Accessible arts for all drives budding entrepreneur

29 August 2016

Ruari Elkington receives funding from the Lord Mayor's Budding Entrepreneur Program

Round six of the Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneurs Program recently awarded 15 local startups $5000 each to enhance their entrepreneurial capabilities.

One of which was Ruari Elkington, who last year started Altruistix.org to open up arts and cultural events to underserved audiences who struggle to find the time, information or funds to access such events.

The Brisbane-based social enterprise plans to work with existing ticketing systems and arts venues to allow patrons to make a small additional contribution when they purchase tickets to arts events they love. Altruistix is currently in discussion with several Brisbane arts venues on trialling the concept.

Mr Elkington said the money would be pooled with other Altruistix contributors to purchase new, paid tickets for under-served education and community groups to attend arts and culture events they choose.

“Altruistix was born after ABC’s Radio National last year asked for some new ideas to better connect people with arts and culture events,” Mr Elkington said.

“This led us to consider how people connect with the arts and we found tickets are a common thread linking many arts and cultural events.

“However, just giving free tickets to audiences doesn’t necessarily deliver the same kind of audience commitment as paid tickets. Audiences can sometimes view free tickets as devalued.

“Free tickets also take away from the sometimes borderline profits of arts and culture organisations as well as ticketing agencies. Free tickets equal less money for talented and hard-working people, including performers.”

Mr Elkington, an associate lecturer in film and screen at QUT, was instead inspired by a scheme many airlines run.

“Many airlines give travellers the option to make their flight carbon neutral by contributing a few dollars at checkout, and lots of people take this up. We took this ‘carbon offset’ idea from the airlines and applied it to arts and culture,” he said.

“I believe that if people can do something good, and do it easily, they often will.

“Those who love their arts and culture events usually want to share the experience. So I thought those patrons could be moved, altruistically, to contribute to a stranger’s ticket simply through a desire to share the events they love. And it could not be easier because you are already spending money.”

Mr Elkington wants arts organisations to partner with Altruistix to create an additional pool of funds for tickets to be purchased across their entire program.

Altruistix manages those funds, deducts a small percentage to cover costs, and makes sure the tickets get to new and deserving audiences.

“Patrons go through the normal ticketing system on a particular venue and are then given the opportunity to make a small contribution ($2, $5, $7 or a sum they choose) to a specific education or community group which will directly benefit from those extra dollars,” Mr Elkington said.

“We can help an arts organisation connect with a specific demographic they want to reach and at the same time expand audiences for arts and culture without devaluing the events.

“Ticketing agencies, venues and artists get paid for the tickets, and people who may not buy those tickets are given a chance to attend so it’s a win-win situation. The value chain is maintained – both in terms of audience perception and arts incomes.”

Mr Elkington plans to use his grant from the Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneurs Program to attend the 2016 Social Enterprise World Forum in Hong Kong, where he hopes to pick up tips on running a successful social enterprise and make valuable business connections.

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