Who should use the Compass?

The Digital Culture Compass is designed for people who work in or with arts, cultural and heritage organisations. You don’t need prior digital experience. We give advice on how to use the four toolkit areas - the Charter, the two Wayfinders and the Tracker - and we try to use jargon-free language. There’s a glossary for common digital terminology.

The Compass is for those at any level in a cultural organisation looking to improve digital activities, from leaders to frontline staff and volunteers. It is also designed to be used by consultants working with cultural organisations.

Because the tools are aimed at organisations, you’ll get more insight by using them with colleagues. There's value in bringing in others' perspectives either in completing the assessments or through sharing reports.

What are the four toolkit areas?

  • Charter: eight principles that underpin the other toolkit areas. They are simple for boards and senior managers to understand and adopt to help shape an organisation's digital decision-making. 
  • Approach Wayfinder: 10 quick questions to get you thinking about your organisation's overall approach to digital and areas for improvement
  • Capabilities Wayfinder: introduces 14 areas where your organisation may have activities with digital elements and gets you to consider your organisation's capabilities in each. This is a simple introduction to the areas covered by the more detailed Tracker and should take about 45 minutes to complete
  • Tracker: great either for a comprehensive assessment of your organisation's digital status and future plans or for a 'deep dive' into a particular area. You will get most value from the Tracker if you collaborate with colleagues to complete it. You will need to register to use it

What does ‘digital’ mean?

We use the term ‘digital’ to refer to digital content, services, experiences, data, systems and technologies. This wide definition means almost any area of a cultural organisation’s work might have what we have called digital ‘elements’. The Capabilities Wayfinder and the Tracker help you to consider the role of digital in these different areas.

How does my organisation compare?

The two Wayfinders and the Tracker ask you to score various aspects of your organisation. Try not to worry about areas where you give low scores or about how your organisation compares to others. Every organisation is unique in terms of its purpose, activities, context, resources and priorities. There is no correct level of digital maturity in a particular area. Trying to achieve everything at a high level might not be relevant and will lead to poor priority setting.

Where scoring can be useful is in understanding your organisation’s situation and prioritising the areas where it is most important and feasible to make improvements. The Compass tools will help you to do this and to agree next steps with your colleagues.

We also recommend that you commit to using the Compass periodically to track progress against your benchmarks and to help you evolve your digital plans from what you learn.

How is my data used?

As self-assessment tools, the data that you submit to the Wayfinders and the Tracker is yours to control. Staff at Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and other project partners will not use the data to assess your organisation, unless you choose to share with them the reports that you generate. 

The system does allow the project partners to view aggregate reports based on anonymous data, so they can see the number and types of organisations that are using the Wayfinders and Trackers and average scores for different areas and questions.

This data may be used in future to improve the features of the online Tracker, including potentially generating insights about sector trends, which we will share with you. This is the reason we ask the profile questions in Section 2 of the Tracker.

See the Privacy Policy for more information on how your data is used.

What about best practice examples?

There are many online case studies and learning resources that show how other cultural organisations have succeeded with digital activities. These can be a very effective way to inform your digital plans. The Compass doesn’t signpost specific resources because relevant examples vary hugely for different types and scales of cultural organisation and what objectives each is trying to achieve. Also new resources are being published all the time. However, we have created a list of the most relevant digital resource libraries. We encourage you to explore these, in parallel to using the Compass.

How can I turn insights into actions?

Wouldn’t it be great if using the tools in the Compass automatically generated an action plan, tailored for your organisation? Sadly, two things make this impractical. Firstly, the breadth of aspects ‘digital’ can refer to (see above). Secondly, the huge variety in the type and scale of organisations that might be using the Compass, each with different organisational contexts and objectives. Given your organisation’s unique situation, it isn’t feasible to generate detailed recommendations for an action plan based on the answers to a fixed set of questions.

However, though the Compass can’t give you all the answers, it can help you and your colleagues think through the right questions to be asking. The Compass tools and their ‘next step’ prompts offer directions to advance your digital journey. They can help you to understand where your organisation is now and where greater digital maturity might enable it to go.


The Compass has been commissioned by Arts Council England in partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund in response to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Culture is Digital report. It was developed by a partnership led by The Space with Culture24, The Audience Agency, the University of Leicester and Creative Coop.

The Compass has been developed following research and a consultation process that included workshops in all four UK nations, attended by people from more than 80 different arts, cultural and heritage organisations with various levels of digital confidence, expertise and experience.

Project team:

  • Ben Lane, Senior Manager, Enterprise and Innovation, Arts Council England (project co-lead)
  • John White, Chief Operating Officer, The Space (project co-lead)
  • Rose Barraclough, Senior Officer, Enterprise and Innovation, Arts Council England
  • Joe Bell, Digital Associate, The Space
  • Jane Finnis, Chief Executive, Culture24
  • Anra Kennedy, Partnerships Director, Culture24
  • Katie Moffat, formerly Head of Digital, The Audience Agency
  • Ross Parry, Professor of Museum Technology, University of Leicester
  • Alan Peart, Technical Director, Creative Coop
  • Ben Philp, Creative Director, Creative Coop
  • Nicola Saunders, Director - Business Improvement and Innovation, Arts Council England
  • Patrick Towell, Innovation Director, The Audience Agency
  • Dr Lauren Vargas, Research Associate, University of Leicester

We are particularly grateful to the following people for their expertise and support in the development of the Digital Culture Compass:

  • Zoe Amar, Director, Zoe Amar Digital; Chair, Charity Digital Code
  • Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, Director of Digital and Communications, Association for Cultural Enterprises
  • Rob Cawston, Head of Digital Media, National Museums Scotland
  • David Dawson, Director, Wiltshire Museum
  • Michael Dunmore, Deputy Director - IT Services, University of Leicester
  • Sally Dyson, Head of Digital Programmes, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • Kelly Forbes, Digital Manager, Museum Galleries Scotland
  • Glenys Garth-Thornton, Head of Professional Development, Institute of Fundraising
  • Kevin Gosling, Chief Executive, Collections Trust
  • Margaret Henry, CEO, Thrive Audience Development, Northern Ireland
  • Catherine Holden, Director, Catherine Holden Consulting
  • Dafydd James, Head of Digital Media, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museums Wales; Chair, Museums Computer Group
  • Kadja Manninen, PhD Researcher in Digital Economy, University of Nottingham
  • Ailsa Macfarlane, Policy & Strategy Manager, Built Environments Forum Scotland
  • Doug Maclean, Director, Groam House Museum
  • Morgan Petrie, Creative Industries Manager, Creative Scotland
  • Ashley Smith-Hammond, Creative Industries Officer, Creative Scotland
  • Sarah Thelwall, Founder, MyCake
  • Triona White Hamilton, Development Officer, Northern Ireland Museums Council 
  • Alex Xavier, Director of Membership, Compliance and Professional Development, Institute of Fundraising

Finally, we are very grateful to our workshop attendees for their time, insights and enthusiasm during the consultation process.