Cultural Education Progression – Learning Exchange (Value)

Delegates from over 50 organisations took part in the third and final Learning Exchange to debate value in the context of young people and arts and culture. Here is an overview of the debate with links to the further resources from the day.

The Morning Session

François Matarasso began the day by asking delegates to present what they wanted from the session. His style of presentation made space for delegates to challenge and to build on the points he made. He suggested the most powerful methods of persuasion were ‘argument’ and ‘experience’ and that the two things he wanted delegates to get out of the conversation were:

1. Tools for thinking through the complex landscape of value and how to take a position within this.

2. Confidence to articulate the value of the their work.

By the end of the day delegates reported that they had both strengthened their belief in the value of their work and were better equipped to articulate it to external sectors. A short film of François speaking can be found here.

Some of the key points of debate from delegates and François can be listed under the headings below. The method of debate was dialogical and these notes are meant as an aide memoire for those delegates who attended and as a prompt to listen to the podcast if other readers have interest. The record of the debate can be listened here.

Cultural Value – François asserted the inherent subjectivity of arts/culture and the challenges of placing a value on something that is subject to different experiences and beliefs ie. that is impossible to have an exact equation to work out a precise value. He gave the example of medical science which can only deal in probabilities.

ImpactHow do we articulate the impact of the work to other sectors who are demanding measurable outcomes? François noted that the term ‘impact’ originally comes from the science of mechanics and is used to describe the force of an object upon another, and that it may not always be an appropriate term for arts and culture.

In contrast, François asserted that art can have an ‘impact’ in a short-time ie. an experience of watching a play or hearing some music can transformative in a short space of time. This works in a different way to education which is accumulative, building a body of knowledge over time.

AttributionWhat can we use as proof and evidence in claims we make about arts and culture? How do we ascribe particular benefits to arts and cultural participation? We know that participation in ‘activities’ are good for our mental health and well-being (there are many studies that evidence this), but this is also true of participating in sport or religious activities. What is particular the experience of arts and culture?

Subjectivity - François gave the example of books. No two people have ever read the same book. If the opening line of a novel is ‘the man approached the house by the sea’, we will all bring a different image of the ‘man’, the ‘house’ and the ‘sea.’

Inter-subjectivity – A way of ascribing value to something through the fact that many people have the same opinion. François noted how every society had always created art and culture since time began, that human beings could not exist without it and therefore it must have a value.

Group think – Conversely to the above point, it is easy for a group of people to agree on something and therefore think that this is true for everyone when it is not.

Process and Product – François asserted that there was not a distinction to be made between these, that they were inextricably part of the same thing.

The Project Cycle – François introduced delegates to what he described were the five stages of a project cycle. Delegates were invited to explore the key questions that needed to be asked at each stage of the project cycle.

1. Conception
2. Contracting
3. Co-production (Delivery)
4. Creation (Art)
5. Completion

The notes from the different group discussions can be downloaded below.

Download 5 stages of the Project cycle

Shipra Ogra from London Bubble put forward an alternatively set of names that her company uses to describe the project cycle, these were; foraging, prepping, cooking and feasting.

Creative Progressions: Reflections on quality in participatory arts‘ (UNESCO e-journal, Melbourne) is an essay outlining the Project Cycle. It is available to download for free from the website Parliament of Dreams.

The Afternoon Session

Creative collaboration – Principles and Values behind the East London & City Cultural Partnership

Sean Gregory gave an overview of the Esmé Fairburn funded East London and City Cultural Partnership. He began by referencing his own experience as a music practitioner/workshop facilitator and acknowledged that, although the context may be different, the same principals of creative collaboration still applied to partnership working. He emphasised that these creative/collaborative principals needed to be there alongside more systematic monitoring and measuring.

The Guildhall and the Barbican have been working with schools and young people in East London for over two decades, whilst this current partnership is just over a year old. The partnership builds on the legacy of the Olympics that showed that real transformation cannot be made by one organization but only by partnership working. The current partnership works across the East London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Islington, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and the City of London, in particular through Music Hubs. The framework for the partnership has three broad strands as applied to people, places and organisations:

1.Collective strategic planning
2.Commitment to access to arts and culture being truly available to all
3.Progression and skill building

The collective evaluation process will define the partnership’s success, not through a series of projects, but rather through a new models and new strategic thinking around how young people, schools, artists, communities and families can work together through arts and culture.

The Cultural Commissioning Programme

Jessica Harris from NCVO gave an overview of the Arts Council funded cultural commissioning programme which works with arts/cultural organisations, with commissioners and with policy makers to strengthen the environment for cultural commissioning, and to bring these sectors together. An outline of Jessica’s presentation can be downloaded below.

Download Cultural commissioning programme

Further information on the programme can be found here.

Arts Council England’s Seven Principles of Quality

Hannah Wilmot gave an update on work she has been doing with London arts organisations taking part in Phase 3 of ACE’s Quality Principles Pilot programme. Some of the initial findings have shown the benefit of using the priniciples as a shared language within organisations; with partners/practitioners; across sectors (e.g. schools). The challenges have included the additional time needed to build in these conversations and the challenge of persuading colleagues of the need to commit this time.

Further information on the principles can be found here.

A New Direction (AND)

Steve Moffitt, CEO of AND, referenced the new report from Culture at King’s; Step by step: arts policy and young people 1944-2014 and re-enforced the need to draw on institutional memory and to be clear, confident and robust in how the sector articulated its value. With Arts Council investing more money than ever before in Goal 5 of its strategic plan which focuses on work for children and young people, ACE will be looking for ways to evidence the value of this investment.

He also gave an update on AND’s Bridge plan 2015-18 – this included information on Arts Award, Artsmark, Culture Education Partnerships, the Cultural Education Challenge, teaching schools and Music Hubs. Further details of the work can be found elsewhere on our website.


5 stages of the Project cycle doc 112.6KiB

Cultural commissioning programme doc 900.9KiB