As cultural institutions hear more and think concretely about “broadening participation,” the mechanisms used to understand audiences become quite critical. How do our organizations work to better understand our visitors, and what is the context in which this information helps us make decisions? Discussion can focus on theories of action, measurements/tools for understanding audiences, or discussing the (field-wide) need for broadening participation.
As one concrete example, COVES provides many American science centers with a systematic method for collecting audience-level data, enabling a language of common data points to discuss visitors and their experiences, which can then be used to discuss broadening participation within and across institutions. We have brainstormed dialog sessions between senior personnel at participating institutions to see where opportunities for growth exist, and have created an online dashboard tool for easy dissemination of visitor demographics, visitation patterns, motivations for visit, and ratings of their experience.