ADESTE – Audience development in Europe


the project

Bringing in new audiences and retaining loyal followers is crucial for the health and sustainability of the cultural sector. With the complexity of such a challenge how can Europe support cultural managers and practitioners responsible for attracting audience development? What are the skills and attributes these “audience developers” need to successfully expand their institution’s reach? How can they implement audience development policies while keeping their current cultural consumers loyal and happy? How can “audience developer” skills, attributes and best practice be adapted and transferred to different cultural sectors and countries in Europe?

These are some of the questions explored by the ADESTE (Audience DEveloper: Skills and Training in Europe) project. Running over the course of 30-months (01/11/2013-30/04/2016) this project, funded by the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme, Leonardo Da Vinci – Development of Innovation – aims to support cultural organisations and practitioners in having a greater impact on access to culture and cultural participation.

The project consortium is made up of eight partners in six European countries and five associate partners based in Europe, India and the United States. The consortium is a rich mix of higher education institutions, independent and national research centers, national audience development agencies, cultural associations and organisations, and a major European network.

Why the need to professionalise the “audience developer” profile?
Cultural organisations across Europe and beyond have been and are still going through a critical phase. Challenged by economic, social and digital shifts impacting the environment in which cultural organisations operate, cultural managers must find innovative and sustainable strategies, policies and practice that ensure the survival of arts and cultural organisations and the sector at large. One key component for sustainability in arts and culture is to increase, diversify and reinforce audience participation. Professionalising the audience developer profile is necessary for arts and cultural organisations to successfully attract and engage their loyal and established followers all while bringing in new audiences to access and participate in their culture offers.

What are some external factors influencing how audience developers reach target audiences?
A variety of complex external factors are having a major impact on the cultural sector. It is crucial for artistic and cultural organisations to keep these in mind as they explore and rethink how to reach and engage with audiences. The most notable factor is the ongoing economic crisis that has dramatically changed the environment in which we work and live. Additional government austerity measures in reaction to financial and societal tensions have resulted in limited funds for arts and culture. As a result arts organisations are being forced to reevaluate their management, programming and communication. Other factors influencing today’s context are new emerging forms of artistic creation and expression that necessitate new approaches to valorize this creativity; unprecedented demographic transitions and changes (an ageing population, low birth rates, changing family structures and migration); and the rapidly evolving digital shift which influences society’s behavior, desires and cultural consumption habits.

What are ADESTE’s objectives and activities?
In response to these needs and external factors stated above, ADESTE has the specific objective to develop a European occupational core profile in the field of arts and culture based on the role of the “audience developer”. Planned activities include:

  • pooling the resources and expertise of partner organisations;
  • identifying the skills required of an effective audience developer;
  • mapping and collecting audience development best practice;
  • designing and testing formal, informal and innovative training methods for audience developers in line with the needs of the cultural labor market;
  • promoting cooperation and exchange between different stakeholders through a pan-European and cross-sectorial approach.

Who will benefit from this project?
Reaching across the European continent and beyond, the ADESTE project targets arts and cultural organisations, arts and cultural professionals, artists, researchers, cultural management students, project trainers and trainees, vocational education and training institutions, formal and informal training organisations, decision makers at the local, regional, national and European levels.

What are the expected project results?
The ADESTE project will result in a study on the profile of audience developers at the EU level incorporating the needs of the arts and cultural labor market. Furthermore, a European occupational standard profile of the audience developer will outline well defined skills and competences, and tested innovative training methods to help audience developers develop and hone their skills. These and other project results will be presented in March 2016 at the ADESTE Final Conference to be organised in Bilbao, Spain. In addition to widely disseminating a number of outcomes, the consortium will also hold major international events to stimulate discussion on the greater importance of this topic.


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