Why we’re partnering with bike share for audience development.
If you’ve been following the stories I’ve been publishing you know that audience development is at the forefront of strategic planning at the Barnes. As we move through this journey we aim to create connections for new audiences who have not yet entered our doors. This means speaking directly to Philadelphians to understand their perceptions of the Barnes and working to ensure our programming speaks directly to what they value.
In the last four months, executives at the Barnes have been participating in a William Penn Foundation initiative called the Social Impact Collaborative. Through our work in this retreat-like setting, we’ve created a logic model (also known as a “Theory of Change”) that details our big picture audience development goals and how to get there. We’ve talked a great deal about how our public programs and special exhibitions, along with proper evaluation, can work to foster new audiences. Through the program, we’ve identified three key audiences — students, urban professionals, families — which we believe are reflective of Philadelphia’s diverse communities and neighborhoods. While our current offerings to these groups are limited, we are now thinking holistically about program expansion/refinement with these specific audiences in mind.
Partnerships will be at the heart of audience growth.
One thing we know for certain? We can’t do this alone and there are many organizations in Philadelphia who are working every day with the audiences we seek to attract. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of looking outside the cultural sector for inspiration; to me, we have such an enormous opportunity in Philly to learn from others while welcoming new audiences to the Barnes. Indego Bike Share, is an extraordinary example of one of these organizations; our partnership with them speaks to just how much we can learn by working together.
When I moved to Philadelphia a year ago, something caught my eye cycling to and from work. The diversity of riders utilizing Indego — Philadelphia’s bike share program — was not something I had been seeing on bike share in New York. Additionally, even though the program was new, the bike share stations were in neighborhoods that many other sharing programs would see as secondary or tertiary in their growth plans. Simply put, Indego Bike Share had me stopping my bike, turning my head many times, and asking…what were their aims, who is this audience, how did they do it, and what can the Barnes learn from this example?
Turns out Indego bike share is spectacular — Philadelphia opted to build a “Better Bike Share;” one that would be equitable and one that was built with inclusion in mind. Because Indego openly publishes their data and lessons learned we had the opportunity to see how they thought and, also, that their ridership overlapped with our own audience development goals. An early meeting with the Indego team led the Barnes to BeHeardPhilly which has helped us gather the data about audiences we didn’t know; a strategy we lifted directly from their playbook.
Beyond this, though, I had to wonder — is it possible to partner to connect our audiences?
Crowdsourced #biketobarnes is born.
About the same time I was riding around Philly looking around at Indgeo bikes, I noticed some bikes were different. Turns out Mural Arts had wrapped bikes as part their own partnership with Indego and, not only were they a visual hit, according to Indego staff the bikes were being ridden throughout the city 50% more than other bikes.
So, we sat down with Indego again and asked if we could think about wrapping bikes using paintings in our collection. The answer was a quick yes, and to my surprise, they wanted to go even deeper. They pointed out the Mural Arts partnership was fairly extensive with community outreach and a component that allowed people the chance to work with artists to create the designs. “How can we give our audiences the opportunity to co-create with us?” and “How can we ensure that everyone has a chance to participate?” were the questions they had.
We landed on crowdsourcing the wraps, so Indego and Barnes audiences can vote on which paintings they’d like to see rolling around the streets of Philadelphia. The selection process will take place over two polls and bikes will roll out in two phases — each one will send ten wrapped bikes to the streets. The poll will be distributed via both social channels, but also at community meetups and events throughout the summer.
In September, we’ll host a free launch party at the Barnes to initiate the bikes, celebrate with bike-themed programming (timely given our Urban Riders exhibition), and activate the Barnes collection with pop-up talks based on works of art selected for wraps.
When the bikes launch, Indego riders will be offered free admission for the entire year the bikes are on the street. Knowing this group is social, those with Indego keys can bring friends and those cohorts get their own $5 discount on admission. This free admission + discount will be part of the wrapped bike design, so every time someone takes a ride they are reminded we’re just a ride away.
Partnership longevity and measurement.
It is incredibly important to us that partnerships have longevity; we don’t see these as quick hits, but as relationships that continue to grow over time. Our partnership with Indgeo — from inception to completion of this program — will have lasted close to two years. While polling to create the wraps will have a relatively short cycle, the bikes themselves will have a year-long run on the streets.
How we measure these programs is also important. While the discounts offered to Indego riders represent substantial savings and, we hope, are of great value to the Indego audience they also allow us to track retention and return rates over the long haul giving us a way to measure the program’s overall use. At the end of the process, we’ll be able to see how often bikes were taken, where trips were made throughout the city, and how often riders came to the Barnes — this gives us an end to end picture of the audience journey.
We’re excited about this partnership and we can’t wait to see these bikes rolling around on the city streets. Many thanks to Aaron Ritz, Indego Program Manager from the City of Philadelphia, and Kiera Smalls, Indego’s Marketing Manager, for helping guide us and this project to a wrapped reality.
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Now everyone…go cast your vote!
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