Viewpoint: Value creation through partnerships

Releasing our institutions’ full public service potential!

In DR’s (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) Cultural Heritage project we have focused on USE=VALUE. Value can be very tricky and hard to measure, whereas in my experience value through partner-ships can be much easier to measure – especially when partnerships are used in areas where you normally would measure your results. And in my mind, they are the only way we can fully release the enormous potential we and our institutions have as public service institutions.

In an age of change where the technology development constantly reinvents itself at a pace where not even the biggest or most tech-savvy institutions can follow the market development or adopt new technology with the same speed and ease as our users, we will be challenged unless we start to use and share our content, be it books, AV-content, competences or market potential.

We all agree that our fundamental public service objectives helped create and maintain our very successful societies. I salute our predecessors and all who helped do this. But today we live in a globalized world where many have more to learn and share when it comes to problem solving with external and sometimes international colleagues, experts and our competitors. As a result it only makes sense to use partnerships to tackle some of our challenges.

Partnership requires multiple focus 

Having said that, valuable partnerships are not easy to create and maintain. In line with ordinary internal projects and collaborations, a partnership is challenging – and compared to an internal project requires a partnership focused on many more items. I am talking about trust, openness and the ability to rethink objectives and goals, often in a dialogue with one or more external institutions.

Not an easy sell with the directors in many of our institutions. But it is feasible, especially if you recognize potential and establish some ground rules in your partnerships. My best example of partnerships is a commercial collaboration, which we treated as a partnership to maximise both partners’ benefits.

A win-win-partnership

In DR we had if not the largest, then one of the largest DAT collections in the world of approximately 36,000 hours. The market price in 2007 was somewhere between 11-18 million euros, which was more than our entire budget of 10 million euros. We wanted and also needed to secure some of all the other very important AV-materials from our tape and film archive.

In order to be sure we made the best return of investment, we decided to ask the commercial collaborator to help us solve the challenge. We then prepared a tender where we asked our external contenders to propose a solution. We told them what we had, what we wanted and gave them a target price of 1.2 million euros.

Industrialized process 

One of the leaders in the field came up with a new and very inventive solution. Using this solution meant that we would have to change internal processes and create a management system for all our tapes. But then they offered a new industrialized process where one operator would digitise between 30-40 tapes at the same time, securing a total cost of less than 1.2 million euros if we succeeded.

It was an amazing concept, but it had to be developed. Both parties had to create their part of this solution never before seen. And in order for the external vendor to develop it, we would have to pay part of the money up front and accept a slow acceleration phase, first achieving production speed of 12-15,000 hours a month after 1.5 years. We decided to trust them and the rest is history. We secured our entire collection, and the vendor is now serving other broadcast archives with the method developed from the contract with us.

Create surplus for both partners

Needless to say – I am a great believer in partnerships. I use them to obtain previously unimaginable results on several different archive formats and in product development as well. But in order to get them right you have to recognize that what you are trying to achieve can’t be achieved on your own – the partner you want to select has to be able to bring something to the table, and you have to as well!

And to overcome the challenges of unnecessary transaction costs, you have to have trust and share your challenges in the selected field and allow for both partners to create surplus afterwards too.

Thank you all for letting me share my views and experience. I wish you all the best and hope we will all create a bigger public service surplus in the coming years!

Former Head of DR’s Cultural Heritage Project & Commissioning Editor of danskkulturarv.dk

Facts

Danish Heritage is a collaborative project between the major national cultural heritage institutions, namely DR, the Danish Film Institute, The Royal Library, National Museum, National Library, National Archives, National Gallery of Art and Culture Agency's 1001 Tales. Moreover, they are also affiliated with some smaller institutions at ART in Aalborg, Skagen Museum, Limfjordsmuseet, Vendsyssel Historical Museum and Archives and North Jutland Coastal Museum. The operation of the Danish Cultural Heritage is currently anchored in the DR Archive. You find Danish Heritage on: