The New Experience Economy Project Studies the New Normal

It is the beginning of the new world as we know it, and people aren’t sure how to feel about it, according to The New Experience Economy Project

In times of uncertainty it is best to collect information, study the facts, and talk to people. This is what Stone-Olafson, a research-based consulting firm, plans to do with The New Experience Economy project.

“The New Experience Economy is a specific research project that has come about as a result of the pandemic,” said Stephen Williams, Director of Grants, Awards & Support Programs with the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC). “The Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) is supporting that project, as are we, and a number of other funders.  It is a large, shared initiative.”

The project, now in phase two, is a work in progress.

“To this point there are only initial outcomes from that project, which will go on for some months,” Williams added.

On Monday, May 11, ECF granted $10,000 to EAC through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF). ECF began strategic COVID-19 granting on March 19 and established the RRF on March 25. The fund was established with $500,000 of ECF’s discretionary dollars and has doubled its impact, thanks to ECF’s generous donors and community partners.

“It’s becoming more and more clear that we are not returning to ‘normal’ any time soon and this is especially true of the performing arts and other activities that gather people together,” says Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement. “This research will help inform arts organizations and others as they consider the question, ‘What next?’”

ECF’s support is playing a key role in the project’s ability to collect data and information that will help Edmontonians make informed decisions about how we can begin returning to “normal.”

“As much as Edmontonians – all Albertans really – want to get out and reconnect with the experiences they used to enjoy, the key is getting them comfortable with being in crowds and around people outside of their cohort,” said

Mathew Stone, Senior Research Manager at Stone-Olafson and member of the research team for The New Experience Economy project.

According to a press release, the research group at Stone-Olafson is conducting a study about the experience economy in Alberta. This includes sports, recreation, arts and culture, travel and hospitality, festivals and events. The research shows 44 per cent of Albertans think we are moving at the right speed, but 29 per cent believe we are moving too fast. A similar proportion (27 per cent) feel things are moving too slowly. The release states that this sentiment will be key to experience-producers of all kinds ranging from restaurants to movie theatres, sports activities, museums and performing arts who are aiming to rebuild.

“Arts organizations have some real challenges and opportunities getting open,” Stone said. “Their audiences are more wary of crowds and are more uncertain. On the other hand, organizations in this sector are uniquely positioned to deliver experiences that meet the social and experiential desires people have. It just may take longer to get there.”

Stone adds that the second wave is building on learnings from the first.

“Knowing more about building comfort among audiences, spending habits in this new reality and the influence of media and marketing will all be critical to helping arts-experience organizations recover and re-engage with their audiences,” he said.

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.