Data data everywhere nor any drop to drink

February Update from Pippa Jones

The Ancient Mariner in Coleridge's poem is marooned on the ocean and tortured as he sees "water, water everywhere" but none of it water that he can drink. 

Data feels a bit the same to me at the moment - it’s everywhere - big data, data breaches, data savvy, data rich, data poor and of course data protection. 

Advances in technology allow us to collect data cheaper and faster than ever before and to share, almost instantly, across a multitude of platforms. Data flow is now being described as the worlds’ most important resource contributing more to world GDP than the flow of physical goods. 

But are we actually using data to refresh and sustain our mission and purpose? Do we even know what data we have? Do we collect it sporadically and after the event or in real time and with systems in place to inform day to day decisions? Is it ticking boxes for funders but failing to give us or them a deep understanding of impact? Are we gathering data creatively and in a way which empowers those who are providing it? Or is it imposed on people with a "sorry could you fill this in we need it for funding" type approach. How do we store data? Is it safe? 

These are just some of the questions I am asking at CG, about ourselves and about the arts and cultural sector as a whole – while I know data is vital to underpin efficiency, inclusion, quality and innovation, all things we care passionately about, but actually getting to that point seems a big challenge. 

So I was very pleased to find this brilliant and intelligent new tool from DataKind UK which they presented as part of the equally brilliant and intelligent CAST Digital Fellowship programme I am part attending 

It’s called the Data Maturity Framework and developed specifically for the VCSE sector with funding from with Nesta, Teradata, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Access – The Foundation for Social Investment

It enables organisations to diagnose how they currently collect, use and store data and plot manageable steps on a journey towards data maturity. CG is using it and plans to recruit a Data Catalyst to support us with the changes we have already flagged we could make. 

Do email us at if you are interested in working alongside us to navigate through the challenges and opportunities of a “data, data everywhere” world. CG hopes to convene a small peer led Data Working Group if enough people are interested. 

If you are at the point where you have data but want to improve how you use it to prove and improve the value of art and culture, explore Make Culture Work. This is a UK wide network I set up a few years ago 

with a couple of colleagues as a collaborative space for the arts and cultural sector to share ideas, resources and contacts around impact and evaluation. There is a regular newsletter with a range of events, training and other CPD opportunities in this field. 

Finally something we all have to do regardless of size or shape is to comply with new General Data Protection Regulations so CG is running a training and advice session on this in Spring - see below for details .

Barney Heywood