Announcing The IDEA Study

 

WolfBrown’s Audience Outlook Monitor Program to Continue in 2022 with Study of Audience Attitudes about Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (The “IDEA Study”)

Updated October 12, 2021

Background

 

Launched in 2020, over 600 arts and cultural organizations in the US, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia participated in WolfBrown’s Audience Outlook Monitor COVID-19 study, gauging audience attitudes about going out to cultural events during and after the pandemic.

 

The study employed an innovative new ‘cohort’ model for lowering the cost and widening the accessibility of high quality market research. Participating organizations were grouped into regional or disciplinary cohorts, with the support of numerous local, regional, national and international arts service organizations and funders.

 

In fact, WolfBrown had been in the planning stages for several years for a new approach to cohort-based research when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and it became obvious that a longitudinal tracking study focused on COVID-19 was an urgent need. With the second phase of the COVID-19 study wrapping up at the end of 2021, WolfBrown has committed to extending the Audience Outlook Monitor program into 2022 with a major new study to address audience attitudes about inclusion, diversity, equity and access – the “IDEA Study.”

 

Argument for the Study

 

Over the past two years the WolfBrown team has actively debated how we can play a meaningful role in our sector’s work to expose, challenge and ultimately dismantle the structures of cultural production that perpetuate racism, or that exclude or marginalize certain community members while privileging others.

 

The next Audience Outlook Monitor study represents an important opportunity to advance our own learning, forge new partnerships, and contribute to field learning around organizational efforts to be more inclusive and implement anti-racist practices – as seen through the eyes of audience members.

 

Many arts organizations have taken significant steps to address lack of diversity in staffing and board membership, adopt better HR policies and practices that will lead to greater diversity, and change organizational culture. Some organizations have moved towards more pluralistic models of artistic leadership and diversification of programming with the intent to serve a broader audience.

 

Many questions remain, however, as to the extent to which audiences understand themselves as a stakeholder in this work, their expectations of arts organizations in this regard, and their preferences and tastes for a more diverse palette of artistic work. Through this large-scale collaborative study we hope to learn how arts organizations can activate audiences in their work to be more inclusive – or, actually, if they can succeed at all without the support of their audience.

 

 

Over the years we’ve observed many organizations taking concrete steps towards greater diversity, equity and inclusion, but then fall short in attracting a more racially diverse audience. Does this mean that their efforts were insufficient, or for naught? Or, have we failed to develop measures that characterize movement in audience perceptions of equity and inclusion, even if those audiences are predominantly white?

 

During the fall of 2021 we are conducting extensive consultations with a diverse cross-section of arts leaders to better understand the core issues that the study might address, how learning can be maximized, and what combination of research and learning methods will yield the most impactful outcome for participating organizations.

 

Emerging Research Questions

 

  • What changes to policy and practice have arts organizations implemented to manifest their commitment to DEI?

  • Do audience members see themselves as stakeholders in arts organizations’ DEI work? Do they see themselves as participants in the larger societal discourse about racism and racial justice? How might audience members become more enfranchised in this work?

  • How do audience members feel about efforts by arts organizations to diversify their artistic offerings and production practices?

  • What are audiences’ appetites for multi-cultural artistic work and work that addresses sensitive topics?

  • How far do audience members think individual arts organizations should go in acknowledging, deconstructing, and redressing the structures of cultural production designed to perpetuate white privilege?

 

The study also represents an opportunity to develop evaluative indicators of audience support for organizations’ work in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and access - indicators that organizations might use to monitor the degree to which their DEI work is legible to, and supported by, their audiences. In this way we hope the study might lead to a more sustained practice of audience engagement around DEI work.

 

Potential Research Methods

 

Ultimately the methodological design of the study will serve its research goals, drawing on both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as cohort learning techniques. Look for more details before the end of 2021.  As with the COVID-19 study, the IDEA study will be designed as an opt-in cohort study drawing on the structures of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding to minimize cost while maximizing cohort learning.

 

For more information about the IDEA study, contact info@wolfbrown.com.