Different approaches to collecting data: String maps and bucket collections #ADA

Different approaches to collecting data: String maps and bucket collections #ADA


The second blog by Katie Burse (Programming and Participation Manager) and Sophie Wright (Communications) at artsdepot as part of their Fellowship at the Audience Diversity Academy 

One of the issues we’re  addressing as part of the ADA is how much we really know about who’s coming to artsdepot, in particular to our free and low cost festival days, where we see up to 700 people come in without registering their data. So, even though we’re nervous about asking the wrong questions, we decided to ask these people directly. And because we got inspired by Rachel Grossman’s scrappy working approach, we went DIY. 

To avoid boring surveys, we created two interactive activities. The first activity is a string map, where every participant can wrap a piece of string along pegs with answers to our questions. The second is a bucket collection, where participants put tokens into buckets with statements they identify with. We ran both activities at The Big Draw, a family festival day with 500 visitors.  

The DIY approach, helped by a good deal of enthusiasm and encouragement from our stewards, proved attractive and popular. People got involved because they liked the look of it, and because they could anonymously compare their own answers to others. Stationed with the string map, I had some lovely conversations with teachers who were openly planning to steal the idea for their classrooms. Parents enjoyed that they could do the activity together with their children.  

Some of the reactions were really interesting to watch: Some parents who had driven to the venue by car (no judgement, it was raining cats and dogs) felt instantly shamed by the fact that others had walked or taken the bus. Others used the opportunity to unload stories upon stories with every step on the map completed, giving us a better picture of them than dry survey data ever could. Literally no one was deterred by my colleague explaining the purpose of the map with “We’re tricking you into giving us your data.” If anything they were encouraged. 

In reflection, the first question that has arisen from this test run was whether we were courageous enough. Particularly the bucket collection had some vague and ambiguous statements, and we’re not sure we got the most accurate picture of our audience from it. Next time, we feel, we can be challenging our audiences more. We were, however, very pleased that one of the most popular statements was “I feel comfortable at artsdepot”! 

The second question is about the language we use. As a family-friendly event, we need to keep the activities accessible to all ages. We also recognise that some questions we want to ask are too complex for smaller children to answer. Even questions like “Did our building meet your access needs?” aren’t kid-friendly (lots of explaining to do at the string map…). But how can we ask the big, burning questions and keep the activity engaging for children? Is that possible?  

Whether we got it right from the beginning or not, our DIY approach has been a great conversation starter, giving people a genuine opportunity to feed back to us and share their opinions. We’re looking forward to continuing these conversations and building the picture piece by piece. 

Katie Burse (Programming and Participation Manager) and Sophie Wright (Communications),  artsdepot 



Resource type: Articles | Published: 2020