Other research & evaluation methods:

Geographic mapping

Demographic characteristics like education level, income, ethnicity, age, and gender are important things to know about your audiences. But “geographics”—where those audiences live—can also be a factor in how likely they are to attend your institution, apply to your university, donate, and so on. We create data-driven maps showing participation patterns in your current and potential audiences by proximity, engagement level, demographics, psychographics, household income, ethnicity, presence of children in the home, and other relevant variables. By illustrating those geographic patterns visually, our mapping studies reveal how your organization can expand, diversify, and deepen engagement among the populations you serve.

Geographic mapping is a form of database analysis: it starts with records from one or more of your databases, including zip code or (better yet) street address. By adding relevant Census data or other third-party statistical information, we can create maps that show not only where clusters of your patrons live but also how whole communities interact with your institution. We can also identify high potential zones where demographics and other factors suggest that you should have higher participation than you currently do—and which may be ripe for audience dvelopment.

Like other kinds of data mining, geographic mapping is often a smart first step in getting to know your audience on a general level. It is usually followed by, or combined with, more direct forms of audience research. But for an institution with a limited budget or highly focused research or evaluation objectives, it can be a powerful step on its own.

To conduct a geographic mapping study, we perform a range of statistical analyses on your database records (see data mining), then load key analytical variables into a mapping application such as ARC/GIS. From there we create a series of easy-to-understand maps that reveal different aspects of your audience and organize those into a narrative. Depending on the project objectives, we may also model alternative scenarios or test hypotheses about how participation or awareness may change in response to your organization’s strategies.

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March 14, 2014 | Nicole Baltazar

Multiculturalism is key for creating inclusive arts experiences


Last month, Coca-Cola aired its now-famous Super Bowl ad depicting people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural groups singing “America the Beautiful” together in different languages. Among the instant outpouring of polarized reactions to this ad rang much praise for its depiction of a multicultural America. Yet the ad provoked a slew of negative responses as well. Many of the ad’s detractors questioned whether this multicultural America could ever feel as cohesive as an America whose citizens speak a common language, and therefore have taken great strides toward assimilating into a common culture.

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In practice...

We’ve used geographic mapping to... 

  • identify high potential zip codes for a historic house museum hoping to expand its visitor base
  • map engagement and membership of underserved audiences for a public radio station
  • help a leading ballet company select alternative venues to reach new audiences 
  • help a community media organization decide where to open satellite offices
  • show geographic areas where there is greatest crossover between arts organizations

...and other purposes for cultural and educational institutions.