CDN

Whitebox: Online Outcomes Planning Platform

WhiteBox has been developed over many years of practice and research by The Cultural Development Network in conjunction with local government, state and commonwealth arts funding agencies and independent producers.

Looking for economic outcomes, social outcomes, environmental outcomes or better governance by communities? If cultural activities are the means, then the causal path to those outcomes start with the cultural outcomes of the cultural activities.

WhiteBox responds to the problem of a lack of consistent narratives and understanding of the outcomes of a cultural activity. Measurement alone does not provide the understanding we are seeking if it is not considered within the whole narrative. This requires a consideration of the planning intent and the evidence leading to the choice of activities underpinning an expected result. Only with this can measurement help us understand what is achieved for participants and how efficiently the outputs and outcomes have been delivered.

WhiteBox records the whole narrative of an activity. It ensures that all activities have intended outcomes that address the strategic goal of the organisation and that individual officers and managers can access and develop their own analysis based on what they have recorded in WhiteBox. From a part-time officer in a remote local government area to a full-time facility manager of a major city; from the smallest activity of five people on a weekend afternoon through to a major seasonal festival, the framework captures the data that is consistent with all cultural activities and enables activity analysis, self-reflection and greater understanding.

The WhiteBox system is underpinned by three key research outputs:

  1. CDN’s Framework for Cultural Development Planning This framework is built on six connected planning principles; based on values, directed towards goals, focussed on outcomes, informed by evidence, underpinned by a theory of change and respondent to evaluation.
  2. CDN’s Schema of Measurable Cultural OutcomesThis schema includes outcomes that measure creativity stimulated, aesthetic enrichment, insight, the appreciation of diversity of cultural expression, and cultural belonging
  3. CDN’s 8-Step Activity Workflow The activity workflow reflects what cultural programmers and managers currently do, organised into the eight common stages, or attributes, that all activities share, including identification of outcomes, an evidence base and a theory of change.

This research is embedded into WhiteBox in the form of the 8-Step Activity Workflow that reflects what cultural managers have told us they already do. Data collected in WhiteBox can inform future practice and is aggregable for reporting and benchmarking. WhiteBox data can provide a national or regional picture of inputs, outputs and outcomes of every type of cultural activity across the cultural sector.

WhiteBox’s intuitive 8-Step Activity Workflow is:

  •  focussed on identifying and measuring the impact of cultural activities across the five public policy domains of cultural, social, economic, environmental and governance;
  •  collects and builds a library of evidence-based activities and research to support a theory of change approach to delivering an activity that will directly address the identified goal of the organisation;
  •  provides users/managers with an initial set of 28 accessible and consistent evaluation methods, that go beyond the usual emailed questionnaire;
  •  aggregates data from across the system or within an a program or organisation to provide consistent monitoring and governance and
  •  will communicate with other corporate systems i.e. scheduled marketing, traffic management providing numbers attending, dates, location etc.

Background

The WhiteBox platform is a public sector funded initiative led by CDN in partnership with Australian capital cities and the Australia Council for the Arts, with other major urban cities, regional councils and cultural producers joining in trials to make WhiteBox applicable to a diverse cultural sector. The product’s potential has received and enthusiastic response from Australian councils, trial sites and international arts agencies and has been endorsed by international local government peak body UCLG (United Cities and Local Government.)

Since 2016, the planning and evaluation frameworks developed by CDN have been presented via a series of workshops for local and regional governments across the Asia Pacific and Europe, further validating the theory and application in any setting. Over the past four years, the planning and evaluation tools have been in trials in the field with councils of varying sizes and resources as well as a range of cultural organisations across Australia and the Asia Pacific.

Each of the Australian capital cities is taking the lead on behalf of the other local councils in their jurisdiction by building and integrating WhiteBox into the activities  and governance processes of their city.

WhiteBox has evolved through a proof of concept stage, prototyping, field trials, multiple server trials and is currently in a final build trial to a beta version 1.0 with the City of Perth.

For more information about Whitebox please email: contact@culturaldevelopment.net.au