See also (PDF): Artse United: White Paper #1 (2018)
Additional details from market research and Minimum Viable Platform financial modelling.
The arts and culture industry must manage and share a tremendous range of private and public data to sustain the capacity of the sector to foster a more inspired and engaged society. However, the industry lacks robust data management solutions that stimulate efficiency and illustrate impact across all arts and culture disciplines. From Sumac to Salesforce and more, embedded platforms fail to respond to the ever-evolving requirements of the whole arts sector including small producers who are systemically underserved with access to relevant and affordable digital tools. The development of a comprehensive, enterprise-level solution responding to the diverse needs of the whole arts industry is warranted.
Artse United is a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform cooperative providing open source desktop and mobile arts management solutions prioritizing small producers across all artistic disciplines, including: private project and financial data management; constituency relationship management (CRM); digital asset and team collaboration management; business intelligence analytics and open data visualization/benchmarking spanning both quantitative and qualitative measures.
Artse challenges and remakes unproductive lifecycles of cross-disciplinary cultural enterprise by promoting enhanced efficiency and excellence in data-driven impact practices that sustain quality connections between artists, administrators, advocates, and audiences alike, including:
Developing an arts-centric ERP for all disciplines is a complex and ambitious undertaking that will take many years and multiple phases of investment to successfully deliver. Artse takes an iterative approach to addressing the varied organizational, sociocultural, financial and technical barriers that impede its path.
The features roadmap for Artse consists of six modules to be delivered in six distinct phases of 9 to 12 months each. At the conclusion of each phase, a public beta for the new module will be released featuring ‘quick-win’ functionalities to attract the interest of early adopters. Each module will continue to be refined over subsequent phases as feedback is collected from the community, thus gradually evolving into a mature platform that is attractive to the whole industry.
For Phase 1+2, our vision is to establish an inclusive, user-governed alternative to Canadian Arts Data and Tableau. In subsequent phases, evolution of this Minimum Viable Platform will culminate in a robust Enterprise Resource Planning alternative to Sumac+Salesforce et al, including:
Phase 1+2: Project/finance management+quantitative analytics
Phase 3+4: Constituency relationship management+qualitative analytics
Phase 5+6: Asset+team collaboration management.
Features will be rolled out within different disciplines over time, including:
Phase 1+2: Performing arts, visual arts, disability arts
Phase 3+4: Media arts, community arts, Indigenous arts
Phase 5+6: Literary arts, multi/inter arts, Francophone arts.
A decade after its launch, Canadian Arts Data (CADAC)’s limited architecture is due for an about-face. CADAC fails to meet the data intelligence needs of Canada’s whole arts industry in at least six dimensions. Artse United Phase 1+2 responds, including:
CADAC users must develop their own information systems to track and aggregate complex project data into CADAC-compliant annual reports. This time-consuming, inefficient duplication of effort is prone to errors, especially for smaller producers lacking robust systems. Artse’s accessible ‘front-end’ will offer private drill-down data entry and external data imports by project while also accurately exporting into CADAC-compliant aggregate reports automatically.
CADAC’s concentration on larger organizations amplifies systemic gaps in the availability of whole industry business intelligence reports inclusive of non-operating entities and individuals. Since CADAC’s launch, the number of small/indie producers has grown exponentially compared to traditional operating-stream companies. Artse opens quality data management tools to these underserved communities, thus strengthening the skills and confidence of the whole arts industry in deriving insight from their activities.
CADAC’s quantitative measures magnifies an emphasis on accountability (reporting what happened) over learning (understanding why it happened and how to respond). To promote quality decision-making and advocacy, the whole industry needs to cultivate robust impact practices including both quantitative and qualitative measures. Artse builds upon experiments by Culture Counts, Qualia and others to guide the design of qualitative analytics within a Canadian context. Recent improvements in real-time statistical analysis in-the-cloud also supports the deepening of more complex quantitative insights.
CADAC’s closed system does not support interoperability with other systems (i.e., data mapping from accounting/CRM software) or permit external code contributions to enhance functionality and impact. Developing Artse’s comprehensive data management platform using open source code and public APIs is the gateway infrastructure that the arts industry needs.
CADAC users must abide by a set system that is not flexible to individual practices or evolving, discipline-specific intelligence in the sector. Advances in open source and open data technology make a vision for data customization not only desirable, but deliverable, at a cost and scope unimaginable even a year or two ago. To extend discoverability and interpretation of significant amounts of customizable data, Artse will adopt such adaptive technologies as dynamic schemata (unstructured) databases and big data (MongoDB, Hadoop), real-time/predictive analytics and machine learning networks (BIRT, TensorFlow), and open/linked data via the semantic web (W3C). Our objectives are to affordably maintain backwards compatibility with CADAC standards while also permitting next-generation customization options from user-defined/ad hoc data types+reports to advanced cross-tab benchmarking for all users.
CADAC users do not have a say in how their data is used. The emergence of data cooperatives like MIDATA and Culture Creates offer alternatives. Artse will become Canada’s first data cooperative for both public and private arts data. All members participate in governance and decision-making processes and can withdraw their data at any time.
With a mandate to bolster all artistic disciplines and their devotees in Canada, Artse benefits both prioritized industry users, the wider arts sector, and broader community.
Individual artists, producers, agents, managers (aspiring, emerging, mid-career, established), plus arts services, producing and presenting organizations (small/mid-sized entities, collectives, ad hoc groups). Phase 1+2 prioritizes small creators+producers in the performing, visual, and disability arts communities in Ontario, including individual project+composite grant applicants+recipients, who are underserved with relevant+affordable digital tools to manage their projects and foster vital impact practices. The needs of larger entities+other disciplines/regions will be addressed in subsequent phases.
WIDER ARTS SECTOR
Arts advocates, philanthropists, public and private sector funders (arts educators, researchers, policy advisors, governments, individual and corporate donors, arts councils, foundations). To promote arts advocacy and decision-making in diverse communities, the whole industry will benefit from access to Artse’s relevant and timely benchmarking reports featuring participating users’ anonymous open data.
Other non-arts professionals (including technology, social services, education, public policy), arts and non-arts audiences, and the public. To encourage greater awareness and support of the arts long-term, the broader community will benefit from Artse’s improved impact communications for the arts. This is especially relevant in later phases as the platform evolves to offer CRM/ERP tools in marketing, fundraising, asset+team collaboration et al. These tools are best launched after building Phase 1+2 data management modules first.
OPENNESS & SUSTAINABILITY
While open source software is the backbone of most successful technologies today, the arts are lagging in producing open source solutions addressing specific needs of the industry. Artse fills this gap for the benefit of the whole sector.
It will take time to build a community of developers around Artse. This barrier can be minimized if code repositories and open APIs are compelling and comprehensive documentation is widely available. This will secure Artse’s sustainability as other open source, third-party add-on’s are developed beyond the scope we are able to complete on our own.
There is some latent capacity for the arts to sustain Artse’s technical development. 24% of Managing Creativity in a Digital World survey respondents reported a willingness to contribute improvements to open source code repositories for the public good. This is a high percentile given the expertise required to do so.
Outside of the public sector, the arts have yet to widely embrace the potential of open data to improve advocacy and decision-making across the industry. By pooling impact data from large communities of small creators and producers, Artse will foster the skills and resources necessary to make relevant and timely open datasets available to all. As the benefits of open data are better understood, demand for Artse will increase.
As a platform cooperative, the types and uses of data collected by the platform are governed by its members. This will help to secure Artse’s sustainability long-term as it continually responds to the ever-evolving needs and realities of its members through collective governance oversight.
RESULTS & IMPACTS
Artse will produce public betas for two modules encompassing core and custom quantitative data management and analytics (financial and activity statistics) with a focus on the performing, visual, and disability arts. An experimental app for qualitative analytics will also be produced to set the stage for future development in subsequent phases. A solid technical foundation and comprehensive pubic outreach efforts will help attract 25%+ of the estimated 2,500 users required by the Minimum Viable Platform within 12 months after Phase 2.
Artse will establish ArtsPond and partners as leading Digital Arts Services developers in Canada. As Artse evolves, we hope to establish ArtsPond as a hub for global innovation in digital arts services empowering users and developer networks nationally and around the world.
For the arts sector and broader community, Artse will fill critical gaps in impact data including the ~98% of professional artists that do not receive individual public grants for their careers. As higher-value composite grants become available to artists, individuals that do receive public funding increasingly require relevant+affordable administrative tools to reduce risk, maximize impact, and promote insight. With access to data management tools built specifically for them, prioritized users will be able to spend less time on administration and more time on creation, outreach, and revenue generation. Improved business intelligence will also strengthen efficiency and decision-making and illustrate whole industry impacts that guide public advocacy and attract greater awareness and support of the arts in the broader community.
Acquired knowledge will be shared openly from an organizational, technical, and community point of view.
Artse’s strategic models, corporate agreements, annual reports, and other processes critical to its development will be shared through creative commons resource hubs at ArtsPond.com, DigitalASO.ca, and Artse.ca. Free blog articles, white papers, informational webinars, and documentary-style videos will document the transformation of ArtsPond and Artse’s organizational practices for the benefit of the industry.
The development of open source code will be shared with the community through a freely available GitHub repository. Blog articles, technical white papers, informational webinars, and technical support documentation will also be published in English and French to document the evolution of the systems architecture, provide pre-beta demonstrations, solicit community feedback, and share lessons.
Our various process partners and advisors will help co-facilitate cross-disciplinary public consultations with potential users and early adopters in Central, Western, Eastern, and Northern Ontario. Livestreaming of these public consultations will expand our reach across Canada. Quarterly governance meetings will invite members and the public to receive detailed updates and contribute to platform evolution. These activities will ensure Artse is responsive to the expressed needs of diverse communities. They will also promote greater awareness and sense of collective ownership of the platform as the cooperative structure is established.
While beneficial to the entire arts industry, the transformative vision for Artse originally stems from a deeply internal process that lies at the heart of ArtsPond’s reason to exist.
Addressing the growing income precarity of the small/indie arts community, ArtPond was founded in 2014 as a grass-roots entity in response to Jane Marsland’s paper, “Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations” (Metcalf Foundation, 2013). Unfortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has remained very resistant to the emergence of Charitable Venture Platforms (CVPs), including a 10-page rejection of ArtsPond’s charity status application in 2015.
It is our firm belief that one of the only pathways to making CVPs a reality is to foster a robust information system like Artse. Artse is essential, for example, to effectively manage the diverse datasets required to demonstrate the three critical elements that the CRA requires to permit CVPs to operate: robust governance oversight, high artistic quality, and high public impact for every activity assumed under the auspices of the platform.
Our business modelling suggests CVPs will not be viable until economies of scale can support 110+ projects per year. This level of activity will be impossible to sustain without a robust Enterprise Resource Planning solution in place. It is our hope that Artse will become this platform. Whether a potential CVP proposes to undertake a handful (or hundreds) of projects per year, the launch of Artse will offer the types of administrative tools necessary to promote sustainability while providing the CRA with a degree of confidence that may allow these much-desired platforms to emerge within our lifetime.