As organisational budgets tighten and economic uncertainty threatens, many digital projects struggle to develop coping strategies when funding, supporting core operations and/or essential development, is not forthcoming.

Reports & tools - Business modelling and sustainability

As organisational budgets tighten and economic uncertainty threatens, many digital projects struggle to develop coping strategies when funding, supporting core operations and/or essential development, is not forthcoming.

The publications below illustrate the varied and creative ways in which leaders of digital initiatives, particularly those developed in the higher education and cultural heritage sectors, are managing to identify sources of support and generate revenue.

Work on business models and sustainability has been undertaken for the Strategic Content Alliance by Ithaka, New York, and Intelligent TV, New York.

Institutional Strategies for Sustainability

Sustaining our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content- Full Report (Jan 2013)

Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content- Executive Summary (Jan 2013)

This study, conducted by Ithaka S+R, with funding from the Jisc-led Strategic Content Alliance, grew from the findings of earlier studies showing that both funders and project leaders alike rely very heavily on their host institutions to support and sustain digital content, beyond the end of the grant. While the primary focus of this study is the lush, if unruly, terrain of higher education institutions, academia is not the only sector enjoying an era of digital growth. As museums and public-facing libraries seek to expand their reach beyond their physical spaces, digital activities have become a core part of their strategy. And so, as well as an assessment of the university environment as a “host” for digital content, this study includes a more exploratory look at how cultural heritage institutions think about and plan for sustaining and enhancing the value of their digital collections. The cultural sector offers very different models and allows us to draw initial conclusions around these useful models for others to replicate, experiment with and develop further.

Sustainability Health Check Tool for Digital Content Projects (Jan 2013)

This Health Check Tool provides an opportunity for you to think about the kinds of resources — money, staff and otherwise — that are being dedicated to your institution’s digital content projects on an ongoing basis. This will enable you to take a fresh look at whether a project is delivering the desired impact in the communities you aim to serve and to consider new ways to enhance the value of your content for your users.

Framing the Case for Host Support: Action steps and questions for digital project leaders (Jan 2013)

This briefing guide offers questions to help project leaders consider future project needs and frame the value of their work when seeking support from their host institution.

Funders' practices

Funding for sustainability: How funders' practices influence the future of digital resources (June 2011)

Executive Summary - Funding for sustainability: How funders' practices influence the future of digital resources (July 2011)

This Strategic Content Alliance/Ithaka S+R report examines funding practices to provide insight on post-grant sustainability for digital resources. It aims to provide funders of digital resources and their grantees with an overview of current funding practices and highlights areas for potential improvement in defining and planning for post-grant sustainability.

Case studies

Revenue, Recession, Reliance: Revisiting the SCA / Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability (October 2011)

This full report includes a full summary of the research and findings, all 12 case studies and a decision-making tool.

In 2011, two years and one economic crisis later after the intial 2009 case studies were undertaken, a new round of research and interviews was conducted with the leaders of the twelve projects that were the focus of our original case studies. Our goal was to see how their sustainability models had held up, where weaknesses might be starting to show, and what new strategies project leaders were adopting in response. How had budget cuts and other factors affected the projects? What had project leaders learned about making their resources valuable to users? Where did the resources – financial or non-financial – come from to make continued growth and innovation possible? And how could these lessons be useful to others?  

Summary report

This report includes a full summary of the research, methodology and findings

Executive Summary

Briefing paper

You’ve received a grant and made the case to your organisation to digitise content or otherwise develop an online resource. Your team executes the plan to the letter, and the result is a thing of beauty. What happens next? This briefing paper gives hints, tips and suggestions around sustainability planning for those involved in creating, managing or otherwise supporting digital content.

Decision-making Tool

When planning to build a digital resource, project leaders tend to spend a great deal of time thinking about the execution of the project itself, and considerably less time thinking about what will happen once the resource is built and operational. This decision-making tool/ framework can help project leaders and those who support them to better define the activities, costs and revenues that will be needed to achieve the sustainable outcomes they desire. All types of projects should find this useful and use some of the principles outlined here to guide the process by which they consider sustainability planning.

Podcast

In this podcast, Nancy Maron, programme manager at Ithaka S+R joins JISC’s Rebecca O’Brien to discuss this work. Nancy explains the sticking points in research funding and shares the lessons learnt from organisations based in Egypt, France, Germany, the UK and the USA to see which strategies have been adopted in order to sustain their online digital resources over the long term.

Sustaining digital resources: On-the-ground view of projects today (June 2009)

In 2009, Ithaka S+R has completed an initial multi-year investigation of innovative funding models to sustain digital projects, culminating in a summary paper and twelve detailed case studies.

Ithaka briefing papers
Sustaining digital resources: Briefing paper for Curators, Archivists, and Librarians
Sustaining digital resources: Briefing paper for University Librarians
Sustaining digital resources: Briefing paper for Digital Project Managers
Ithaka case studies in sustainability
Sustaining digital resources: On-the-ground view of projects today
Sustaining digital resources: On-the-ground view of projects today (with funder's preface)
Individual case studies - Ithaka case studies in sustainability

2011 - Revisited

V&A Images: Scaling Back to Refocus on Revenue
The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae®: How a Specialised Resource Begins to Address a Wider Audience
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Launching a ‘Freemium’ Model 
Electronic Enlightenment: Outreach or Outsource? The Benefits and Challenges of Partnership 
L’Institut national de l’audiovisuel: Balancing Mission-based Goals and Revenue Generation
DigiZeitschriften: A Niche Project at a Crossroads
University of Southampton Library Digitisation Unit: Reimagining the Value Proposition
The National Archives (UK): Enhancing the Value of Content through Selection and Curation
The Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways, National Science Digital Library: The Challenges of Sustaining a Project as the End of a Grant Approaches
eBird: Driving Impact through Crowdsourcing
The Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) at King’s College London: Cementing Its Status as an Academic Department
Hindawi Publishing Corporation: Growing an Open-Access Contributor-Pays Business Model

2009 - Originals

Image licensing at a cultural heritage institution: V&A images
Specialised historical content for a niche audience: Thesaurus Linguae Graecae
Experimentation with sustainability and partnerships for library digitisation projects: University of Southampton BOPCRIS unit
Building an endowment with community support: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Subscription-based resource sold through a university press: The electronic enlightenment
Two-sided market for academic researchers and enthusiasts: eBird Cornell University Lab of Ornithology
Library partnership and a subscription model for a journal database: DigiZeitschriften
Leveraging shared infrastructure and expertise to develop digital projects in an academic department: Centre for Computing in the Humanities
The open access contributor pays model: Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Free content and rights licensing as complementary strategies: L’Institut national de l’audiovisuel
Digitisation with commercial partnerships: The National Archives
Early sustainability planning for a grant-funded digital library: National Science Digital Library
Reports
Ithaka report on sustainability and revenue models for online academic resources
On building a new market for culture: Virtue and necessity in a screen-based economy
Funding for sustainability: How funders' practices influence the future of digital resources
Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content - Full report (Jan 2013)
Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content - Executive summary (Jan 2013)

Tools
Sustainability Health Check Tool for Digital Content Projects
Framing the Case for Host Support: Action steps and questions for digital project leaders

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