Social Contract Archaeology – The DigVentures Model

DigVentures CIfA Registered Organisation

Freshly accredited as a Registered Organisation by the Institute for Archaeololgists, DigVentures were invited to publish an inaugural address in ‘The Archaeologist’ journal describing why we joined the quality accreditation scheme, and describing some of the unique points that make our brand of archaeology so different. Below is the full text, and the published version can be downloaded here.

Founded in 2011, DigVentures is an innovative social enterprise committed to designing, developing and delivering community archaeology projects throughout the UK and further afield. Whether that be at nationally important sites like Flag Fen, Leiston Abbey or historic sites deep in the Berkshire mountains of upstate New York, our motto – archaeology in your hands – is what joins the dots between our many different projects.

The DigVentures ‘Social Contract’ business model, nested equally between Archaeology, Community and Sustainability

The DigVentures ‘Social Contract’ business model, nested equally between Archaeology, Community and Sustainability

We were formed by a small team of commercial field archaeologists, community engagement experts and specialists in digital technologies, driven to action by what we saw as a market failure to address the two defining challenges facing our profession (See The Archaeologist 84). The first challenge is a growing awareness that archaeological ‘value’ must be expanded to express our social and public purpose; the second is a declining financial capacity for either private, public or third sector organisations to service these newfound ambitions.

Our 'difficult second album' - 2.The DigVentures approach in action at Leiston Abbey, Suffolk, 2013

The DigVentures approach in action at Leiston Abbey, Suffolk, 2013

Our response was to launch the world’s first crowdfunded and crowdsourced excavation at Flag Fen, developing a uniquely digital approach to community archaeology that we have subsequently rolled out to other sites. Our success is based on a start-up mentality: creatively forming the structures, alliances and strategies to amplify existing assets, rather than being restricted by financial constraints.

This is the ‘ventures’ part of our ‘dig’ equation, and over the last year we have raised over £55K in seed funding from a globally networked crowd of supporters – money that has gone on to leverage four times that amount for our project partners in match funding. This approach has drawn widespread media and political attention, with feature coverage on the BBC’s flagship Today programme, and public backing from Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, at last month’s cross-party debate organised by IfA for The Archaeology Forum at the Society of Antiquaries in London.

We believe that for archaeology to serve a wider social purpose, generalised commitments to ‘outreach and education’ are no substitute for the rigour of an enterprise defining its contribution to society through its core revenue generating activities. With a continued commitment to creating lasting, positive change for communities, our principal motivation for achieving Registered Organisation status is to uphold the standards of our profession, whilst inspiring the next generation of archaeologists to continue defending the historic environment and its relevance in the wider world.

If you need help with a project, or if you are interested in joining our team – please get in touch. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Inspiring the next generation at Flag Fen, Peterborough, 2012

Inspiring the next generation at Flag Fen, Peterborough, 2012

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DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Become a DigVentures Subscriber and be part of great archaeology - all year round!

Brendon Wilkins

Written by Brendon Wilkins

Co-founder and Projects Director at DigVentures, Brendon heads up our field and post-ex team. Aside from field archaeology, his specialisms are cheese, tea and writing animatedly about himself in the third person.

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