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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday July 15, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Nicole McNeilly

Nicole McNeilly

Impact Advisor , Europeana Foundation

Impact Assessment Report: Europeana 2020

This Impact Assessment Report explores Europeana’s annual conference, Europeana 2020: Crisis, Change and Culture.

Collage of multiple cross sections through a single lemon
Lemon, axial view, MRI
Alexandr Khrapichev, University of Oxford
Wellcome Collection
United Kingdom

Europeana 2020: Crisis, Change and Culture took place in the context of a second wave of wide-spread European Member State lock-downs. It was planned as a digital event from the outset, as the concrete planning of the event started just as the pandemic forced the first lockdowns. Despite this context, the event was able to reach almost 1,650 people who registered to attend the conference, with an estimated 60% (998 participants) attending at least some part of the 11 hours and 20 minutes of formal conference programming. 

There were three conference themes for each of the three days of the event: bridging digital divides, agency for change, and collaboration. Over 70 speakers joined the event. Find out more


A post-event questionnaire was distributed to all attendees shortly after the event, and a reminder was sent after one week. 224 responses were received which, out of an estimated attendance of over 998 participants, represents a satisfactory sample of around 23%. We found a small bias towards Network members responding. Data were analysed using Excel. All open text responses were left as they were originally written.

Registration data were also analysed to understand better the gender split of registered attendees, the country they were joining from, their gender and age, and if they had any access requirements for the event. 

Following in the footsteps of our work for Europeana 2019, we continued to investigate the environmental impact of our largest annual event. The methodology changed because the format of the conference changed from in-person to completely digital. Having assessed the audience’s likelihood to attend Europeana 2020 had it been in-person together with the expected method of travel, we calculated an approximate carbon footprint for air travel. At the same time, we used three estimates of CO2 emissions caused by online meetings to come up with a scale for Europeana 2020’s digital footprint. 


Increased accessibility

  • Europeana 2020 was an opportunity for Europeana to welcome almost 1,000 people in attendance at its annual conference, with participants joining from 60 countries across the world (in comparison to 38 countries in 2019). 

  • This wider accessibility was also reflected in increased representation of non-Network members registering for the conference. 

  • This increased visibility led to a very significant increase in visits to Europeana Pro, where 40,631 sessions were registered in November 2020 (almost 12,000 more than any other month previously).

  • Some participants who attended might not have been able to attend had the conference not been digital - with travel, cost and limitations on attendance being some of the potential barriers. 

  • The digital format was also more accessible because participants could pick and choose the parts of the event which were most relevant for them to attend. 

Creating value for participants

  • We see an increased literacy in the key themes of the conference, particularly around collaboration as a tool for finding shared solutions. 

  • 88% of participants reported that Europeana 2020 had value for them personally or professionally. 

  • 77% gained skills or knowledge that they can apply in practice (an increase of 27% from 2019). 

  • 63% of participants who want to make a change in their organisation after the conference (also a significant increase from the year before). However, only around half of participants feel empowered to take action, suggesting further capacity-building needs to translate inspiration into tangible action that can support digital transformation. 

  • Of the three conference themes, the theme of agency for change was also the theme that participants were least likely to have become more familiar with. A longer-term impact assessment perspective would be particularly beneficial in this regard as well, to track if inspiration does result in tangible change. 

  • One questionnaire respondent wrote: ‘The most important take-away for me, personally, was the feeling of being part of a community, with similar goals and values, but also facing the same challenges.’ 

Creating a sense of community but fewer new contacts

  • Despite having an online format, Europeana 2020 helped to create a sense of community and importantly, the majority (86%) of participants enjoyed themselves (this was the first time we had asked this question). 

  • 69% of non-Network members who attended Europeana 2020 agreed that the conference had motivated them to become members. 

  • 74% of participants felt like part of a community around digital cultural heritage (a 5% increase). However, in comparison to 2019, there was a decrease in the number of new contacts made and much lower ratings for network development outcomes.

Digital or remote participation nevertheless comes at a price

  • Dissatisfaction with the online format was particularly evident when people spoke about the lack of opportunities to build a network. Others found it to be less enjoyable. Several participants expressed dissatisfaction not with the quality of the online format (which was rated highly) but the necessity to use an online format. In this sense, they say that conferences should be in-person again after the pandemic. 

  • There were strong concerns about one of the keynotes and the lack of in-person opportunities to manage and respond to attendees’ concerns about this can be seen as another challenge of the digital format. 

A digital conference results in a smaller carbon footprint

  • Holding Europeana 2020 digitally resulted in a significantly smaller carbon footprint. We estimate that the environmental impact of participants travelling by air to Europeana 2020 would have been 123 metric tonnes of carbon. 

  • Attending Europeana 2020 digitally was anywhere between 15 and 149 times less detrimental to the environment than the air travel alone that would have been required to attend the in-person event. 


  • In terms of supporting the capacity-building of the sector through the acquisition of knowledge that can be used in practice, providing the inspiration to create a positive professional change or innovation, and strengthening a sense of a community, the first all-digital Europeana 2020 was a success. 

  • While network development opportunities and outcomes were significantly lower, there were increases in other key outcomes including, for example, gaining knowledge or skills that can be applied in practice. 

  • The conference reached a much wider audience in terms of numbers and geography but potentially also in terms of the audience’s familiarity with and literacy in digital heritage and digital transformation. 

  • Europeana 2020 created significant savings for the annual conference’s estimated carbon footprint. Combined with the demonstrable increase in outcomes for participants, future event formats should weigh up the inevitable environmental impact caused by travel and whether the depth and quality of the experience and outcomes desired for the participant can be delivered in a digital or hybrid format.

Validation and next steps

This report will be shared with colleagues within the Europeana Foundation who worked on Europeana 2020, Europeana Foundation’s senior management team, the Programme Committee shaped to deliver Europeana 2020 and the Europeana Network Association’s Members’ Council. Feedback will be solicited to support the interpretation of the data presented. 

You can download and read the full report through the link below.