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Getting To Know The Canada Council’s Digital Strategy Fund

Getting to Know the Canada Council’s Digital Strategy Fund

In early September we hosted a webinar with members and representatives from the Canada Council to learn more about the Council’s new Digital Strategy Fund.

The call was set up for three main reasons:

  • To allow members to hear about the goals and aims of the Fund directly from the Council
  • To share our needs with the Council reps
  • To hear from the CCA on how we might approach the fund and bring up any concerns


What We Know About the Digital Strategy Fund

Since this is the first year of the fund (of four) there is a combination of things we know and things we’ll have to wait to find out.

Right now we know that the fund will award $88.5 million over 4 years with $10 million set aside for this year. The Council will decide how to divvy up the rest of the funds after this first round has taken place. We also know that the fund is not aimed at supporting artistic creation or developing programs (there are other programs at Council for that). Instead the Fund is aimed at developing a user-centred culture of innovation, rethinking of organizational cultures, work procedures and leadership styles, and adopting and deployment of available technological solutions

The folks from the Canada Council made sure to note that the Fund is designed to be flexible, to be able to change tack if things don’t work, and to be able to experiment and try things easily and quickly. In that same vein the Digital Fund team is eager to learn how the Fund is being perceived and used by the community and plan to tweak as needed. Similarly (and since it’s the first competition), we’ve all been encouraged to try something, even if you’re not sure exactly where it will lead – find partners, talk about it, take a risk and try it out.

It seems like the ultimate aim of the Fund is to help the arts sector keep up and respond to what’s going on in the world today.

Looking ahead, there isn’t an exact date set for the next set of deadlines, but the Council is hoping to set it close to the end of their fiscal year (next spring), with the ultimate aim of having 3 deadlines per year. Once the first deadline passes the Council will evaluate and adjust going forward. Then, in 2020, the Fund will be evaluated and decision will be made on whether it should continue.

The CCA hosted a digital arts summit in early 2017

Digital Technology vs Digital Mindset

One of the things the Canada Council representatives helped us understand is the difference between digital technology and a digital mindset as it exists within the context of the Digital Strategy Fund.

It’s important to note that the Fund isn’t about technology in and of itself. Rather, it’s about learning digital concepts, playing with the idea of disruption, experimenting with iterative practice, and being user-centric – essentially, engendering a digital mindset at your company.

For the purposes of the Fund digital technology is the means and a digital mindset is the end. Members on the call were encouraged to think about what they want to do and what technology they would need to achieve their goal. It’s more about why you want to do something and how you want to bring your company more into a digital context, and less about getting funds to gain access to a specific piece of technology if it doesn’t contribute to a larger vision.

That being said, if learning about digital technologies (to reach a larger end) is required then that would be an eligible thing to apply to the Fund for.

But what if you don’t know what you don’t know? Literacy and learning projects are eligible. For example, bringing a consultant in to learn what a digital strategy is, or how to bring your company into a digital mindset would be an eligible idea, falling into the Digital Literacy and Intelligence component.

Ultimately, when it comes to digital technology or equipment it really depends on the context of your project. The Canada Council representatives implied that they would look for it to be part of a larger aim, not simply to be able to access a piece of technology, and encouraged participants on the call multiple times to get in touch with their questions and concepts.

Ideas and Examples

A number of initial ideas and examples came up during the call. We hope that sharing them here will help you think of what your own project could be.

Your company could:

  • Create of a plan for how your company could use, share, capture, and/or organize data
  • Change your fundraising model now that most people donate online
  • Change how to carry out your AGM or board meetings to accommodate the digital context
  • Evolve how you engage with an audience that might be interested in your work but might never want to or be able to come to your theatre
  • Explore how you could shift the intimate, physical nature of theatre into a digital one
  • Host a conference to learn best practices from other companies, regions, or countries
  • Scale up an already existing digital activity

Quick Tips and Things to Know

  • Emmanuel Madan and Rémi Lortie are the Digital Strategy Fund’s new Program Officers. These two will be available for more in depth conversation and to answer any specific questions you might have.
  • Partnership, collaboration and networking, sharing lessons, and illustrating why you’ve developed what you’ve developed are all important parts of the Fund.
  • Companies are able to work with consultants, groups, experts, etc. that are outside typical eligibility for CCA grants (though the CCA eligible company needs to be the lead on the grant application).
  • If your company is eligible to apply to the CCA, you can apply to this Fund, even if your company already gets CCA funding.


Thanks to Sylvie Gilbert and the rest of the Digital Strategy Fund team and also all the participants and members who joined us on the call.

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