The AmbITion Approach requires organisations and individuals to undergo a process of continual reflection and evaluation. The various steps in the approach provide natural pauses where this can take place. From initiating a project, through audit and diagnosis, onto developing a business case and through implementation, the online toolkit encourages ongoing reflection on the nature of your digital development and the impact it will have on your organisation.
Digital development is never just about technology, its always more about how to make digital technologies work for your arts, culture, creative, or heritage organisation/art form/audience. In all digital development projects it is important to involve your whole organisation in the learning around the project, even if not everybody is going to be directly involved in its delivery. Keeping a document like the learning loop up-to-date is a great way to engage others with where the digital development is at, and where it has impact or needs to be improved:
For staff and others who are working on the project, having some mechanisms for reflecting on the project can be highly beneficial, now and at a later date. As well as “formal” reports on the project progress, “informal” methods, such as blogs, or messages on your intranet, can keep other staff aware of what is going on. Ensure that the project is not isolated from the rest of your organisation, and is mentioned at team and management meetings on a regular basis. During the implementation you might want to have a more formal process for measuring progress, for instance through the use of an online project management tool (such as Basecamp), or a regular reporting mechanism.
Encourage regular presentations about the project to your team and to others. Make one of the outputs of the project the production of a case study and give someone the job of developing this – it might be a useful task for an intern or a new starter, who could use rich media such as digital video as a part of it.
Reviewing the Project
At the end of a project where an organisation has followed The AmbITion Approach it is likely you will have a series of useful documents that have been generated at various stages of the project.
These may include:
- an initial risk assessment
- an audit of the organisation’s current technology, digital capability, and business model
- a business case
- an implementation plan
- regular “highlights reports”
- a final report
External evaluation is useful if you have the time and resources to do it. Even if you are not committed to an external evaluation of your project – or it will only take place after it is complete – it is worth considering whether you can involve an external evaluator from an early stage of the project. You may want to ask any consultants who are working you through the approach to undertake some “light touch” evaluation alongside their other work, or you might ask a university researcher or other interested party to be attached to the project from the start.
An external evaluation that can report on the project during its progress also gives you an opportunity to deal with any issues that have arisen and make changes accordingly. Don’t think of evaluation as being purely about “outcomes” but also about “process” – AmbITion programmes in England and Scotland have used external evaluators throughout the delivery of programmes so that the content and methods of programmes could be improved iteratively.
This was the series of evaluations produced by Cambridge University on the AmbITion programme in England. Two interim reports and a final report show how the programme changed as it reacted to emerging the needs of and responses from cultural organisation participants: 'Whose AmbITion?', 'Naked AmbITion' and 'Final report on AmbITion Oct 09'
Although a funder or a management team will want to know that you have achieved the outcomes of the project, and spent the funding correctly, The AmbITion Approach encourages self reflection throughout the project. Ideally, any final report should be more than a formal review of the project: it could be a vibrant set of resources that can be used to promote your work, and that can inform the development of future projects – especially if you evaluate what your users think, and share lessons learnt with the wider sector.
You should now be ready to start your next digital project with the confidence that comes from having successfully delivered your previous project. Good luck, and if you’ve a good story to tell, then we’d love to hear about it!