Let’s Get Real – Young Audiences Phase 1

Using our established Let’s Get Real methodology, we explored how arts and heritage organisations can get better at reaching and engaging young audiences with their digital content.

LGR full group smaller


A quick overview

We worked with 19 arts and heritage organisations (there they are in the picture above) over 7 months starting in November  2015, to help them better reach and engage children and young people through developing effective digital content publishing strategies based on fit for purpose tactics and skills.

Whilst building on the knowledge, methodologies, tactics and tools developed via Culture24′s Let’s Get Real programme, this is a brand new project that has been developed in response to the cultural sector’s need to reach and better engage young people with digital content.

Who took part?

A diverse set of organisations signed up to the project:

Royal Shakespeare Company

20-21 Visual Arts Centre

Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Victoria and Albert Museum

Newcastle University Library

My Learning (Leeds Museums and Galleries)

The Long Shop Museum

Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums

MK Gallery

The Hive

National Portrait Gallery

London Symphony Orchestra


Lakeland Arts (Cumbria Museum Consortium)

Derby Museums

Wigmore Hall

Pilot Theatre

The Design Museum

Show Me (Culture24)

What’s it all about?

We believe it’s vital to reach and engage children and young people with cultural digital content and that as a sector we need to learn to do this more effectively. We need to meet their learning needs but also entertain and delight them, as we do in our exhibitions, events, performances and venues.

There’s political impetus behind the move to improve the offer for children and young people too. Darren Henley, ACE’s Chief Executive, set out his vision for these audiences in his first major speech in Hull in May 2015: ‘We have, for example, set out on the journey towards guaranteeing that every child in England should be able to benefit from a world class Cultural Education offer. Because Cultural Education should be a right, not a privilege’. This goes even further than Arts Council’s Strategic Priority 5: Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts, museums and libraries. Policies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also squarely placing young audiences at the heart of cultural provision and recognising culture’s role in their education.

If arts and heritage organisations are to serve the needs of children and young people as a core audience group it is an imperative that digital content forms a significant part of that offer. This requires more than simple showcasing of cultural content on institutional online channels. Instead this content must be shaped editorially, technically and design- led in order to meet the specific and changing needs of children and young people. Digital tools and channels are an integral part of their everyday lives to an even greater extent than for many adults.

How the project worked

Culture24 worked with a group of 19 cultural professionals from a range of diverse arts and heritage organisations, over a period of seven months starting in November 2015. We adopted the Let’s Get Real learning methodology to build strategic and practical knowledge, namely:

- Learning from others via expert input
- Learning by doing through individual experimentation
- Learning together via collaborative workshops

This took place via 4 face-to-face workshops, expert presentations, remote mentoring and homework tasks.

The project worked with experts with significant experience of the issues relating to engaging young audiences, from both within the cultural sector and outside of it. Matt Locke joined the kick-off workshop to provide expert guidance and support. Matt is founder and Director of Storythings, former Head of Multiplatform Commissioning at Channel 4 and, prior to that, their Commissioning Editor for Education. Matt brings years of experience of working on digital projects for and with children and young people. Matt went on to mentor several participants through their content experiments, alongside Abhay Adhikari of Dhyaan Design, an expert in digital strategy and identity, with extensive experience on LGR projects and Anna Husband, a museum learning and engagement specialist. 

The project also tapped into the expertise of the young audiences themselves to better understand how to respond to their needs.

The project supported the development, running and analysis of individual content publishing experiments from every participant to practically test the ideas and tactics mapped out throughout the project. Participants were supported to work with small groups of children and young people as ‘experiment advisers’ throughout the experiment life cycle.

Participants worked collaboratively alongside colleagues and peers who share similar struggles to improve their organisations’ impact and break down the internal barriers that affect the way they work and publish content online for young audiences.

What did it cost?

The project was funded collaboratively by the participating organisations, who each contributed £1,600 plus VAT.

Included in this fee was:

- Support for all aspects of the research including data gathering and analysis
- Hosting of the four workshops, including lunch and refreshments
- Cost of bringing in any external experts and relevant children and young persons groups

- One free ticket to Connecting Collections Conference 2016 (details tbc)
- Co-ordination of the group’s shared communication channel through Basecamp
- Cost of any central services or technologies that are adopted for the research
- Analysis and sharing of insights and data from the research
- The writing and production of a final project report for publication and advocacy
- Management of the project

What is not included:

- The cost of any travel and accommodation to the workshops by each participating organisation
- The cost of any technical changes needed to your own digital systems
- The cost of your staff time.

What you will gain by participating?

- Access to experts working in the field exploring digital engagement with young audiences

- Opportunity to hear and learn directly from the target audience : children and young people

- Support in developing, running and analysing your own content publishing experiment – and space to experiment with different content publishing tools and tactics in a supported environment.

- Being part of a lively and engaged peer network with a shared sense of purpose. The network will act as a source of community, knowledge and support. It will also provide a space to benchmark, compare and contrast both data and experiences.

- An understanding of ways to assess how fit for purpose your content is and how to improve that, both strategically and practically.

- Time to reflect on your wider organisational goals in respect of connecting to young audiences and the role that digital activities can play in fulfilling these (or not).

- Ability to reflect on your own organisational structures, processes and rhythms when seeking to engage young audiences with your content, to develop insights for opportunities for organisational change.

Taking part

The project is relevant for any arts and heritage organisation that wants to get better at reaching and engaging young audiences (of any age under 16) with their digital content.

Each participating organisation must put forward one member of staff to act as the liaison point for the research.  These nominated individuals could be from any department or role as long as they hold a position that enables them to make contact and collaborate with children and/or teenagers and to action some form of digital content experiment.

In addition, these project contacts will need to nominate a minimum of two other members of staff, from other departments or from the senior management, whom they will have access to and can consult with when running the individual experiment. These additional staff need to be available for  internal meetings throughout each partner’s own individual experiment. This is to allow the organisation to consider more meaningfully any changes that may be needed to its own working methodologies.

The estimated time commitment for each project partner is approximately 8 days, which incorporates attendance at the workshops, the Connecting Collections conference plus individual homework and analysis time (supported by Culture24).


The project will take place over a period of approximately 7 months (November 2015 to May 2016). The provisional schedule will be:

Wednesday 11th Nov 2015:  Workshop 1A, Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, http://wellcomecollection.org/visit-us/getting-here

Thursday 19th Nov 2015:  Workshop 1B, British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2BN, http://www.britishcouncil.org/contact/london

(NOTE: We have decided to run the first, kick-off workshop over 2 days to draw out the maximum amount of learning and practical actions as we can)

Nov to Jan 2016: First research period

Feb 2016: Workshop Two, Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London

Feb to March 2016: Second research period

April 2016: Workshop Three – Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London

May 2016: Report writing and production


This project forms part of Culture24’s unique and collaborative Let’s Get Real action research programme. The final reports from previous project phases have been downloaded over 15,000 times internationally and have resulted in spin-off projects, conference papers, collaborations and new thinking.  The frankness of these reports and their openness in speaking about the failure in the cultural sector to really capture the attention and engagement of online audiences has been met with a very positive reaction.

More info

If you have any questions about the project please contact Sejul Malde on sejul@culture24.org.uk