How do we measure the impact of Arts and Culture for young Londoners?

16 October 2013

As Arts and Cultural organisations head into the new era of austerity, evidence based policy and new financial instruments focussed on measurable outcomes, it is not surprising there are many conversations around defining and measuring value and impact.

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Arts Inform working with A New Direction, the Roundhouse, The Royal Opera House, the Lyric Hammersmith, Spitalfields Music, Dance United, London Transport Museum and Horniman Museum, will host a seminar on impact assessment to open these conversations out further.

‘No activity is beyond the reach of value’

This was a statement from one of the most recent conversations, Vicki Heywood’s #RSAChairman speech last week. Her formula for measuring value was this:


Vicki’s full speech is available here and is worth watching to get the full sense of her thought. In essence, she is advocating for artists to step forward to claim a more central role in society.

'This is not about policy change this is about behavioural change – BY ARTISTS working with national and local authorities, with business and educationalists to recognise and increase how cultural contribution can enrich society and enhance our cultural identity.'

'Art for its own sake sought to place art beyond value, beyond the messiness of the market and everyday life. But in our age of course no activity is beyond the reach of value and we must ask again what is the real and irreducible value of the arts in our lives, our culture and make sure we play our part in the wellbeing of society as a whole.'

This last point about the messiness of the market and everyday life is interesting.

A New Direction (AND) works with schools, teachers and educationalists in London and seeks to connect them with arts and culture. Schools and children are so essential to the life of London; though there are widely different views on education, most people do have a view.

For an arts and cultural organisation working with schools it is about boththe value of accreditation (and how arts can increase attainment in this) as well as valuing the way arts can contribute to the holistic development of children. In addition, many arts and cultural organisations have programmes outside of schools, and in this they give great value to young Londoners. But how do we measure it? Vicki’s speech, in tune with the times, states that ‘if it cannot be measured it cannot be claimed as true because truth is stronger than belief.’

The speech also mentions Joan Littlewood’s Fun Palaces, which are being commemorated in her centenary year 2014, as resonating with place-based commissioning. Art and Science, fun, play, children and young people, public engagement at its most open and inclusive were at the heart of the vision. How would Joan, maverick to her core, have approached measuring this work?

How do arts and cultural organisations build and maintain their artistic capital and integrity whilst responding to the increasing pressure to measure and articulate the impact of their work?

This is one of the questions that the Arts Inform group (which includes Whitechapel Gallery, the Horniman Museum, Spitalfields Music and Dance United) have explored. The seminar on November 20th will open out the conversation to other organisations that want to share current knowledge and practice. The conversation will have a particular relevance to those working with children and young people.

Book your place at the seminar here