Act Green – key takeaways
Katy Raines drills down into Indigo's Act Green research and identifies 5 key takeaways. Act Green is a national sector survey designed to find out more about how audiences feel about the climate emergency and what role they think cultural organisations should play in tackling it.
In May 2022, 58 organisations took part in the Indigo and Point One Act Green research, gathering 12,000 responses from audience members in the UK.
The results from the research can be found in detail in the Act Green National Sector Survey Report and Webinar.
Katy Raines, CEO at Indigo takes us through the key takeaways.
Background to the survey
We at Indigo have been busy for the last two and a half years trying to get our heads around what audiences - past present and future - have been thinking, and how that affects us in the Arts, Culture and entertainment industry. Our focus was very much on the impact of Covid as we all navigated a new and scary world, but tried to really understand how customer sentiment needed to shape how we communicated with and reassured our audiences.
So when we were approached with the idea that we could do something similar for the next big emergency facing us - the Climate Emergency - we realised that many of the challenges have a lot of similarities with how we felt about the Covid challenge at the start:
- Firstly we all recognise it as an emergency that needs a response right now. It can’t wait.
- Secondly it can appear scary and overwhelming, but by working together we can start to break it down into manageable chunks
- And thirdly, we have to include our audiences in the conversation and be tuned into their sentiment if we have any chance of effecting meaningful change.
So we applied our learnings from conducting the Covid research into this, and were delighted that over 100 organisations registered to take part.
The results from the research can be read in detail in the Act Green Report but I’m going to outline below what I think are the key takeaways for cultural organisations right now:
1: Your Audiences WANT you to do this:
- Cultural audiences are more concerned than the general population about climate change and have made more changes - they are active and engaged in sustainability issues
- Age is a factor, but not as much as we might think - yes Under 35s are more concerned and more engaged, but let’s not assume that means that your older audiences aren’t
- And 90% of them agree (and yes it’s even 90% of the over 55s) that cultural organisations have a responsibility to influence society… not just to do our bit, but to help change hearts and minds.
- The VERY small proportion of dissenting voices - or those who are less worried is largely because either:
a) they don’t think what they will do makes any difference
b) they think that they’re compromising on quality by doing so
And these should be some of our key messaging points.
90% agree (and yes it’s even 90% of the over 55s) that cultural organisations have a responsibility to influence society… not just to do our bit, but to help change hearts and minds
2: Audiences DON’T KNOW what you’re doing
It can be really daunting to know where to start in communicating around how you’re tackling the climate emergency, BUT
- 25% of those questioned about YOUR commitment to climate change actually said ‘I don’t know’ - that’s ¼ of your core audience who don’t have a clue what you stand for
- Only 5% of the organisations who signed up to take part in Act Green had ANY mention of sustainability on the home page of their website.
3: Prioritise your messaging
I agree that there is just SO much to talk about, that if you suddenly started telling your audiences all the amazing things you’re doing or planning to do, you’d risk overwhelming them - and we know what when we over-communicate, it just becomes white noise, and people tune out.
So firstly you need to decide which bits of your sustainability efforts you’re going to talk about. You can’t communicate everything.
Well perhaps a good place to start might be to look at your own results – and if you’ve participated in the survey I’d encourage you to dig out your own results for this and look at
- What your audiences EXPECT you to do, and
- What’s IMPORTANT to them
It’s much easier to have 3 clear messages to focus on than lots and lots of lists.
4: Choose a Hero Project
Think about developing or choosing ONE project that becomes YOUR hero project – something you want to be known for, and potentially that you can galvanise fundraising and volunteer support around – as well as probably lots of media coverage.
It’s interesting that when we asked that question in the survey Biodiversity projects came top – so maybe that gives us some clues.
Finding something that’s unique to you and your organisation, and chimes with the values of your staff and your local community could help you stand out, and be ‘top of mind’ when it comes to championing sustainability.
5: Think about the opportunities for audience development
I want to suggest that there’s an audience development opportunity here.
Through our Covid work we’d already identified that under 35s were a key group to get back / engage with more in order to grow audiences and not rely upon the older core audience.
From Act Green, we can see that for this group climate is top of their agenda - AND what’s more they’re the most likely group to be receptive to the climate emergency, to volunteer / get involved and to support you financially on projects that appeal to them.
For years we’ve kind of accepted that the most frequent and loyal attenders are the older ones, that donors and members are retired, and that young people are flaky.
But perhaps this is our moment to find a way of engaging a whole new generation of audiences and donors - using the opportunity of an invigorated approach to sustainability.
We’ll have to do things differently - old style membership schemes probably won’t work - but there’s a door opening here that’s ready to be pushed for those who can be creative enough to harness it.
I look forward to seeing your creative powers get to work on this one.
Katy Raines, CEO, Indigo