imperatives as well as make it sexy and fun. The key is to consider the needs of the archaeology first and foremost. Then, be radically open to how that is communicated and delivered on the ground. The teaching element is the easy bit; the hardest part is building the team, and creating a tribe of ‘super fans’ who will go out into the world and advocate not only for your project but for the process of archaeology as well. These are the people who will help us expand our reach and build our audience. So what does this mean for archaeology? As we saw with Bradley’s two cultures, even before the deepest recession in European history, there was a growing unease that archaeological procurement models were not fit for purpose. Undertaken by different people, paid for by different sponsors, and with results judged and disseminated in different ways, the profession is divided and this has not been served well by the present climate of austerity. The radical potential for archaeology in adopting a decentralised crowdfunding model is that we can correct our inbuilt drift to what economists call ‘market failure.’ Cultural heritage assets fall under the category of public goods, so the total economic value (TEV) cannot be limited to the desire of a market actor to achieve, for example, a least cost means of discharging a planning requirement (Scanlon 2011). TEV can be defined as a combination of
use value (public participation through outreach, open days and non-‐specialist publication); option value (conservation, consolidation and preservation of archaeology in situ for use by future generations); and existence value (published and accessible results and finds for use by researchers). The public benefit of an archaeological investigation can therefore be measured as a combination of all these aspects, and procurement models will only be fit for purpose when they produce outcomes that maximise these values to society (Wilkins 2012). The trouble is that current procurement models pull us away from that centre ground according to the primary mission of the funding body. Our approach to public engagement is not a bolt on to our research – it’s the DNA of our research, because without that total public-‐facing commitment, the crowd will never fund us. But equally importantly, we must contribute to knowledge in a meaningful way, and ensure the future conservation and management of our sites. This is our triple bottom line – our full cost accounting. It measures an expanded range of values and criteria for measuring organisational and societal success. Today we’ve only discussed the evaluation of the public aspects of our project – but rest assured, we could submit papers into the wetland session that would have evaluated our success in those areas. This is what we mean by a value-‐led archaeology, and we’re calling it ‘Social Contract Archaeology’ – because we enter into a social contract with as wide a constituency of funders and stakeholders as possible. This is our business case for the future. Conclusion Social Contract Archaeology is an explicit attempt to reconnect the paying public’s fascination with the past to our aspirations as archaeologists. It rises to Martin Carver’s challenge in Antiquity to ‘change the whole basis on which most archaeologists are paid: not to rid sites of their archaeology as cheaply and speedily as possible, but to create a past that wasn’t there before… Whatever the future brings, let’s hang on to this principle: the true currency of archaeology is knowledge; that’s our gold standard, valid everywhere.’ (Carver 2010, 938). To extend Carver’s metaphor, the project aims to establish a financial value for our gold standard, promising to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one excavation. References Bradley, R. 2006. Bridging the two cultures. Commercial archaeology and the study of Prehistoric Britain. Antiquaries Journal 86:1−13. ALGAO 2012. Presentation to IfA debate: what is the future for Local Planning Authorities and archaeology? Carver, M. 2010. Editorial. Antiquity. 84: 935-‐938. Department for Communities and Local Government, 2011. Draft National Planning Policy Framework. London Feyerband, P. 1978. Science in a Free Society. Routledge: New York.
Garrod, G. and K. Willis. 2002. Northumbria: castles, cathedrals and towns’ in Navrud, S. and Ready, R. 2002. Valuing Cultural Heritage. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited: Cheltenham, Gloucester. Heritage Lottery Fund, 2010. Investing in Success: Heritage and the UK tourism economy. HLF & Visit Britain. Horton, M. 2012. An oncoming archaeological crisis in universities. Current Archaeology 268: 48-‐49. Howe, J. 2008. Crowdsourcing: why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business. O’Reilly, T. 2004. The Architecture of Participation. O’Reilly Media Newsletter (available on-‐ line: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html, accessed 28th September 2011). Scanlon, K, Fernandez, M, Travers, T and Whitehead C. 2011. An economic analysis of the market for archaeological services in the planning process. In The Southport Group. 2011. Realising the benefits of planning-‐led investigation in the historic environment: a framework for delivery. Schlanger, N. & K. Aitchison (ed.). 2010. Archaeology and the global economic crisis: Multiple impacts. Possible solutions. ACE/Culture Lab Editions: 107-‐116. Shirky, C. 2008. Here comes everybody: the power of organising without organisations. New York: Penguin Press. Surowiecki, J. 2005. The Wisdom of Crowds. Anchor. Thomas, S. 2010. Community Archaeology in the UK: Recent Findings. Council for British Archaeology. Thurley, S. 2011. Heritage Guardian: Interview with Christopher Caitling and Mathew Symonds. Current Archaeology. 259: 41-‐43. Wilkins, B. 2012. Where the Rubber Hits the Road: A Critical Analysis of Archaeological Decision making on Highways Projects in Ireland. In H. Cobb et al. (eds.) Reconsidering Archaeological Fieldwork: Exploring On-‐Site Relationahips Between Theory and Practice. Springer: New York. Acknowledgments A project like this really does involve a cast of thousands, and whilst it’s inevitable we’ll miss people out if try and list them all, we’re still going to give it a go! So thanks, first and foremost to our on site team: Dave Britchfield, Mike Bamforth, Matt Juddery, Louise Iles, Daniel Juhasz, Kate Davies and site specialists Ben Geary, Kris Krawiec, Ian Rowlandson, Fay Worley, Ian Panter, and Cornelius Barton and Laura who stepped in to help at the 11th hour. Thanks to Kezia Evans, Tim Schadla Hall and David Prince for undertaking and offering guidance on the evaluation. Thanks to our partners, Sarah Stannage at Vivacity, and English Heritage Inspector Will Fletcher, and Monument Warden Dave Kenny. Thanks also to Adrian Smith at Emulus Communications, Jess Ogden and Guy
Hunt at LP Archaeology, and Nigel Gough at SIS Live. And not forgetting AceVenturers Steve Kiln at the Robert Kiln Trust, Oliver Gilkes and Flora Scutt at Andante Travels. We were helped on site by David Savory, Stuart Orme and James at Flag Fen. Last but by no means least – thanks to the Venturers – without whom this work would never have taken place. Thanks so much – and hope to see you all next year! David Allsop, Katie Arbuckle, Richard Arnopp, Patricia Barber, Philip Barker, Alison Barker, Cornilius Barton, Charlotte BeattieChristine Beddoe, Duncan Berryman, Sharron Betts, Christopher Booth, Andrew Borg, Annette Boulton, Fiona Boyd, Matthew Bradwell, John Bratt, Terry Brock, Suzanne Brown, Deb Butterfield, Jessamy Carlsson, Victoria Carter, Kevin Christopher, Paul Clabburn, Sarah Clark, Gary Colcombe, Steven Cole, David Connolly, David Connolly, Sheelagh Conran, John Cooper, Roger Craven, Deborah Curtis, Christine Cuthbertson, Lynne Davey, Victoria Davidson, Margarita de Guzman, Amie Dillon, Keith Edwards, Mike Efstathiou, Joby Elliott, Stewart Ferris, Alex Fisher, Hugh Fiske, Joe Flatman, Hayley Forsyth, Emma Freeman, Andrew French, Charlotte, Frost, Steve Gamester, Pippa Gardner, Rebbecca Gibbs, Jamie Gibbs (SEAT), Clare Gillett, Louise Glasson, Susan Greaney, Dorothy Halfhide, Tracy Harley, Neil Hart, Mark Haworth, Sarah Hefford, Sian Hill, Steve Holden, seana rhiannon hovel, Leighton Howells, Colin Howey, Jack Hughes, Susan Ing, Nicola Jennings, Scott Johnson, Eleanor Johnson, Rhona Johnstone, Maxine Kaye, Dave and Rachel, Brian Kerr, Alice Kershaw, Anita Kimber, Jodie King, Karen Kirk, Jackie Kirkham, Joanne Kirton, Kayt Lamballe Armstrong, Cally Langhurst, Matt Law, Eugene Lefeuvre, Penny Lock, Stephanie Lockwood, Zoe MacDonald, Rena Maguire, Jeffrey Marks, Margaret Massey, Olwen Mayes, Brenden McIntyre, Tina McNeil, Patrick McNulty, Matthew Miller, Shaun Mitchem, Bob Moody, Declan Moore, Tracy Morgan, Gabriel Moshenska, Jim Mower, Abbie Muir, Philip Mullen, Tim Nash, Ray Newton, Rachel Norman, Jeremy Norman, Ros O Maolduin, Gillian O'Boyle, Nina O'Hare, Gill Osler, Andrew Pacey, Catherine Parker Heath, Rebecca Parr, Reena Pastakia, Diana Perkins, Hazel Perry, Stuart Pierson, The Celtic Myth Podshow / attn Ruthie Smith, Lesley Probert, Pip Pulfer, Jessica Ramsey, Miia Ranta, Rachel Renwick, James Rimmer, Toni Ring, Jacky Robertson, Roy Robson, Gillian Rowe, Ian Rowlandson, Susan Royce, Joanna Russell, Bronwen Russell, Gloria Sanders, Emily Sanders, Mike Sarna, christopher Scott, Faye Sharpe, Nick Shepherd, Ita Sherlock, Mary Sherlock, Louise Sherratt, Daniel Shoup, Alan Simkins, Lorraine Slade, Thomas Slager, Barendina Smedley, Adrian Smith, Kerri Spangaro, Cliff Stanton, Barry Sterry, Ben Stokes, Margaret Struckmeier, John Suckling, Alex Suddaby, Joan Sutherland, Ben Swain, Chris Swindells, Michelle Thick, Andrew Thomas, Guy Thornton, Rebecca Try, Nicholas Turland, Melanie Turner, Marion Uckelmann, Frank Villeneuve-‐smith, Eileen Wade, Jon Walker, Rebecca Wells, Adam Wells, Joanne and Bob Westcott, Ruth Wheeler, Nik Whitehead, Theodore Wilkins, Lucy Wilkins, Mark Williams, Rob Wiseman, Katie Witherington, Neil Witney, Rebbecca Woodman, Richard Worth, Jill Wozniak, Mrs Wright, and Tina Yates. Thank You! Brendon, Lisa, Raksha (and Fergus!)
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