Understanding the Digital Strategy Fund

Video description

Are you thinking about submitting an application to the Digital Strategy Fund?

Do you want to learn more about the Digital Strategy Fund?

In this webinar, we’ll guide you through the Fund’s program components, guidelines and evaluation criteria.


Alea Cardarelli, Program Officer, Digital Strategy Fund

Publication date

August, 7, 2020 

Resources and downloadable assets

Powerpoint presentation (PPTX)

Tips to Keep Calm and Go Digital - Blog articles to help begin your digital transformation.

Check out the DSF components and guidelines

1. Introduction

Welcome to the Digital Strategy Fund webinar for Canada Council!

My name is Alea and I'll be your host for this session. This presentation is to help you understand the big concepts in the DSF guidelines.

What will we cover:

What we're hoping to help you with today is to explain the purpose of the Digital Strategy Fund (the DSF), to overview who can apply to the Fund, the three components of the Fund, what you can apply for, what are the deadlines, and where you can go to learn more.

2. The Digital Strategy Fund and its purpose

Let's take a look at the purpose of the Digital Strategy Fund.

Okay, so the DSF really has an important main purpose and that is to stimulate the digital transformation of the arts sector and to support strategic collaborative initiatives. What does this really mean? Well, we're looking to be able to really change the arts sector at the digital level, and the only way we can do this is to support initiatives that are strategic and collaborative, proposed by more than one organization, and really designed to increase the digital capacity of the wider arts sector, not just one organization or one event.

So there's a couple of different ways that Digital Strategy Fund is going about this digital change and the first way is to help applicants build strategic digital knowledge and capacity. The second is to increase discoverability of the arts through digital technologies. The third is to transform the digital experience of citizens with the arts. And then lastly, to enable digital transformation within the art sector at the operational level.

What's very interesting is all of these goals of the Digital Strategy Fund actually match up exactly with each of the components of the Fund.

We'll look a little bit more deeply into that as we continue along, and you'll see how all of this fits together. First though, let's take a look at who can apply to the DSF.

3. Who can apply?

In order to apply to the DSF, you're going to need to have a validated Canada Council profile, and also, you're going to need to be part of one of the following groups or have one of the following types of profiles as either: a professional artist; an arts professional; an artistic group; or a Canadian arts organization.

In fact, there are a number of profiles that actually are not eligible to apply. Let's take a look at those.

The profiles that cannot apply as a lead applicant are those for consultants and third-party service providers, non-Canadian arts organizations, New and Early Career Artist profiles, and Aspiring Artist profiles. However, not to worry, if you do have one of these profiles you can still participate by collaborating with an eligible lead applicant as a partner, or as a service provider.

Now we're going to loop back and take a look more deeply at the three components of the DSF.

4. The 3 DSF Components

All right, so the three components we have: Digital Literacy and Intelligence; Public Access to the Arts and Citizen Engagement; and Transformation of Organizational Models. As I mentioned earlier, each one of these components actually corresponds with the main goals of the DSF in creating digital change across the sector.

The first component of the DSF, Digital Literacy and Intelligence, is actually about helping you learn about digital issues and digital challenges, which aligns with the goal of building strategic digital knowledge and capacity.

The second component, Public Access to the Arts and Citizen Engagement, is actually about helping you increase the digital discoverability of the arts and enhancing the digital citizen experience. And it goes along with the goal of transforming the digital experience of citizens with the arts and increasing the discoverability of the arts through digital technology.

Lastly, the Transformation of Organizational Models aligns with the third goal of the Fund and that is to enable digital transformation within the arts sector at the operational level. Really, this component is all about business renewal and the renewal of the digital capacity of organizations and groups.

Now let's kind of dive a little deeper into the first component and give you a little bit more information and a little bit more detail so we can kind of explore this a little more deeply.

All right, so Digital Literacy and Intelligence...

5. Digital Literacy and Intelligence

What we're doing here in the first component is to support the art sector to build digital knowledge, to build digital skills, and build digital capacity. And what does this mean? Well, when we say we're supporting the arts sector to build digital knowledge, what this means is learning activities.

These learning activities are really meant to help respond effectively to digital challenges and issues and opportunities. And what that means is, you know, allowing you to identify those digital challenges and make a plan to deal with those digital challenges.

This is how you can respond. Also, to develop and broaden your strategic digital thinking. What does that mean? Well, it means to be able to think differently about how to deal with digital challenges, and potentially set up a strategy for how you want to engage with them, after learning.

And then lastly, the Digital Literacy component is meant to strengthen your ability to translate this new digital thinking and this new knowledge into actual sustainable concrete actions. So really what you're hoping is that by the end of your learning activities, you'll be able to take an action of some kind that you weren't able to do before learning.

In the end we're hoping that through learning, you'll be able to equip yourself to take actions and build a strategy that perhaps you couldn't do before you started.

All right, let's take a look at some of the eligible activities for Digital Literacy in the next slide.

When we're talking about eligible activities for Digital Literacy you'll see that they all have something in common, and what they have in common is building knowledge together about digital issues.

You could build strategic digital knowledge and digital capacity through activities like group training, or workshops, webinars, hackathons, or a shared just digital strategic plan. Or you could also gather and connect with people within the arts community or beyond the arts sector to organize symposia, forums, conferences etc. You can also research and experiment with digital technologies and innovative approaches to problem solving as a way to augment your digital knowledge and capacity. And you could propose ideas like design thinking, coaching approaches, conducting studies, and strategic foresight.

These are all examples of the types of activities, but what's really important is that you're focusing on building digital knowledge and really being clear about the digital capacity that you're building. For example, you might have heard about topics like open and linked data, blockchain, mobile technology, even data analytics, as an example, and you may not know what these are or if they could be useful to you, and you'd maybe like to explore what benefits they could bring to your community or to your sector. Or perhaps you'd like to put together a strategy to explore them, or to use them for the wider community.

In the Digital Literacy component, this is your opportunity to build your digital knowledge and build your capacity to deal with digital problems, and to explore them. Now, like the other two components we're about to explore for the DSF, this is all for shared collaborative strategies. They need to be proposed among more than one artist, or more than one organization.

Now, if you don't understand a concept, or you're kind of not sure of the type of digital solution you want to use to address a problem that you've identified, you can always come to the Digital Literacy and Intelligence component to actually build your knowledge and build your capacity to put together a strategy for a solution that you might wish to deploy in one of the other two components.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at the next component of the DSF - Public Access to the Arts and Citizen Engagement.

6. Public Access to the Arts and Citizen Engagement

In this component, what you really want to keep in mind is - the goal is to support the art sector to find ways to improve the public's access, engagement and participation in the arts through digital means; helping the public connect with artistic material in a digital environment.

There are three different ways you can kind of explore this. You can enhance the artistic experience of diverse publics. You can encourage the participation and engagement of citizens with the arts electronically, and you can increase discoverability and access to the works of Canadian artists both at home and abroad.

But let's break this down to give you a little bit more clarity on what this is about. This is about transforming the art sector digitally. So this is not about proposing a single event, or a single festival, or a single organization's programming. In fact, it's much larger than that. This is about shared strategies among more than one organization, or artist, to help the arts sector, as a community, gain abilities to transform how the public engages with the arts digitally.

And before you think about digitizing activities, it's more than that. It's about, for example, the multiple touch points the public might have when engaging with the arts. It may also deal with improving the user-centered design of an artistic experience to include public's input, and also it can include discoverability - how do you imagine different digital solutions to improve these experiences and how can you bring in user-centered situations, or make these artistic experiences more findable.

Let's take a look at a few eligible activities in this component. All right, so there are actually three different ways you can engage with Public Access. You can develop and explore a possible solution, or you can actually implement and build it, from beginning to end. Or lastly, if you already have a digital initiative, you can reinforce it and/or optimize it or scale it up. Now, what's really key is a community-wide, an arts community-wide, strategy to change the way citizens are able to experience the arts in a digital way. Think of it as improving the user experience journey. How do they find the arts digitally? How can they have new ways of engaging digitally?

You can look at different types of activities such as: consulting and developing solutions with citizens; testing new ideas as a minimum viable product; piloting projects among communities; user center design. Also, when it comes to improving discoverability and access, ask yourself - How can this be found more easily? Looking at things like metadata initiatives, open and linked data, freeware development, or digital engagement platforms or tools. Like the other two components of the Digital Strategy Fund, what's really important is that this is for shared collaborative strategies that are proposed between and among more than one artist or organization.

Now, if you're not sure what some of these concepts are, or you're not quite ready to actually roll out a possible solution, remember you can go back to Digital Literacy to learn more and build your knowledge and capacity, and put together a strategy as a preparation before rolling out a solution. You can always go back to Digital Literacy to learn.

Let's take a look at the next component - Transformation of Organizational Models.

7. Transformation of Organizational Models

All right, so this component is really to support the artists and arts organizations, to help them transform the way they work in order to address challenges, seize opportunities, and adapt to a networked and connected environment. So, this is really to help transform the way you work as an organization and be able to work in a digital, networked, collaborative, type of environment.

Here's some kind of questions that you might want to ask yourself to see if this component is something you wish to explore. For example: How is information exchanged between my staff and stakeholders and partners? How are they working together? How are they sharing information? How are different ways that we can change how we perform our work with others in a potential digital environment?

Let's explore some of the eligible activities in this component in the next slide. All right, so in the digital Transformation of Organizational Models there are, again, three different ways you can work with this component. You can either develop and explore a solution, just at the, you know, experimentation stage. You can actually implement a solution from beginning all the way through to the end, or you can actually reinforce or scale up an existing initiative that was already launched.

When we're talking about these different ways of transforming organizational models, let's take a look at what that means. It means you can work with challenges that are related to workflows and organizational models, like digital business analysis, that could be shared amongst more than one organization, consultation and development with other organizations, testing new ideas as a minimum viable product, or even piloting projects. Now, if you want to implement a new digital initiative, really, you're looking to transform how your arts organizations operate. And maybe you might want to explore implementing data interoperability between organizations, maybe open and link data models perhaps, sector business intelligence, data governance strategies, or even decentralized cloud-based and mobile frameworks.

Like the other two components, this is for shared collaborative strategies among more than one artist or organization. And you know, what you might want to think about, at like a really grassroots plain language level, is asking yourself, okay maybe we might need a shared digital strategy for a few organizations to find out our needs, our digital needs, and where we need to go next in our shared digital journey. Maybe several organizations might want to combine an information map on how to figure out information is shared to increase their opportunities for collaborative work together or to increase data sharing.

So this is the Transformation of Organizational Models.

8. Remember: 3 DSF components

Now we're going to loop back in our next slide and revisit the three components of the Digital Strategy Fund.

Remember, the whole purpose of the Fund is to propose digital transformation initiatives for the arts sector through supporting strategic collaborative initiatives, initiatives where more than one artist or organization are working together to propose initiatives that support the broader arts community, beyond just themselves, beyond just their activities.

And this is done through the Digital Literacy and Intelligence component where you can learn about digital challenges and increase your capacity, maybe putting together a strategy where you can explore solutions that make art more digitally findable, or improve the user experience of the arts in Public Access. Or, you can also propose initiatives that transform the way you work at an operational level in the Transformation of Organizational Models.

Now, let's take a look at some of the ineligible activities.

9. Ineligible activities

Since the Digital Strategy Fund has a really specific mandate, there are a number of activities that don't fit within the mandate of the Fund and it's important to help clarify so that you have an idea of where you'd like to go with your initiative.

The first thing you want to keep in mind is that an initiative that's dedicated to researching, creating, producing, or programming, artistic work or creations or artistic content, this is not eligible to the Fund.

Also, activities that are conducted for the development of artistic skills are not eligible either. What we're talking about here is exhibitions, programming of just distributing content. We're talking about also artistic skills in relation to creating content so even when it comes to, you know, video capture techniques or lighting techniques or, you know, putting together a program of content. These don't fall within the scope of the DSF. Also, activities that are conducted for the benefit of a single organization, single artist, or single group or collective.

Remember what we said activities and initiatives need to be proposed by more than one organization for more than one organization, artist, group or collective. Keep in mind it's very important that this must be for more than one organization, more than one artist, more than one group or collective.

Also, recurring or ongoing activities are not covered by the DSF, such as social media management, or day-to-day operations. So if an activity falls within the regular day-to-day work and operations of your mandate that you already do, it may not be covered by the DSF.

Next, creating or updating personal corporate or institutional websites. If you're updating an institutional or single website, this is not eligible to the Fund. In addition, if your initiative is about simply updating your computer hardware, or your infrastructure, or a technological equipment, or even purchasing off-the-shelf solutions to just roll out, this will not be eligible to the Fund.

In addition, initiatives where the final goal is to digitize material, let's say just simply to populate a database, or you wish to digitize documents or collections or archives, these are not eligible to the Fund.

Lastly, activities that have already received funding from Canada Council, such as topping up a previous successful grant, are not eligible to the DSF. Also included within this is hiring permanent staff. This is not part of the eligible activities with the DSF.

Now that we've covered the ineligible activities, we're going to take a look at the assessment criteria.

10. Assessment criteria

If your initiative is eligible, your application is going to be assessed by a committee based on weighted criteria in a competitive context. Please keep that in mind that this is a competitive context and the criteria is weighted very specifically.

So 50% of your assessment is on the Impact of your initiative towards the arts community - How far into the arts community does your impact stretch and benefit other artists and organizations? Pay clear and careful attention to the assessment criteria, it is very specific on how this should look.

Also, Relevance - How relevant is your initiative to the component that you have selected? How well does it align with the component of the DSF you're applying through? That is 30% of your evaluation.

And then lastly - Feasibility. How strong, how robust, is your plan for implementing your initiative? Is it clear? Is it well put together? Please pay clear attention to the assessment criteria that is very specific on how you can go about doing this.

Now, applications that request up to $50,000 will be assessed by an internal, or an external committee.

Since we've taken a look at the assessment criteria, I think it's a great time now to move on towards what's important, and that is the deadlines and when to apply.

11. Deadlines and when to apply

So in the deadlines for requests that are over $50,000 all the way to $500,000 dollars, you're looking at a deadline in September 2020. The exact date is yet to be determined. This is our annual deadline and the results will be available March 2021.

For requests of under $50,000 we actually have an open deadline for all three components of the Digital Strategy Fund. It's open all year. You can submit any time before the start of your activities and the results are generally available within three months of submitting your request.

For all requests to the Digital Strategy Fund in both categories, there are no limitations, and in fact, the applications you submit do not count into your annual limit for requests.

Let's look at where you can learn more about the DSF.

12. To learn more…

Now, on the Digital Strategy Fund web page, we actually have a number of resources posted for you to explore the DSF in more depth and to get some support as you start your journey.

So our web address is on the Canada Council website at www.canadacouncil.ca/funding/strategicfunds/digital-strategy-fund

On here, you're going to find guidelines for each component of the Fund. Please pay close attention to the assessment criteria, eligible activities, and eligible expenses.

Also, we have a list of successful applications from past competitions that are posted.

You're welcome to download those lists and take a look at who has previously been funded and you can even contact them to learn more about their initiatives.

We also have a selection of blog post articles at the bottom of the page to guide you in your journey to get you warmed up to the big topics when it comes to putting together a digital strategy and what that means.

Lastly, if you have questions you can definitely contact us. Our email address is digitalstrategyfund@canadacouncil.ca

When you send us a message, be sure to start with describing briefly your initiative. Please include an outline of your main activities, and also write down a short list of questions that you have for program officers.

Thank you very much for joining us today. It's been a pleasure to share some of the information about DSF.

We look forward to connecting with you in the future and we wish you all the very best in your digital journey.

Thank you!