Developing a Digital Synergy Between Systems and People
NetGain Partners Inc. is proud to take partial credit for the unplanned birth of the CADAC system. In 2004, NetGain was asked to review hundreds of financial statements from applicants for operating funds from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, and the City of Toronto. The objective was to identify relevant indicators of financial health that would aid grants officers in their work, and aid funding agencies in their planning and advocacy roles.
Sometimes when NetGain enters a project with one goal, we end up achieving something else that solves the problem even better. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty and ask the difficult, but glaringly obvious questions and seek the hard answers.
With a team that included accounting and IT expertise, NetGain reached the early conclusion that the financial data being collected by each of the agencies was inconsistent in its quality and could not be relied on for all its intended uses. As a cure for this problem, NetGain suggested collecting, storing, and analyzing the data in a new way. The Economic Indicators Committee of the Intergovernmental Roundtable of Arts Funders and Foundations (IRAFF) agreed, permitting NetGain to design and demonstrate the viability of a shared online system for collecting and analyzing financial data. In addition to the benefits this offered funding agencies, it promised to reduce the administrative demand on applicants.
Years since NetGain’s early involvement, the system has been created and put into use across the country. Known today as Canadian Arts Data/Données sur les Arts au Canada (CADAC), it has become the repository for financial and statistical data from over 1,500 arts organizations, and is expected to continue growing for years to come.
It is a single-entry financial reporting system that permits applicants to enter audited figures into their funding agencies’ shared financial database. The system also features customized interfaces for each of the agencies’ funding programs so that the financial results pertain to their program-specific needs and interests. A special caseware template was provided to help auditors prepare statements in a form that matches the requirements of online grant applications. Arts funders and arts organizations are able to use the aggregate data to identify trends and monitor the overall health of the arts sector.
Ultimately this database has meant less work for the applicants, less work for the officers, and more reliable data for decision making and advocacy.