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People's Palace @PeoplesPalaceUK
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Good afternoon and welcome to the third in our seminar series this week on Creative Economy research, policy and exchange - in partnership today with @NetworkCentre, @ContactMcr and @UoMNews. This afternoon we will be discussing how we measure the value of cultural activity.
But everyone in the Samuel Alexander lecture theatre at @Uomnews needs coffee, and a chance to talk to all the interesting people they've been hearing from, before we dive deeper into the Relative Values research methodology with @neccult and People's Palace Projects.
Refreshed? We hope so. We're back for the third and final session of the day, which is going to try to unpack some of the economic toolkit devised & piloted by @neccult, People's Palace Projects, @agenciaderedes @battersea_arts, @ContactMcr, and @redesdamare over the past year... attempt to measure the value of those arts organisations' work and impact in their territories.
Paul Heritage, @PeoplesPalaceUK artistic director and drama researcher, began to feel disturbed and uneasy some years ago at the degree to which arts leaders have begun to co-opt the language of economics.
At Paul's first meeting with Leandro Valiati, he was giving a presentation full of statistics about employment generated, value added, and so on, by the creative industries. Leandro's question was simple: Is that what you really want to do?
Because, Leandro said, if what you really want is to create jobs and stimulate the economy, you should think about building a munitions factory. War is massively more effective than the arts at producing these kinds of KPI's.
And Leandro's next point was that the kind of economics that the arts world speaks is probably 50 years out of date. Economics now is engaged with much more sophisticated concepts of value, and is beginning to develop the kinds of tools and measures that might begin ...
... to be able to understand what artists think is valuable about their work in society. And from that first conversation the idea for "Relative Values" began to be shaped.
Paul gives the mic to Leandro Valiati, who introduces the fundamental focus of economics as being about value, based on an analysis of production and consumption. To produce a narrative about economic value in the arts, we'll need to move beyond measures like GDP ...
... and begin using economic tools to understand the human impact of our work in society. GDP is only one lens. Economics has others: and so does the arts. If we can create a dialogue between economics and the arts, we can hope to produce new lenses to look at value in a new way.
We need to generate good questions that will help us understand this value. What kinds of elements were we trying to understand? Photo of a packed slide coming up:
And here are a few examples of some of the indicators we decided to look at to begin understanding that context:
Every one of these indicators was produced by a long process of very deep discussion, with people who knew the arts organisations and their territories well, about the kinds of value they thought was being produced.
Some more examples of indicators - this time, for individual development.
And the first results from the crunching of 400, very long and detailed, questionnaires.
*HEALTH WARNING*: This is not a competitive game. We're not measuring four organisations against each other. Each is unique, with its own mission, aims, and challenges, and comparisons are not the point of the exercise: but to pilot the toolkit, we had to agree common indicators.
What's more important is the way these indicators build a picture of each organisation's activity and its impacts. In the ideal future version of this toolkit, every organisation will develop its own bespoke indicators to capture the special types of value that it produces.
Mariana has a few minutes to tell us a little more detail of the research methodology - a mix of qualitative and quantitative survey.
There were challenges, as we heard earlier from the arts organisations. The surveys were long - they took 40 minutes to complete. We discussed having someone from the arts organisations sit with participants as they completed them, in case any questions weren't clear ...
... but at 40 minutes x 100 surveys, that wasn't financial viable. It had to be done in groups, and that itself was a challenge to coordinate.
Although the challenges inherent in completing the surveys have meant we haven't yet got fully analysed data to present in detail here, @andrepiza has some general observations about the nature of the organisations partnering on the project.
1) They have managed to find a productive engagement with the questions around quality and accessibility that gets beyond seeing this as a binary.
2) They are deeply engaged with innovation, and see creativity as something that produces innovation in all kinds of social spheres. So their concept of themselves and their purpose goes way beyond the creation of artistic product, to a much more open sense of social action.
3) they have a strong sense of their operation as being based in a particular territory.
and 4) they are very clear about operating through networks.
The discussion on the floor moves from the huge degree of nuance that's required to capture knowledge and understanding of a territory as it develops on the ground, to what might be the next steps in opening out this toolkit in an open-source way and for policy impact?
Leandro believes we need to propose a new narrative to policymakers that begins to understand the value of arts activity in a way that moves beyond pricing, GDP, and so on.
Thorsten agrees: good organisations have strong narratives. And at the city level, the reason Manchester is so successful, he believes, is because "we have a very strong cultural narrative for ourselves".
Thorsten encourages the partner organisations not to be afraid of using even the provisional outcomes of their evaluation with funders. The kind of self-awareness they evidence, and the ability to articulate where you want to be, is sthg many funders will respond positively to.
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