We’re right there with community innovator Nina Simon when she says, “Collecting good demographic data can help you smash stereotypes. It can help you make smarter strategic decisions and better programs.” Well, we would believe that — we’re researchers. But we also had to agree when Nina and her team at OF/BY/FOR ALL pointed out that many cultural and community organizations, especially small ones, don’t have the money to work with research consultants like Slover Linett, nor the expertise and staff to create, conduct, and analyze audience surveys “in house” in ways that are representative, respectful, and useful. They need high-quality data to see who’s participating in their programs…and who’s not. But to many, collecting demographic data seems daunting and expensive. So we were delighted to collaborate with OF/BY/FOR on a new DIY guide for participant data-collection: the Who’s Coming: Respectful Audience Surveying Toolkit. It’s free and open-source, thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. And it’s designed to demystify and simplify on-site survey research to help small and not-so-small museums, arts organizations, and other public-engagement enterprises gather high-quality demographic information about their audiences. If you’ve been following the OF/BY/FOR ALL movement or our own work in the cultural sector, you won’t be surprised to hear that the toolkit emphasizes inclusion, cultural sensitivity, and community.
So please download it, try it, and share it with your partners and networks. If you do, please let us know how it works in your setting. This resource is still evolving, and we and our collaborators are eager to improve it as we go. It’s all part of our commitment to helping build capacity for research—and fostering a culture of responsiveness and data-informed decision-making—in our clients and the wider field.
Photo credit: First Friday at Abbott Square, courtesy of MAH Santa Cruz.