Whilst it’s been a challenging 18 months for the cultural sector financially, cultural organisations have responded positively, seeking out new and innovative opportunities.
The cultural world during the pandemic has been truly alive with amazing digital engagement, as well as new thinking about models for the future. It has been a time of deep reflection and real innovation. The return to a ‘new normal’ will be a long process, and the challenge will be to remain agile and flexible as this process plays out. The opportunity will be to share our learning to make a stronger sector for the future – but this process may take 2 or 3 years as we emerge slowly from the pandemic. During that time organisations will need to flex, change and monitor how things are working – and this is a period which will continue to be experimental – which is where culture excels. This re-shaping is already happening, with organisations developing multiple ‘risk-based’ scenarios to test and plan in the context of a high degree of uncertainty and instability.
Future Business Planning Trends
There is a huge push to explore digital income generation, with this being the focus of many recent online conferences and seminars. Digital channels have offered, and continue to offer, many new ways of sensitively monetising content and experiences, and developing new approaches to fundraising and engagement in the digital space. We have all become digital cultural consumers through the pandemic, with an increasing appetite for great content – so this will continue to enrich the strategies that organisations have to generate income. The arrival of NFTs will also see new trends emerging and is something to watch closely. We have also seen some really interesting collaborations between cultural and commercial organisations – such as museums and streetwear brands. As cultural places open up again, the emphasis will be on the more traditional income streams such as retail, food and beverage, and ticketed experiences, but also more diverse programmes for learning or new experiences. There is significant pent up demand as a result of the lockdowns, and a thirst for the real that the digital world can’t fully quench.
New approaches from governments to strategic investment in the sector are essential. There have been some excellent funds made available for recovery, but this doesn’t negate thinking about the longer range picture. We need to see evolved thinking about capturing the huge value that cultural places and venues create; linking funding to property and real estate value will be essential moving forward, alongside other mechanisms that haven’t been implemented in many countries such as hotel and tourism taxes. These strategies can’t be ‘nice to have’ anymore – they will be essential foundations for a more sustainable future.
Barker Langham Analytics: A Business Planning Tool
Over the years we’ve worked on financial and commercial strategy development for many types of projects and clients – of all scales, and all over the world. We wanted to create a non-Excel tool for our work, accessible by clients, and cloud-based. We realised that it would be a useful tool for the sector in this uncertain time, and as part of our commitment to it, we have now decided to offer a version of Barker Langham Analytics for no cost, for organisations to use when they need it.
We have found the tool really useful – particularly the ‘sliders’ for sensitivity analysis, which are particularly relevant at the moment when many business variables are subject to change and variation. The tool will remain available as long as organisations wish to use it, and we plan to do regular updates based on organisational needs – so please do contact us if you have any suggestions.