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Sustainability Planning for Digital Resources: Findings from Ithaka Case Studies K. Kirby Smith, Ithaka Christian Oxley-White, Citi Strategy & Planning.

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Presentation on theme: "Sustainability Planning for Digital Resources: Findings from Ithaka Case Studies K. Kirby Smith, Ithaka Christian Oxley-White, Citi Strategy & Planning."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sustainability Planning for Digital Resources: Findings from Ithaka Case Studies K. Kirby Smith, Ithaka Christian Oxley-White, Citi Strategy & Planning

2 Today’s agenda Part I: Sustainability planning for digital resources Fundamentals of business planning Part II: Ithaka case studies Group discussion: Crafting the value proposition Group discussion: Identifying revenue sources Part III: Sustainability planning processes: Focus on revenue models

3 The sustainability problem: Many digital projects keep returning to funding agencies for additional grants to support core operations, limiting the funds available to support new initiatives. Funders are seeking ways to encourage projects to become independently sustainable without reliance on grants. Project leaders are seeking ways to support the resources they have developed in a way that can eliminates or reduces dependence on grant funding. Since fall 2007, with the support of JISC and the SCA, Ithaka has engaged in several studies to increase our community’s understanding of the key factors affecting sustainability, from the perspective of the projects as well as those who fund them.

4 From theory to practice Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources (2008) Report identifies several ways in which an entrepreneurial mindset could benefit digital projects in the not-for-profit sector. Feedback from workshops in the UK and US indicated strong demand for on-the-ground examples of the different strategies projects are trying. Case Studies in Sustainability (2009) Offers in-depth examination of working projects to convey practical approaches to sustaining digital resources. Beyond studying revenue models, we explored the evolution of strategy and the decision-making process of those managing the projects.

5 Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability (2009) The 12 organizations profiled represent a range of sectors, a range of revenue models, a range of organizational models, and a range of sustainability strategies. Research involved interviews with key personnel at each project and with key stakeholders from outside the organization, supplemented with relevant documents, where applicable. Case studies help illuminate the way that basic project and business planning principles operate in the real world, and provide examples from which other projects can learn.

6 Cases include five projects from the UK...

7 ... three from Germany, Egypt, and France...

8 ... and four from the US (funded by NEH and NSF).

9 What is sustainability? Sustainability is the ability to generate or gain access to the resources—financial or otherwise—needed to protect and increase the value of the content or service for those who use it Supporting the personnel and non-personnel costs associated with... Project management and administration Content development Technological infrastructure Business planning and revenue generation Ensuring that the resource remains vital and valuable to its users over time

10 What are some challenges we observed? Sustainability planning needs to be built into projects from the beginning. Project leaders should think about their post-grant strategy from the outset; waiting to plan until the end of the funding period could be too late. Projects should steps to understand and prioritize user needs—or their value may suffer. Active engagement is vital—or projects risk misjudging what their users need. Also, projects with revenue models that do not require financial support from users may risk becoming insulated from the needs of the community. Reliance on a single revenue source puts projects at risk. Dependence on a single source of funding—particularly one outside of the project’s control, like an endowment or institutional support—can limit options should that source falter. Hidden costs can obscure the real costs of operating a digital resource. In-kind contributions of resources and staff time from host institutions can obscure the true costs of operating a project, and give the false impression that it is “cheap” to run. At at the library or campus- wide level, it can add up to large inefficiencies.

11 What do sustainable projects do? Empower project leadership to define the mission of the project and to take the steps needed to reach goals. Craft a strong value proposition. Engage with the needs of the audience and stakeholders. Measure the full costs of the project, and find creative ways to lower direct expenses. Cultivate diverse sources of revenue to cover both maintenance and ongoing enhancement. Establish a realistic timeline with measureable goals, which the project is accountable for meeting.

12 Part II: Case Studies in Sustainability

13 Case study: eBird Who are the users of eBird, and what value does this resource have for different populations? How have project leaders managed to balance the needs of their different types of users? What types of trade-offs are involved? Given what you know about this project, how might you consider generating revenue to support it?

14 Case study: Electronic Enlightenment EE today is being distributed by OUP as a subscription product. What about its value proposition made this an option? What does the project gain from this arrangement, and what does it lose by outsourcing sales and distribution? What challenges about marketing and outreach remain, and how could project leadership deal with these? What other options might project leaders have chosen to publish and support this resource?

15 Part III: Sustainability Planning Processes

16 Sustainability Planning Flowchart 2. Craft a strong value proposition 1. Empower leadership to define project mission and goals 3. Engage with needs of audience, stakeholders 4. Define and measure project costs 5. Cultivate diverse sources of revenue 6. Plan a realistic timeline, set measurable goals/milestones Mission statement, Governance model and org chart Description of resource Description of audience Competitive landscape and user needs Refined value proposition Direct, indirect, hidden costs Strategies to minimize costs Revenue modeling and preliminary projections Project timeline and success metrics

17 What are possible sources of revenue? Donations and grants Host support What else?

18 What are possible sources of revenue? Donations and grants Host support Subscriptions Pay-per-use Licensing to publishers Advertising and sponsorships Membership dues Contributor pays Fee for service Endowment

19 Choosing a revenue model Diagnostic questions can help identify or limit the revenue options open to your project: Is your resource required to be open access? (What else suggests or limits your choices?)

20 Aquaterre: A hypothetical resource Aquaterre is a digital resource that will eventually include profiles of 28,500 species of fishes, from Atlantic Cod to the Whale shark. Entries are signed articles written by scholars and include short introductory essays, written at the undergraduate college level, with extensive additional resources cited and available through links to other sites. One area of the site allows registered visitors to upload images (photographs as well as illustrations) to the site that they have in their own collections. A team of volunteer editors is assigned to vet new submissions for quality control, and tag them to appear with the appropriate entries. In its first three years, the site has grown from 100 entries to over 2,500, and adds new profiles frequently. It currently records over 300,000 unique users per year, and 2,000,000 page views per month.

21 Aquaterre: Revenue options What is the value proposition of this resource? Who are its core users? Are there other groups of potential users to consider? What might some possible revenue streams be? 1. 2. 3. When evaluating the potential of each revenue idea, what might you want to know more about?

22 Thank you

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