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Being open on the web with LEEDS 2023

Back in March we announced that we were going to be data partners for Leeds 2023 Year of Culture, and an ambition to help the organisation be effective, transparent, and to help measure the impact and create a legacy for the people of Leeds and future cities who run similar year long cultural programmes.

Leeds 2023 is a year long celebration of culture taking place right across the city. Through working with local, national and international artists, as well as with local communities across Leeds, there are a host of events and creative experiences that will be taking place - and as the Leeds 2023 website states - these range from ‘dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop, sculpture to sport, grassroots community theatre to performances on our world-class stages.’

Some of these events and experiences will be produced by the Leeds 2023 team, others will be developed in partnership between Leeds 2023 and key stakeholders, while a third group will be developed independently by individuals and communities, and promoted under the Leeds 2023 umbrella.

Given this wide range of activities, taking place across an entire city, with multiple different actors responsible for developing projects and events, ensuring oversight and a deeper understanding of everything taking place is a challenge.

As anyone who works within an organisation knows, it’s easy to be out of the loop on information that is relevant to the success of your work, or to not be able to easily hold a birds-eye view of the current progress of overall programmes where multiple partners are responsible for delivering parts of programmes or key activities.

It is also where data can come into play.

We’re working with Leeds 2023 to set up data flows that capture and visualise their current status against key indicators, and through this making it easier for all parts of the organisation to understand their current success.

Where possible, we are ensuring these data flows are automatically updating from APIs provided by the tools Leeds 2023 are using. This live data then makes it easier for everyone to monitor the progress of the Leeds 2023 Year of Culture, and allows individuals and teams to start reflecting what they can do to make course corrections if they are not currently on track to meet their goals. It’s better to see this data live and have these conversations, than get to the end of an activity when it is too late to make any changes to the outcomes.

We’ve been focussing on developing report pages for individual metrics, allowing the whole team to see at a glance, up-to-date data on how many volunteers have applied to be part of the Leeds 2023 programme and how many ballot entries for their opening show have been received. By breaking these applications down at the ward level, the visualisations we are creating will help the team recognise whether they might wish to increase marketing across the whole city, target marketing campaigns about these activities to those living in specific areas, or take no further action at all.

Our goal is to use these individual metrics to power an Impact Dashboard that allows Leeds 2023 to visualise their progress against key KPIs for funders and their overall programme goals. By capturing data for individual event programmes, such as Roadshows, it becomes possible to visualise the total community engagement activities, and uptake of these opportunities, taking place across the city on a ward by ward level.

This makes it easier for the Leeds 2023 team to ensure activity does take place across wards fairly across the whole range of programmes. Few programmes are likely to host events in each ward, but what is crucial is the balance of activities across all programmes carried out. Visualising the data in this way can also help explain to citizens, elected representatives and journalists why locations for certain activities were chosen.

This transparency also helps improve governance and reporting to funders. Trustees and funders can see, on a day-by-day basis, the progress of Leeds 2023, and it is relatively trivial to produce reports for each stakeholder that provides the key information they are interested in.

We’re going to keep working with Leeds 2023 over the year ahead. We’ve been impressed with their approach to working in the open and sharing their data wherever possible. This is useful not just for supporting operational decision making, but also for understanding and improving the experience of artists and participants.

One of the key ambitions of Leeds 2023 is to provide a new, more accessible setting that encourages those that have experienced barriers to accessing arts and culture to get involved. We’ll be working with Leeds 2023, along with the Audience Agency and others, over the year ahead to publish stories and data to help the team see how they’re engaging with different groups across Leeds and measure how they’re making progress towards this goal.

If you haven’t already, head over to the Leeds 2023 Data Microsite to see what they’ve been up to. The site is constantly changing and we’re adding new content all the time. Watch this space for another post following shortly in which we'll deep dive into some of the interesting technical aspects of the project. We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts and feedback on the site so far, which you can leave either via Github or at