Innovation & Archaeology: find out about DigVentures from Dunoon based Director of Ops Manda Forster

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Tell us a bit about you. e.g. are you native to Dunoon or have you moved here from elsewhere?

Digventures was established in 2012 as a social enterprise, with the ambition of developing a new way of resourcing archeology through crowdfunding. The business is built around the goals of maximising audience engagement, building community and making archeology accessible to everyone.

We do this by providing people with the opportunity to take part in digs, offering online courses and events that generate a dialogue between professional archeologists and a global audience of enthusiasts.

I joined the company in 2016, as the programme manager. I had previously worked at the University of Birmingham teaching people how to do practical archeology and research, and had also worked at the Charted Institute of Archeology, managing their membership offer.

Digventures has a distributed workforce, so I was able to relocate to Dunoon from Birmingham in 2017. I work from home and travel round the country to support digs and meet clients.

What challenges have you faced to make use of online resources or promote your business digitally?

A major ambition of Digventures is to make archeology accessible to more people. Our slogan is 'archeology in your hands'. This means enabling people to take part practically in digs, regardless of their experience. It also means sharing information about the discoveries, experience and science of archeology by creating great online content.

We are constantly creating films and social media posts and we also host online events, such as Dignation, to share information about our digs and research with an international audience.

Volunteers and our staff team document finds whilst we are digging, using ipads and mobile phones. We do this whilst having to maintain the same professional standards as more traditional methods of archeology, and we have had to work hard to adapt software so we can publish information online to give people access to the data straight away.

What is unique or interesting about running a business here in Dunoon?

From Dunoon I can get anywhere in the UK really easily, but have the benefit of working in a distributed team and living in a place that is affordable and beautiful.

Tell us the one thing about your business that you are most proud of?

I led the development of an online course for Digventures called 'How to do archeology'. During lock down, we made that course available for free and 4000 participants took part in it globally, including a handful in Dunoon. In total that training has been delivered to 7000 people and that means loads more people are engaging with archeology.

What changes do you think could help sustain and develop Dunoon as a place to do business?

From a heritage event / conference perspective, it would be good to have clearer information about the town's venues and an overview of the technical specification of spaces and be able to view and book venues online. This could be a really useful way of attracting more events.

What support do you think is missing from the Dunoon Area?

Although the town has great heritage assets including a castle site, there is no recognition of these and not enough thinking about how to use them to the town's advantage. It would be great to see more appreciation of heritage at a local level. This would will help attract more people to the town.

What are your key business goals over the next 12 months?

Digventures launched our new subscription model during lockdown. This was planned for next year, but has been brought forward because of COVID, so alongside surviving we will be busy marketing that.

I am also really looking forward to getting out and digging again. We have some digs scheduled in Yorkshire and Lindisfarne.

Promote your business. Tell people why we should come to you?

DigVentures was the first business to use crowdfunding to support archeology and we have innovated ever since. We know how to involve people, including kids, and make best use of technology to get people involved and make archaeology accessible. We are hot on evaluation, so able to see the positive impact our work has on communities as well as individuals - and we know how much people enjoy getting involved. I would encourage anyone to pick up a trowel and join in - whether that's joining us for a real world experience, or following us online and exploring some of our archaeological sites and virtual museums from your sofa!    

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