A Look at the Canada Council’s New Digital Strategy Fund


The Canada Council for the Arts recently published additional information about its new Digital Strategy Fund, which will grant $88.5m to Canadian artists and arts organizations over the next 4 years. This blog post is an introduction to that fund and  what it could mean to you as an artist or arts professional.

Disclaimer: although I recently left the Canada Council for the Arts, where I was the Manager of Brand and Digital Strategy, the information I’ll be sharing and discussing in these posts will be based exclusively on what has been made public to date by the Canada Council, and reflects my own interpretation of that information.


  • The Digital Strategy fund will disburse $10m in grants by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year (March 30, 2018). This means that $78.5m will be disbursed through this fund over the 3 subsequent fiscal years. In other words, the fund will be somewhat backloaded.
  • Grants will range from a minimum of $1,000 to a maximum of $500,000
  • Grants will be awarded for one-off projects and for iterative projects
  • The first application deadlines have not yet been announced but they are likely to be sometime later this fall. (Remember to create your profile on Council’s portal at least a month in advance of submitting your application!)

There are 3 distinct funding components, each with their own objectives:

  • Digital Literacy and Intelligence
    • This component helps artists and organizations further their understanding of and engagement with digital tools, culture and practitioners;
    • think of it as an R&D or capacity-building fund for the existing arts community, supporting digital orientation and knowledge-sharing (training, workshops, coaching etc.) as well as hands-on experimentation;
    • it will be especially valuable for organizations or arts networks whose leadership understands the need for digital innovation but lacks the vision or expertise to effectively enact it.
  • Public Access to the Arts and Citizen Engagement
    • This component connects artists and arts presenters/producers with Canadian and international audiences through innovative networked tools;
    • eligible activities for this component include both strategic planning and execution of new content-sharing apps and platforms, crowd-sourced or distributed artistic projects, partnerships with existing high-profile media platforms, open source initiatives and more;
    • for an artistic project to be eligible for this component (and not to be slotted into Council’s other non-digitally focused funding programs) it seems as if it must push the boundaries of existing creation/distribution models using digital tools.
  • Transformation of Organizational Models
    •  This component is focused on transforming how business is done in the 21st century arts sector;
    • supports individual organizations and consortia as they develop and implement innovative digital strategies, business models and tools
    • designed to help organizations founded on fading literate and local economic principles to thrive in an emerging networked economy, where creative post-capitalist principles may yield new opportunities for organizational sustainability and growth.

That, at least, is my read on the new programs as they are described. There is still more to learn about their final form, and it remains to be seen just how bold the juries will be. Helping the old guard find their footing is important, but so is equipping emerging talents with what they need to build a better networked world.

Still, the emphasis across the board for this fund is on innovation and collaboration, as it should be, so that is an encouraging sign, as is the very existence of this exciting new funding vehicle.

If you found this post helpful please bookmark or follow my blog,  www.youareyourmedia.org, where I’ll be writing about the Digital Strategy Fund in more detail in the coming weeks.

John Sobol designs and implements digital strategies with creative organizations, communities and businessess. Want to talk digital strategy? Drop me a line

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