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What do you monitor and how do you do it?

Monitoring is hard. The fact is you can’t monitor everybody. I work with young people and the young people I work with don’t particularly like filling in forms. They need to get to know you before you even attempt monitoring, and then you have to do it a way that engaging to them. They have to trust you. Zara Hamid, The Making

Suggestions for monitoring in relation to your organisation, your participants and your audiences/visitors/attenders

Statisticians have many different ways to measure many different things, but within the arts what is it reasonable to measure and how should we do it?

Here is some information on monitoring in relation to

Probably the easiest aspect of your work to monitor. Equal opportunities monitoring should be undertaken for all staff, including freelancers, short term contracts, volunteers, work placements and friends groups. It is also advisable to monitor boards/advisory committees etc.

For all of those, you can monitor at different points in the recruitment process – who do your adverts reach? Who responses to get information? Who actually applies? Who is shortlisted and selected for interview?

Once someone is connected to your organisation, you can update and collect more data on them and their experience with you – are they satisfied with the work that they do and the way the organisation is run? Some data won’t change, and so doesn’t need to be recollected each year, but other aspects can alter year on year. Disability status might change – someone might gain an impairment, or someone might just feel more confident and feel able to discuss a hidden impairment with you

It can be easier to collect data on participants for long-term projects, or when working with set groups. If you are working with children and young people in the formal education sector, you can also gain data from schools and other sources. It can be much harder to gain information from more casual contacts, such as people attending one day/one off workshops, especially drop in sessions and others where no registration occurs.

You can try getting information nearer the end of a project, when you have already built some trust up with the individuals concerned. It also helps to let people know why you need the information and give people an opt out for each question, so that people can pass over the information that they are comfortable with.

Some people use the artists delivering workshops or projects to get the diversity data they need. This can be useful but remember they may not know everything about a person and also some people can object to being put in a box that they haven’t chosen themselves.

This is the hardest group to monitor accurately, but also one of the most important. Whether you have audiences, visitors or attenders – knowing more about them is clearly important.

Most organisations that sell tickets for their services keep basic information on their box office systems. You may know, for example, if someone qualifies for a concessionary ticket, but may not know why. If someone claims a concession as they are a disabled person, you may record their attendance, but miss the larger number of disabled people who don’t claim concessions.

With groups who book, there is more opportunity to get more detailed monitoring information from the person booking – but again no guarantee that they know everything about the people they are booking for.

There is usually little time in the booking process to gain detailed monitoring information from people who just walk up and book tickets at an event. You can offer people a monitoring form and offer them an incentive to complete it (free tickets and such).

Where you offer a free or unticketed event, monitoring visitors is more complex as you do not always have a direct relationship with each person attending. Using photographic and video evidence to capture the range of people at your event might help, but it won’t give you a true picture of the diversity of your audience (and is fraught with other issues such as child protection and confidentiality). The largest sub section of disabled people is those with hidden impairments – and by their very definition, you can’t see them! It can be easier to monitor who uses particular services instead – how many people request induction loop or audio description equipment? How busy is the lift or accessible toilet?

So how can you get a sense of who is attending and a reflection of their true diversity?

Some organisations have used focus groups – linking monitoring diversity to an opportunity to find out more about audience responses and their experiences at the event. Other organisations have used sample monitoring – picking a small number of representative events each year and using diversity monitoring questionnaires and personal support to gain as many responses as possible.

If you have an active friends group, or a mailing list from which most of your regular attenders are drawn, you might want to try an email or postal diversity survey, again with incentives to join in and options to not disclose specific information.

Box office postcode data can be linked back to census information to give an idea if attenders are coming from areas with high populations of disabled people, black and minority ethnic people and so on.

Audiences London published a report and guidelines for monitoring diversity amongst audiences. You can download a copy here

Monitoring what you do

Monitoring is not just about who you employ and who comes through the door, you can also monitor what you do. Artists and companies, consultants and associates, partners and even the organisations you use to provide catering or other services can be monitored.

It doesn’t all have to always be a formal, questionnaire based process. It might be as simple as the next time you are about to order in catering, you think about who you usually use, and then push yourself to think a little more widely.

Mystery Shoppers are a great way of monitoring what you do and gaining real feedback based on genuine experiences.