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Amb:IT:ion for All?

Second Interim Evaluation Report of the Amb:IT:ion Project

Lee Wilson, David S. Leitner (Cambridge University)

INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................... 3 SUMMARY .............................................................................................................................................. 3 EVALUATION APPROACH .................................................................................................................. 5 AIM OF EVALUATION ........................................................................................................................ 5 METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................................................ 5 FORMAT OF REPORT .......................................................................................................................... 6 CASE STUDIES ....................................................................................................................................... 6 CASE 1: HOIPOLLOI .......................................................................................................................... 6 CASE 2: LUDUS DANCE ..................................................................................................................... 8 CASE 3: ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC ..................................................................................... 9 CASE 4: ALDEBURGH MUSIC ........................................................................................................... 11 THEMES AND ISSUES ......................................................................................................................... 12 THE VALUE OF THE CONSULTANTS .................................................................................................. 12 TIMELINE ....................................................................................................................................... 13 INFORMAL INTERACTION WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS ................................................................... 14 KNOWLEDGE PORTAL ..................................................................................................................... 14 PERFORMING RIGHTS LEGISLATION ................................................................................................ 15 UPTAKE OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES ..................................................................................................... 16 THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY ........................................................................................................... 17 ENGAGEMENT WITH ORGANISATIONS .............................................................................................. 18 CHANGE ......................................................................................................................................... 19

Introduction This interim report is the second deliverable for the AmbITion project in satisfaction of the requirements of Phase 2 of the programme of work defined in the contract between Cambridge University Technical Services (CUTS) and the Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA) to provide an ethnographic evaluation of AmbITion. This report should be read in conjunction with the first interim report produced as part of this evaluation process. The first report details at length the methodology, approach that we have employed and the research objectives of the evaluation. That report should be referred to for more detailed information on these matters. It was carried out prior to the implementation stage of the AmbITion project, and in this respect provides a baseline against which this second evaluation report should be read. That is, the two reports should be read as snapshots of the AmbITion project before and after the intervention stage. We would like to thank all those that have given so generously of their time during what were often frantic periods of organisational activity to engage with us to produce this evaluation report. We warmly welcome any further comments and feedback on this report. Lee Wilson, David Leitner, Cambridge, November 2008 Summary We have noticed a marked change in attitudes towards digital technologies amongst the arts organisations since phase 1 of this evaluation. Moreover, there is now a significant commitment of resources, both time and budgetary, on the part of these organisations, as evidenced by the creation of new job roles and a greater engagement with new media. An interesting development is the degree to which companies are exploring the creative potential for new technologies, especially video, in education, performance and evaluation. Having the time to play around with these technologies, to be creative with them, seems to be a key factor in their uptake. Where they have been employed in novel and unanticipated ways, the individuals using these technologies have viewed them as an extension of their creative missions, and not merely marketing or fundraising tools (although their value in this respect is not disregarded). Individuals seem to take on the extra time and effort involved in using these technologies because they are approaching the task as a creative opportunity. Whether incorporated into performance practises, overcoming spatial and temporal restrictions to reach out to new audiences, or as a means of capturing experience to provide evidence of value to funders, the potential of new media has captured the imagination of the companies that we have visited. The implementation and upgrading of other technologies - new computer networks and better databases - has addressed important issues for some organisations, facilitating better communication, more efficient programming and targeted marketing strategies. However, even where these technologies are most appreciated, they have yet to effect a

complete conversion to a digital office. Factors that have a bearing on the continued reliance on hard copy include the immateriality of digital media and the perceived ease with which data might be lost or erased. The lack of training in and familiarity with the use of critical applications such as Artifax are at the root of a lack of faith in digital media for storing and accessing valuable data. In all of the groups that we have worked with pen and paper and regular face-to-face meetings are still employed around office functions that might be easily transferred to time management software. An overreliance on email, a mode of communication many saw as impersonal, was commonly expressed as a concern and we often heard people voice a desire for more time to devote to informal interaction in their organisations. Clearly personal interaction is not just about data sharing and resolving professional issues. These concerns about depersonalisation as a consequence of the prevalence of digital technologies in the workplace are commonplace. Indeed, there would seem to be efficient and effective social aspects of intra-organisational communication that are, in some instances, lost in a switch to the digital. The paperless office is not the peopleless office, and information systems do not replicate all facets of human social interaction. Rather, they encourage different kinds of social interaction which might or might not be appropriate to the task at hand. Thus, in most cases, the organisations we have observed have taken up the new technologies in places where it was deemed advantageous to their missions while they have, in a sense, ring-fenced those places where preserving the intangible benefits of face-to-face social interaction seemed important. We feel the time scale for AmbITion has been tailored to suit the needs of the funding agencies rather than the requirements of interventions and the path dependency of individualised programmes mounted as part of the project. As we made clear in our first report, the issue of the release of project funding has largely been beyond the control of the AmbITion project team. Nonetheless, the lack of flexibility in the project timeline has meant that the particular circumstances of some organisations cannot be addressed. In particular, we feel that a greater investment should have been made in the initial stages of the project to engage more directly with the organisations. While a risk assessment was carried out prior to implementation, it seems to us that this was primarily to assess the capacity of an organisation as a good investment for AmbITion funding. While this was certainly important, in our view resources could have been devoted to more comprehensive scoping exercises to prepare for the implementation stage of AmbITion. We are aware of the limitations on time and resources at the outset of the project on the AmbITion project team. Given these restrictions we feel that it was perhaps inevitable that the earlier issues with project visibility and engagement with organisations, which were flagged in our first report, arose. In light of this there is a case to be made for more resources being allocated to scoping activities at the outset of a project like AmbITion. Overall, however, many of the issues and concerns that were articulated in the first report seem to have been addressed during the implementation stage of the project. The AmbITion team has created far more networking and training opportunities. We still have some concerns about the knowledge portal and the ways in which this is being utilised. While video presentations showcasing the work of AmbITion with particular organisations are useful, there are very obvious areas of expertise that the arts organisations lack that could be addressed through the knowledge portal. Given the aims of the project to effect change more widely in the arts sector, the role of the knowledge portal as a resource for arts organisations needs to be carefully considered. If this is not done we feel there is a danger of an opportunity to disseminate some of the many lessons learnt by participants in the project being lost. As a change management

project it seems fair to say that the commitment of resources and the increased awareness of the potential of digital media are evidence that AmbITion has achieved its aims in this respect. It remains to be seen what long term impact the project will have on the arts organisations and the arts sector more generally. Evaluation Approach Aim of evaluation We wish to stress in light of several questions raised about the aim of our research that this evaluation is of the AmbITion project itself, and not of the organisations that are the target of its intervention. The main aim is to assess the extent to which the project has been able to achieve its goal of bringing about organisational change through the implementation of digital technologies. The evaluation is not meant to reflect on whether particular organisations have utilised AmbITion funding in the most efficient or effective ways. The focus is on the intervention itself and whether this has proved to be of value to the arts organisations that have participated in the project. What, if any, changes has the project brought about in the working practises, both administrative and creative, in these organisations? This having been said, in the course of our research we have gathered data on the ways in which organisations work. Interpersonal relations, organisational structure, tensions both productive and potentially harmful that exist in companies, some of which, where appropriate, we detailed in the case studies we prepared for the first report. Our intention, though probably not stated explicitly enough in that report, was that the case studies and the report more generally might be of value to the organisations as an appraisal exercise of their own working practises. Our attention in this second interim report has been more tightly focused on the intervention itself. While the insights that we have gained into the companies that we visited are relevant to the success of any implementation, they are not, for the most part, issues that AmbITion has the capacity to address directly. This is a matter to which we shall return below in our findings, as it is an issue related to project timescales and preimplementation assessments that, in our view, should have been more obviously an element of the AmbITion project. However, we feel that the value to be gained now is from a stricter engagement with the intervention itself. Methodology We have carried out follow up site visits to each of the organisations we originally visited prior to the implementation stage of AmbITion: Hoipolloi, Ludus Dance, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Aldeburgh Music. We have conducted loosely structured interviews with people in each of these companies to ascertain individual and organisational concerns and attitudes towards AmbITion and to collect stories of individual experiences with the new technologies that are being implemented. Where possible we have attended AmbITion project meetings and events, talking to people at these meetings and following up, where appropriate, with ethnographic interviews both in person and by telephone or webcam via Skype. Our aim, as ethnographers, has been to facilitate conversations with informants around issues relating to the AmbITion project. In this second stage of the evaluation we have made more use of group interviewing techniques when working with informants in an effort to elicit collective narratives. This has provided useful insight into the personal interactions between people and information flows within organisations. It has also provided a forum that some participants have told us they have found useful as a space for reflection on the project in relation to their own companies and working lives. Issues raised by these

interactions have been used to generate further lines of enquiry, informing subsequent iterations of the research framework and interview questions. Our first report laid the ground for this second phase of the evaluation, giving us insight into the perceptions, issues and concerns of the various stakeholders in the project. It allowed us to map the particular dynamics between people in these organisations and ascertain where tensions might potentially lie. Importantly, it also gave us a base line for assessing whether and to what degree AmbITion can be said to have achieved its aim of bringing about organisational change. Format of report As we noted in the first report, the evaluation strategy we have developed is both critical and reflexive. In the light of feedback we received on the first report we have changed the format of this report slightly to provide an easier comparison of the issues raised across the groups we have worked with. We again provide case studies of the organisations with whom we have worked. These ethnographic accounts have revealed a number of common issues that are explored in detail under different thematic headings that follow the four case studies. Rather than informants comments and insights being confined to their respective case study sections, these thematic sections bring them together to provide a snapshot of how the ground-level concerns and comments of informants might link to larger project issues. Our aim in shaping the report in this way is to make more apparent the potential points of common experience across the project as a whole. It should be noted that these case studies are snapshots of the organisations in midSeptember and early October 2008. Some of the circumstances that are noted have developed or have since been resolved. Where appropriate, this will be taken into account in our final project report. For the purposes of this report, we have focused on the issues that were current or ongoing at the time of the site visits. Case Studies Case 1: Hoipolloi The company has been working with the new Tier 2 consultant, Dave Potts, to develop their customer relationships management systems. At the time of our visit they had installed the equipment funded by the AmbITion project and are now in a position to begin making capital bids. Creative equipment was purchased first and this was trialled in the Spring production of their new touring show, The Doubtful Guest, based on the Edward Gorey book. To accompany the production Simon Bedford, the Marketing & Touring Manager, produced and edited a short trailer and production clips and added a blog/vlog to the website. The blog and video clips attempt to give a behind the scenes look at what goes into the production process and provide a focal point to encourage visitors to return to the website regularly. Simon explained that the challenge has been not falling into the trap of just having a website for the sake of having a website. He feels strongly that it should be an extension of the work they do. In keeping with the spirit of Hoipolloi, it should have a certain wit and creativity, and should do more than simply advertise or announce shows. It should be something to play around with and challenge the interlocutor in the same way that their stage work endeavours to do. As a result, they have spent a lot of time playing around with the equipment, and they feel there is a great deal of value in being able to do so. At the same time, they have

recognised that training and experience have helped them become more efficient in making videos and managing the website. In the past Hoipolloi has frequently encountered problems with gathering data about their audiences from performance venues. Going digital means that venues should be able to share patron and box office data with Hoipolloi more easily. However, this continues not to be the case. Simon Bedford suggests that this is likely because, in addition to a lack of time on his part to chase up the information he needs, there is a great deal of poor knowledge among theatre operators of exactly how to implement the Data Protection Act in their operations. However, Hoipolloi have found that, to some extent, certain digital tools have allowed them to get around this hurdle without relying on a third-party to provide the information. Google analytics, for instance, has provided some new insights into who is consuming their material online. After the trailer for the new show was added to the web site, it was possible to discern certain patterns in the locations from where the site was being accessed. Many of these new visits were coming from IP addresses in the US. One of the biggest conduits for visitors to the site turned out to be from someone who maintains an Edward Gorey fan site and mailing list. This person had linked to the YouTube trailer and had written about it in his blog. Thus Google analytics has allowed them to identify internet based audiences in the US, which in turn has inspired opportunities and strategies for a planned American tour in the future. As a small touring company having remote access to the office network has been an invaluable improvement in their working conditions. Simon made it clear that it is not really an innovative use of IT, but it now means that they can keep in touch and up to date while on the road and able to claim back some of the time spent on doing things that used to wait until a return to the office. Where were going to be away for three, four weeks at a stretch, we cant get away with putting everything onto memory sticks, which is what we used to do. So its a big change, but in a very basic way. Its nothing that a good corporate company, Im sure, wouldnt have. Overall people at Hoipolloi seem to feel like things are going in exciting directions and that the purchase of equipment has opened up creative opportunities in marketing. However concerns remain about how to sustain the new and added work with the same staff levels. Unfortunately, the one thing AmbITion does not buy is more people or time, and for Hoipolloi this has meant that the interns role has become increasingly important. The company has been lucky that the current intern has a good knowledge of new media and the internet and has been able to do much of the site maintenance that Simon cannot always get to himself. Luckily there has been a great deal of interest on the part of prospective interns, and they plan on creating more than one position this coming year. However, relying on interns alone to compensate for staffing shortages might not always work out. All are aware that the growth of the company is inevitable, and employing new staff will be part of this expansion. Communication between people in the company is very good. When on site, it tends to be largely personal and face-to-face rather than through the information systems they now have in place. There is a value placed on meeting face to face and using a wall planner to schedule events. The wall planner acts as a visual reminder of dates and deadlines in a common space, and Louise Coles, the Administrative Director felt that this was particularly important. However Louise noted that things would probably have to change soon with the increased work load and the need to hire new people who would be unfamiliar with the ways in which they currently work. At that point it might be

necessary to give up the dependence on face-to-face interaction, something that Louise considers to be a key strength of the company. For this reason, organisational development is under discussion internally at the moment. It will necessitate changes and Louise hopes that the happy family aspect of how they do things at present will not be lost in the process. Case 2: Ludus Dance The involvement with AmbITion has been particularly challenging for Ludus. The company has had to contend with staffing issues and the resignation of their Director and other key personnel, while simultaneously engaging with the changes brought about by the AmbITion project. This has put considerable strain on personnel. As one staff member put it when talking about managing change, its unfortunate sometimes all those changes come at once. The urgency to complete the project within the AmbITion timescale has added to the pressure felt by some staff members. Along with the marketing manager, Jamie Wooldridge, the former Director, Jane ScottBarrett, was a key figure in negotiating Ludus involvement with AmbITion and championing the project. Her departure has left Jamie as the sole remaining lead for AmbITion at Ludus. However, the degree to which the rest of the company has engaged with the project is perhaps testament to the trust that the company as a whole places in Jamies ability and judgement. The AmbITion project has enabled the company to implement a custom built database, the purchase of cameras and the development of the web site. While both main strands of the project are well under way, at the time of our site visit the database had yet to be implemented. The new content for the web site, centred primarily on the use of the newly purchased cameras to generate visual media, is starting to be developed, but has yet to be implemented fully. The switch to a custom built database will allow for the sharing of information across the organisation, and importantly, the collation and use of statistical data for a more strategic marketing approach. There is an expectation across the company that the increased efficiency the database might provide will mean less time spent in administrative and auditing duties, such as collating demographic data for government funders, and that this will leave more time for dreaming up new ideas. There was a stated need for time to play, to be creative, something that at the moment was lacking due to the need to work at full capacity. There is concern that the focus on improving efficiency, on becoming more business like, has implications for the character of Ludus as an organisation and a place to work. Anna Daly expressed this: it feels like we have moved from what was essentially a person centred approach, to Ludus going out there and doing what it does, to a very target driven company. These concerns have echoes in the process of reflection the company is undergoing in the wake of Jane Scott-Barretts departure. At the time of our visit the company was going through a lot of changes, including considering whether it should continue as a cooperative organisation. This might have quite profound consequences for the organisation, both operationally and ideologically. While it is difficult to tell whether AmbITion has provoked these changes, we suspect the project, through its focus on commercial practise, has almost certainly played a part in Ludus current reflection on the cooperative structure of the organisation.

The creative equipment that Ludus has acquired has already been used extensively. Video blogs have been introduced as a means of documenting the activities of the touring company. This is, however, part of a constant learning process; something that Jamie stressed is ongoing. Initially it was seen as an extra task adding to the workload of the already overloaded dancers and a company running at full capacity. However, after timetabling dancers to work on the video diaries the practise now seems to be more embedded in working routines. Another issue with video production was the quality of the footage that was being captured by the dancers. As skill with the camera and knowledge of the video editing process has increased, the production process has been refined. The dancers now rough edit the clips before the marketing staff fine edit and post them to the web site. By distributing the stages of the effort among several members of the organisation, the size of the task has become more manageable. The creative potential of the new media is being explored in education, in the ways in which they might work with children in workshops. The cameras are being used to encourage those individuals who dont want to dance to be involved in choreography and to direct and execute the performance as a way to take part in it. Anna expounded further on the work that Ludus is doing with schools: [ICT] brings a new element for you to facilitate in your workshop. If you are good at facilitating peoples learning and creativity the camera is an added possibility to that. Artistically the use of video is very exciting. Editing a video is similar to choreography, it is about capturing a moment, or a phrase, or a dialogue in shape, space, time, form - its very similar to the elements within the language of music and the language of dance. Ludus has also discovered an unexpected application of the video equipment by using it to communicate the value of the work that Ludus does to funders, providing them with a visual record of the qualitative benefits of Ludus programmes. Video is a means of documenting process, and of portraying intangibles like the excitement and joy on a persons face when they realise dance is something they can do. It is difficult to describe in words something as personally powerful as changing someones view of themselves. However, in moving images it is extremely compelling. Being able to demonstrate this to their funders is very beneficial. Good use is being made of video diaries to communicate the value of what Ludus does. Because video speaks more than words it is also becoming a key tool for sharing good practise. As Gil Graystone pointed out, the arts are about quality of life, about wellbeing. Having another way to document that is to our favour. Case 3: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic The main strand of the AmbITion intervention at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the development of the production capacity of the Philharmonic Hall through the installation of cameras, has been completed. While there were some issues with the project management of the installation, which was carried out by a third party contractor, these have been resolved. Now that the equipment has been installed in the Hall, the company is making plans to recruit a video editor to carry out in house production. Other strands of the intervention, such as the re-launching of the web site, have yet to be realised as a suitable partner to carry out the work has not yet been located. The cameras will generate new revenue streams, new ways of reaching out to and developing audiences, and will provide lower-cost marketing and promotional videos. Without AmbITion it is unlikely that the company would have invested in them. Millicent Jones, the Marketing Director, has been responsible for the installation of the cameras in the Hall, a fact that seems to have had some impact on the initial buy-in to

the project across the company. However, although it was often stressed to us that it took time for others in the company to buy into AmbITion, all those that we spoke with are very committed to the intervention and the changes it will bring to the companys business practises. Great store is being placed in the potential of new media and video production to personalise and open up the Philharmonic Hall and to change perceptions of the Philharmonic building. A new position in the company, funded by a knowledge transfer partnership with Bangor University, is being created in order for video editing and production, which is currently outsourced, to be done in-house. The company is being innovative in the use of new media for educational settings. Peter Garden, the newly appointed Director of Learning and Engagement, explained that the AmbITion programme is all about the future, and how we can exploit digital technology, and new media specifically, around our learning programme and increasing access to music-making, but supporting the live experience. The possibilities for new media to transcend spatial and temporal boundaries and to engage with new audiences is being realised through AmbITion and the installation of cameras in the Philharmonic Hall. Another project for which AmbITion was cited as being the catalyst is the development of a whiteboard widget for use in classrooms. This is part of an initiative to replace their current educational material (a teaching pack of lesson plans and an accompanying CD) with more interactive media. The project is being funded by the Technology Strategy Board to the tune of 15000. Millicent stressed the importance of digital media to the interviewers as part of RLPs educational programme. Digital media is where The Phil's younger learners live and breathe. It's taken for granted by this audience that anything that wants to engage, enthuse and involve their imaginations and aspirations will do so interactively. The company is currently working with the Wirral Children and Young Peoples Department, with whom they have identified an absence of applications that can be employed in the classroom to see and hear an orchestra in full flow. The whiteboard widget that they are developing will enable the entire class to hear and see a real orchestra in its natural setting within Philharmonic Hall via an interactive whiteboard. The focus is then upon user experience, and the ways in which the experience can be captured, used and promoted. Ideally, it will be used to inform local school audiences about the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and orchestral music months in advance of a schools concert series. Thus, as Peter Garden was keen to point out, through the use of new media the interactive experience you will get in the classroom will be as if you are in a virtual Philharmonic Hall . . . so you have a deeper connection with the organisation before you have ever set foot in here. The tension between the investment needed to keep an ensemble on site at the Liverpool Philharmonic and the desire to promote a more diverse musical programme is perhaps heightened by the soon to be realised production capacity of the Hall. The emphasis in the recording and production of performances is currently on the orchestra, with whom performance rights have been negotiated. In this respect the contractual constraints on performance rights are an obstacle to the greater interactivity and audience engagement that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is striving to promote. New innovations in core business activities in music and events could be explored if they can find a way around the impasse of contractual processes and negotiate new forms of collaboration between the venue and outside artists. While the production capacity of the Hall will allow the generation of new revenue streams through venue hire, it seems that the issue of performance rights, until resolved, will ensure that video production remains focused on the orchestra.


Case 4: Aldeburgh Music The intervention at Aldeburgh music is still in the consultation stage. With the aid of the expertise provided by AmbITion, Aldeburgh Music is looking to improve its information systems and re-design and re-launch its web site. While, as a Tier 2 organisation, the money for implementing any recommendations will still have to be found, the exercise as a whole has proved to be a valuable experience for the organisation. The value derived from participating in the project does seem largely to be attributable to the engagement of Dave Potts as the Tier 2 consultant, and there was much praise for his efforts to date working with the company. Harry Young, the Operations Manager, noted that [at] the outset we were concerned that we may not get, perhaps, clear advice on where to move forward, but actually I think we are very pleased with his [Dave Potts] report and he has been very patient with us. Harry also stated that Dave Potts seems to have a good understanding of who Aldeburgh are as an organisation, the problems they wish to address, and their organisational culture. Harry noted that Daves expertise is probably with web sites, but they wanted assistance on software packages to house data. At one point they felt that the consultancy was being steered towards web advice. Actually thats not really what we need from him and he has now grasped that . . . Maybe we werent clear in our brief to start off with about what we needed. Dave has been primarily concerned with the appraisal of the different databases that the company currently use for programming. The main issues with these systems are common access, interoperability and the lack of familiarity with software packages such as Artifax. The systems and data manager, Nick Thorpe, was well aware of the issues they have with different databases and information flows across the organisation prior to involvement with AmbITion. However, Nick explained that that he was not aware of how strongly people felt about these issues until he had heard the results of feedback and interviews that Dave had carried out as part of his initial consultation. While Dave is preparing a proposal for possible solutions to the companys database requirements, he has also provided advice on the development of the web site. Interestingly, Harry was unaware of the fact that he has also been acting in this capacity, again suggesting that the company might benefit from thinking about horizontal information flows, and the ways in which these could be better facilitated. A lack of faith in the reliability of information entered into the system also needs to be addressed. As Harry observed, at the moment people would want a second opinion to confirm that the information they found on one system is correct and up to date and hasnt been usurped by something else. Nick emphasised that improving communication is a goal, whether this is achieved through implementing improved systems and databases or by changing the culture within the company. However, he was concerned that they should not rush into a solution. Whatever system they decide to implement, it must work long-term. Mark Ernesti, the Marketing Manager, is responsible for re-launching the web site. He noted that the value of interacting with Dave has been having a critical voice to reflect on the redevelopment of the web site. Interactivity is now at the heart of the way in which they are thinking not only about the web site, but marketing, which, in Marks view, has traditionally been a one way street targeting the customer. According to him, this marketing approach has been revised over the last twenty to thirty years in other sectors with a far greater emphasis on interactivity. He feels that the art sector is far behind other industries in this respect. Nick stressed that interactivity and community are key concepts which feature in the ways that they have thought about redeveloping the web site. He described the current web site is very static, having limited movement between 11

customers and the company. Mark sees the website not just as an outward facing platform, but also as a potential source of information to different parts of the organisation. He hopes that it will also serve to focus the editorial teams efforts and help to channel their output on the production of copy for the web site. The extent to which Aldeburgh has engaged with the kinds of changes that AmbITion hopes to bring about is evident in their commitment of project funding to additional time with Dave Potts, if required. Importantly, they have also created a new position in the marketing department with a public relations portfolio. On the changes wrought by AmbITion, Nick stressed that people are working at full capacity most of the time and it is difficult to take the time to think about issues. The project has thus given them the impetus to find the time in a very busy schedule as well as providing much needed professional expertise. While AmbITion has pushed them along, it is difficult to quantify the impact that the project has had on the company. Harry commented that while AmbITion might have galvanised more focused reflection on what the issues and possible solutions are, the creation of a new office over the road might well have acted in the same way as a prompt to review systems. However, having an expert on hand to help us sift through the options is what, Im sure, has prevented us spending too much money on the wrong system. Themes and Issues The value of the consultants We have had very positive feedback from the arts organisations on the work of the consultants, which stands in contrast to some of the comments that we received during the first phase of the evaluation. During our first site visits concerns had been voiced, particularly in Tier 2, over what added value the consulting process might bring. These concerns may have been coloured by some general disappointments with the project as it ran into some early setbacks. While, in some cases, there seems to have been a miscommunication between AmbITion and certain organizations about what the project would entail and how it would benefit them, the apparent inertia of the project after project bids were made and the unexpected delay in forthcoming funding did not help matters. Post implementation the organisations seem largely to feel that the consultants have proved their worth. People at Ludus spoke very highly of Mike Greenwood, and at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Roger Tomlinson was also highly praised. For both of the Tier 2 groups it is clear that the work that Dave Potts has carried out on their behalf is thought to be a significant improvement over the previous consulting engagement. Generally speaking, perceptions of the AmbITion project are far more positive now, and aside from the obvious financial and material benefits, the work of the consultants and the expertise that they bring to the project is seen to be part of the value of participating in AmbITion. We do however have two main concerns that arise from the ethnography and from our own critical appraisal of the project. First, there is no evaluation of the recommendations made by the consultants themselves. That is, while the organisations are pleased with the work that they have carried out, there is no independent expert appraisal of their intervention. Dr Alan Blackwell appraised the technical development of the knowledge portal by Bedford University in his capacity as advisor to the project team. However, there is no similar technical evaluation of the work carried out by the consultants. Our ethnography of the project does not address the technical aspects of


the respective interventions, and any evaluation that we can provide is further constrained by our limited period of engagement with the arts organisations. Related to this is our second concern, that our evaluation is not able to ascertain the long-term effects of the project. We would strongly recommend that the Arts Council, through whatever capacity it has available, continue to monitor the changes that the AmbITion project has brought about in the constituent organisations. This should be done not only for the further evaluation of this interventions long-term benefits and to learn how future funding initiatives might be implemented, but also in order to capture some of the exciting and innovative examples of best practise that have taken place in the project, particularly in the use of new media for the purposes of marketing, education and performance. The aim of the AmbITion project was to bring about change in arts organisations through the use of new technologies, to make these groups more commercially aware and efficient entities able to generate surplus through new revenue streams. However, we feel that the most innovative developments have been the exploration of the possibilities of new technologies in education, performance and outreach. AmbITion is likely to leave its mark in ways that go beyond improved business practises as new forms of creative endeavour and experiments in education and public engagement continue. If the activities of the organisations we have worked with are any indicator, digital technologies, especially new media and the internet, are blurring the line between the creative and public service or educational missions of arts organisations and enabling the arts to have effects beyond the stage, or screen. This will likely continue as the lessons learned from AmbITion are passed on in the arts community and novel ways of using digital technologies are increasingly embraced by educators and performers alike. Timeline In our view, the timeline for AmbITion has been tailored to suit the needs of the funding agencies rather than the requirements of the interventions and the path dependency of individualised programmes mounted as part of the project. As we made clear in our first report, the issue of the release of project funding has largely been beyond the control of the AmbITion project team. However, the lack of flexibility in the project timeline as a result of this has meant that the particular circumstances of some organisations could not be addressed. We made clear in our first report that the delay in the release of funding had a significant impact on the activities of the Royal Philharmonic Hall, and their ability to coordinate with and capitalise on Liverpools status as European City of Culture in 2008 and its associated initiatives. Ludus Dance has, during the course of the project, had staffing issues that could not have been foreseen at the start of AmbITion, and the company is now working to the limit of its capacity. For Ludus, AmbITion is an important project that has become linked to changing the ways in which the company operates and engages with its audience. The implementation of the database and the use of video will significantly transform working practises, both creative and administrative, within the company. These are changes that have major implications for the future of the company. Yet the project timeline does not allow for the contingencies of the individual critical paths of the respective interventions, and has therefore put great pressure on staff to ensure that the company complies with the March deadline for the completion of AmbITion project activities. Furthermore, given the implications of any implementation for the future well being of the organisations - the introduction of new databases for example it would seem more


logical for the project to have been run to the exigencies of the individual programmes and the issues that have arisen with companies during the duration of the project. We would also reiterate concerns about the timeline from the perspective of this evaluation. As the project comes to an end in March it will be difficult to assess the impact that it has had when much of that impact is ongoing. Aldeburgh Music is another organisation that is expecting to have some solution to its IT problems from its consultant, Dave Potts, around the time that AmbITion is scheduled to end. Nick Thorpe pointed out that although the consultancy AmbITion has brought them has been useful, it has yet to steer them anywhere. Until they are able to assess Dave Potts recommendations, it is not possible to tell if the process has been useful. The process of consultancy has illuminated the complexity of the systems Aldeburgh Music runs, how they stand alone from each other and that there is a need to resolve this. As yet, however, there is no solution. The project timeline thus makes evaluation of this intervention difficult to assess. Informal interaction with other organisations In our earlier report we noted the desire for more interaction with other organisations and networking events to be included as part of AmbITion. The AmbITion project team have responded to this by organising a programme of training and social events that have addressed many of the needs that were voiced in the first report. Attendance at these events, we are told by the AmbITion project team, has been good. There has been increased activity in the AmbITion extranet, although as yet this interaction has been somewhat sporadic. Hannah Rudman informs us that the aim of the legacy phase of the project is to embed the lessons learnt through AmbITion in the arts sector more generally via road shows, social networks and digital media assets. However, questions of the sustainability of this programme and the relationships it might engender once the project has come to an end are as yet unclear. Yet there is no doubt that it would be of benefit to arts organisations if they could learn from the experiences of other organisations that have been through similar processes of change and technological implementation. Aldeburgh Music mentioned that their AmbITion consultant, Dave Potts, has agreed that he will facilitate an introduction to other people that he has worked with who have gone through similar processes of change. The Aldeburgh Music management team found this to be of great value, and it is something that the other consultants might also be able to provide for the groups that they are working with. In this capacity they might also work to socialise the AmbITion knowledge portal, perhaps providing answers to common questions on software packages, database implementation and so forth. There is much to be learnt from AmbITion, and the experience of the arts organisations themselves is, we feel, of great value to the wider arts sector. This is an issue that may be addressed through the incorporation of the existing knowledge portal and, importantly, the appointment of a social network creator by the AmbITion project management team. In this respect the management team have responded thoughtfully and imaginatively to the issue of the legacy of the project. Knowledge Portal Given that the AmbITion intervention is informed by the notion of interactivity and the use of new media for audience development, we would ask why, to date, the knowledge portal remains an under-utilised asset? In our view too much time has been spent on trying to implement a bespoke solution for the knowledge portal when open source 14

solutions might have provided a better and more cost effective solution. There has been much criticism of gated online communities1, and if the aim of the Knowledge Portal is to facilitate knowledge transfer from the AmbITion project to the arts sector more widely, then it has yet to be used to its full potential. Activity on the AmbITion extranet has begun to increase and sustained threads are beginning to appear. However, so far this seems to be the result of Adrian Slatchers exemplary efforts to provide feedback and generate provocative topics for discussion. In our view there is a danger of an opportunity being lost here. Adrians efforts in generating posts and threads might not be sustainable after the life of the project, and it is unclear whether the discussions will begin generating themselves any time soon. We feel it was a mistake not to generate a more public presence for the project from the outset, both to provide transparency, to advertise the project and its benefits, and to provide a wider forum for discussions of best practise and innovation using ICTs in Arts organisations. From our ethnography, we would suggest that answers to specific queries are what would be of greatest value to the participants. For example, the problem of trying to locate a suitable web design company to work with is, as Harry Young put it, like navigating at night. Arts organisations are bombarded with sales calls for new data base applications, yet they often lack the professional expertise to evaluate what is being offered to them. To date, information of this kind has not been available through the project website. Case studies take time to read and it is not clear what will be gained from reading them prior to doing so. This is a different kind of activity from, for example, using an object focused query to search on Google for an evaluation of Artifax as a scheduling application. Given the obvious constraints on peoples time, a more precise way of extracting information from the experiences of others would be of value to the AmbITion project constituency and the arts sector more generally. Discussions around software choices, the purchasing cost of equipment and services and the performance of website designers are the kinds of information that arts organisations are lacking. If the knowledge portal were to make this publicly available, perhaps in simple threaded discussion format, there is no doubt that this would be of use to arts organisations that have little experience in these areas. Performing Rights Legislation The legal issues with recording live performances due to performance rights legislation suggests a contractual process out of step with the advent of new media forms and digital modes of production in the music industry. The possibility for new kinds of collaboration between venues and artists could potentially transform relations in the industry between artists, venues, and rights holders (e.g. production and media companies or publishers). Yet it would seem that the potential for the transformation of the relations of production has yet to be explored for fear of the cost implications and the difficulties in negotiating the complexities of individual performing rights agreements. We would ask if the Arts Council could do more to support the exploration of contractual issues with regard to performing rights and digital production and distribution.

See, for instance, Wilson, L. (2006) Some Problems with Assuming the Object of Learning is Learning Objects: Knowledge Resource Network Evaluation Report. Cambridge MIT Initiative.


Uptake of new technologies There are three key issues that arise from our ethnography relevant to the uptake of new technologies and their being embedded in the working practises in the arts organisations in which they are implemented. 1. Intangibility of digital media The intangibility of digital media seems to be an issue. Comments from people that we spoke with at Ludus Dance where a new database is to be implemented are informative. Anna Frisch, a community dance artist, stated that when accessing information from others I find it easier if there is a post-it note on my desk. She likes to flick through files, has a preference for the real over the digital, as it were. This preference for using pen and paper may suggest there is more at stake in moving from paper to digital systems. Hannah Robertshaw at Ludus, noted that often I find that I take things in a lot better if I write them than if I type them. The act of writing is, in Hannahs account, part of the process by which knowledge is assimilated. That is, the physicality of writing is an important part of the way in which Hannah embodies knowledge2. This is not just an abstract process, but rather a learned skill brought about through interaction with a particular kind of technology. Working through a keyboard is a different kind of physical process, and this may well have implications for the processes of knowledge acquisition. The knock-on effect for the person familiar with other technologies of writing is seldom considered in the move to digital technologies. 2. Depersonalisation Additional concerns were expressed about the transformation of working practises wrought by a focus on increasing the use of digital technologies. Specifically raised was the expectation that technology might depersonalise interactions between people in the workplace. Although several studies have demonstrated that the effects of digital technologies on social relations are neither universally positive nor negative 3, the concern on the part of the people to whom we spoke is significant. In several cases, face-to-face communication within the company was described to us as more efficient than emails. More than this though, several people observed that, for them, face-to-face communication was not just about exchanging information for purely professional purposes. At Ludus social interaction between people in the workplace was commonly cited as an important factor in how the company functions and what people value about working there. At the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic informal interaction is also an important aspect of communication between people and departments. Improving communication between departments in the organisation was not something that a technological fix was seen to be capable of accomplishing. Communication issues are, for the large part, perceived to be social issues. At both Ludus and the RLP concerns were expressed about an over-reliance on email for communicating within the organisation. As a mode of communication it was seen to be impersonal, ambiguous, and to prolong issues that would be settled far more quickly and efficiently through personal interaction.

See Downey, G. (2007) Seeing With a Sideways Glance: Visuomotor Knowing and the Plasticity of Perception. In Ways of Knowing: New Approaches in the Anthropology of Experience and Learning. (Ed.) Mark Harris. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books. 3 See, for instance: Boellstorff, T. (2008) Coming of age in Second Life: an anthropologist explores the virtually human. Princeton: Princeton University Press. and Strathern, M. (2002) Abstraction and decontextualisation: an anthropological comment. In Virtual society? : technology, cyberbole, reality. S. Woolgar, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


At Hoipolloi the switch to digital office practises has not been complete. Although the intranet has afforded distinct advantages in terms of being able to work away from the office, scheduling is still managed on several large sheets of paper taped over a wall where the tea and meeting areas are located. The transfer of this scheduling sheet to a digital equivalent has yet to happen because the company is at present small enough to be aware of what other members of the company are doing. They also tend to communicate with each other very well anyway, and it seems to them unnecessary to put things into the network when they can just call or turn around to talk to someone. Thus there is great store placed in informal relations within these organisations, and a corresponding reticence to engage with systems that might detract from satisfying social engagement. The paperless office is not the people-less office, and information systems cannot accommodate all facets of human social interaction. 3. Faith in digital systems The issue of faith in the reliability of digital technologies was also a commonly expressed concern. Gil Graystone, reflecting on the process of moving from paper-based systems to the newly developed database at Ludus, noted that you kind of occasionally have this doubt where technology is involved. At the moment your pen and paper and your files and head, you store all that information, and having been here for the years that you have, you just . . . by osmosis you absorb a lot of that information. Whereas if it [information] comes to being in technology maybe that fraction of doubt, is it right, is it all there, and can I trust it, but equally [is] everyone behind making that shift? Gils allusion to osmosis is interesting, and it may reflect her concerns over the ability of a digital database to encompass all forms of knowledge processes and information flows within the company. That is, the kind of tacit knowledge one gains from being located in an organisation, through personal interaction with colleagues and doing the job over time, is complicated and it might seem doubtful whether one can translate ones own tacit knowledge into the structured knowledge management of someone elses software. Issues of access to information, including knowledge of the use of applications (which has further implications for the reliability of data entry) and the use of more than one system, all contribute to the preference for hard copy at Aldeburgh Music. Harry Young commented that, at his previous organisation, he had done all his scheduling through MS Outlook. However, at Aldeburgh he had got into the habit of keeping a paper diary. This was working practise within the company, and used alongside Artifax to schedule and programme events and artists. Probably [it] is a good system it just hasnt been trusted and not enough people have really got to know it well. The importance of play Having the time to experiment and discover the potential for new media, to play around with it, seems to have been an important part of engaging with new technologies in the organisations. Training courses in video production have been a vital part of learning to use new equipment. However, the ways in which this equipment has been employed, to engage and challenge audiences in stimulating and exciting ways in both performance and education, is due to the realisation of creative potential. At Ludus, dancers were able to incorporate the use of video into their work with children to achieve learning objectives by exploring the similarities between video direction and choreography. They were able to do so because they had the space and time to experiment in their workshops. Simon Bedford at Hoipolloi similarly stressed the importance of play in learning what it is possible to achieve with new media. The process by which this experimental learning takes place is in a sense improvisational. That is, it is generative of new kinds of practises, new ways in which existing practises might be enhanced or transformed in a


fluid and changing social world4. It is perhaps no coincidence that this experimentation was more evident in performance focused companies like Ludus, where, it would seem, the creative potential of new media is more likely to be explored in an atmosphere of open innovation in new products. In companies where the distinction between the producers of an art form and its consumers is more distinct, the most innovative uses of new technologies seem to be in the field of education. At the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic new media is being employed to improve access to music-making and capitalise on other developments in classroom technologies. We were impressed on our first visit to Aldeburgh Music by the Education department there. Their level of knowledge of developments in new media and their technical competence was greater than that found in other areas of the organisation. The ways in which they were attempting to make use of these new technologies in their own practises in schools and prisons is a great example of the kinds of best practise that the AmbITion project seeks to encourage and learn from. This is not to say that creativity and improvisation is confined to these areas of the companies. Rather, it is to say that there is perhaps more scope for experimentation, for playing around, in these areas. The trick for these organisations is to ensure that innovative practises are not confined to particular departments so that lessons learnt in one area of the company are available to inform practise in other areas. In this respect using web sites as a platform to engage both audiences and company personnel would seem to be a good use of the resource. However, knowledge transfer does not happen in a social vacuum, and co-location of creative and administrative teams might also help to facilitate the cross fertilisation of ideas and practises between the departments more able to play around with ideas. Engagement with organisations We have been impressed by the level of awareness of the AmbITion project team of the tensions within companies and of the individual dynamics and cultures of participating organisations. However we feel that, to some extent, this knowledge has not been employed to full effect. In our view the approach the AmbITion project has taken could at times have been better tailored to suit the ways in which particular organisations actually work, their levels of existing knowledge and expertise, and communication issues that have had a bearing on the interventions that have been undertaken by the project. While a risk assessment was carried out prior to implementation, it seems to us that this was primarily to assess the capacity of an organisation as a good investment for AmbITion funding. While important, more could have been done to prepare for the implementation stage of AmbITion. Champions within companies with whom Hannah Rudman and the AmbITion team have worked have, in many instances, been chiefly responsible for driving the project forward. While this has certainly been necessary, in our view a broader engagement with several people within the companies might have been, in some cases, an option worth pursuing given the time and resources available. There is obviously a line here to what extent should an intervention like AmbITion engage with the ways in which an organisation operates both formally and informally? However, given the level of knowledge that the AmbITion team has of these organisations and the project lead time prior to the implementation stage, it is worth considering how things might have been better addressed in the initial stages of the project. In some cases existing tensions in an

See Hallam, E and Ingold, T. (eds.). (2007) Creativity and Cultural Improvisation. Oxford, New York: Berg.


organisation have been exacerbated as a consequence of being involved with AmbITion. The tensions to which we allude are to be found, to some degree, in most organisations and are to do with access to resources, departmental priorities and personality clashes. However, we feel that some of these issues might have been alleviated by a more sensitive approach to the socialisation of the project and a closer engagement with individual companies. We are aware of the limitations on time and resources at the outset of the project, and it should be said that these restrictions have effectively prevented the kind of initiative that we suggest here. We would further note that given these limitations, the issues with project visibility and the disillusionment and frustration felt by some organisations that were flagged in our first interim report were perhaps unavoidable. The point we wish to emphasise here is that it is worth considering that greater resources might be allocated to scoping activities and maintaining relations with organisations at the outset of future projects like AmbITion. A closer engagement with participating organisations would have contributed to a higher profile for AmbITion, especially with the Tier 2 organisations that have often felt to be at the margins of the project, and would probably have helped to alleviate some of the tensions that have arisen as the project has run its course. Change AmbITion is an advocacy project with goals beyond the implementation of digital technologies. The broader aim of the AmbITion project is to effect change in arts organisations and in the arts sector more generally at the level of both policy and practise. It endeavours to strengthen the sector through a realisation of the potential for better marketing and business practises offered by new technologies. In a presentation at a recent AmbITion project meeting Hannah Rudman drew attention to the Arts Council statement at the 2008 Labour Party Conference. In that statement, the Arts Council expressed the need for a focus on, and investment in, digital technologies in the arts sector. In Hannahs view, the AmbITion project has thus achieved, or at least moved further towards, the Arts Councils goal of bringing about change in policy in the arts sector. Whether the Arts Council statement can indeed be seen to be an effect of the AmbITion project is a moot point. For some years now the notion of interactivity, encompassing such concerns as public participation, active citizenship and empowerment and with more specific questions and anxieties about the proper way to bridge the gulf between popular culture and the esoteric worlds of technical expertise has been evident in public sector policy5. However, we have noticed a marked change in attitudes towards digital technologies amongst the arts organisations we have worked with as part of this evaluation. There is an awareness of the potential for digital media to transcend spatial and temporal restrictions, as evidenced by the use of new media and web technologies in a variety of ways. For example, the use of video diaries by Ludus to introduce potential audiences to their company before the commencement of a residency; the ways in which Hoipolloi might reach out to an audience in the US, guided by their use of Google analytics; the intention of Aldeburgh Music to use their new website not just as marketing tool, but as a creative space for audiences; the use made by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall of

Barry, A. (2001) Political Machines: Governing a Technological Society. London and New York: The Athlone Press.


video to introduce people to both the Hall, a space associated with high culture, and the orchestra, which they might otherwise find intimidating or hard to relate to. There is good evidence of wide ranging transformations in practise in the companies with which we have worked. We have no doubt that AmbITion is the catalyst of these changes with both the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Ludus Dance. Amongst the Tier 2 groups it is clear that the project has provided the funding, the expertise and the impetus for addressing issues with information systems; the use of new media; strategic marketing through the use of web technologies and customer management systems; and the purchase of new equipment. The creation of new job roles for video editing and audience development at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Aldeburgh Music is further evidence of a longer-term commitment of resources to interactivity and personalisation agendas, and of organisational change. The AmbITion project management team have responded to the challenge of finding mechanisms through which information and experiences might be exchanged between members of arts groups. They are clearly committed to effecting change across the wider arts sector, and of leaving a lasting legacy through AmbITion for the sector. As a change management project it seems fair to say that AmbITion has achieved its aims. It remains to be seen what long term impact the project will have on these organisations and the arts sector more widely.