We have been posting on this blog for well over three years. This site has brought together reflections and ideas from those within the Project and those beyond it and it has grown to be a resource in its own right for understanding the value of arts and culture. Now the Report from the Project – Understanding the value of arts and culture – is also available.
Building on the 70 original pieces of work funded by the AHRC and selectively drawing on other existing evidence, the Report provides an attempt to bring together what we know about the difference made by arts and culture and to consider what frameworks, approaches and methodologies are most suited to the task of capturing cultural value.
More specifically, the Report sheds new light on a number of areas where research shows arts and culture to make a difference. These include:
- Personal reflectiveness and empathy, illustrated by case studies of the role of arts and culture in the criminal justice system and their place in supporting professional and informal carers;
- The relationship between arts and culture in producing engaged citizens, more active in voting and volunteering, and more willing to articulate alternatives and fuel a broader political imagination;
- A critical assessment of the widespread use of arts and cultural interventions to help peace-building and healing after armed conflict, including civil conflict such as that in Northern Ireland;
- Whether the role of small-scale arts in generating healthy urban communities might be more important for the health of towns than large-scale culture-led regeneration projects;
- The ways in which arts and culture feeds into the creative industries, supports the innovation system and attracts talent and investment to places;
- The contribution of arts and culture to addressing key health challenges such as mental health, an ageing population and dementia.
In reframing and advancing thinking about our understanding of cultural value and how to capture it, the Report draws attention to the need for:
- Wider use of evaluation as a tool within the cultural sector. Better evaluation can help cultural organisations and practitioners learn from their activities and their audiences, and it should not be seen as primarily undertaken to satisfy funders;
- Appropriate tools to be used for the particular subject being studied with no automatic assumption that quantitative or experimental methods are superior to qualitative or humanities-based ones; it identifies, a broad range of methodologies that include approaches drawn from the social sciences, ethnography, economics, the arts and hermeneutics, and science and medicine;
- The further development of economic valuation methodologies that are recognised by the Treasury for evaluating public expenditure decisions, where the Project has made a significant contribution;
- Better understanding of the ways in which digital engagement is affecting people’s experience of arts and culture, including the rise of co-production of digital content and experiences;
- Finally, the report recommends that the AHRC alongside other funders considers establishing an Observatory for Cultural Value, to help take research on cultural value further.
The report can be accessed here: Understanding the value of arts and culture report (PDF, 3.7MB) Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.