Levels of Engagement

We believe that the long-term sustainability of the sector depends on increasing the level of people’s cultural engagement. 

By encouraging more people to engage more frequently, more broadly and more deeply with culture, we can build audiences, increase sales and help to grow more volunteers and donors.  But to do this, we need to understand how people are, and are not, engaging at the moment; what keeps them ‘stuck’ in their current habits and what might make them change these habits. 

We took up the challenge from our clients to research and devise a new model of audience Levels of Engagement: a progression of five sequential clusters of behaviour that describe audiences’ deepening and broadening relationships with culture.  

What marks this model out is that it is based on the kind of pure research that is so rarely commissioned by hard-pressed arts organisations. We were able to spend time on deep, qualitative interviewing, really digging into what has shaped individuals’ patterns of cultural engagement: their childhood, family and life opportunities and experiences; and their personal beliefs and characteristics. 

This model shows what we explored:   

We mapped how these life experiences propel people to a particular Level of Engagement, but no further. And we identified the factors that might help people change that habit and cross the threshold to the next level. The great news is that we’ve turned this pure research into a practical, actionable tool to plan, drive and measure audience development. Adding just a few ‘golden questions’ to an audience survey will tell you the level of engagement of each respondent. 

But most vitally, the Levels of Engagement model helps us identify practical approaches that can really reach new audiences, increase visit frequency and increase engagement with the more challenging programming. Ultimately, developing an individual’s experience of the full range of personal and societal benefits that culture can bring makes them far more likely to give their precious time and/or money to support the sector.  

So, what works? Our research says it’s all about personal relationships – they are vital to encouraging anyone along their ‘engagement journey’. And tagging your audience database records by Levels of Engagement can help you target different interventions that will foster a sense of personal connection.
Read more about the levels here in Ready to Engage - available to download here:

Ready to Engage

Deepening public engagement with Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues

Read more about how we have used the Levels of Engagement here

Elinor is MHM's Chief Executive...

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