Uncovering the Social Processes of Impact Measurement: Insights from the Evaluation of Coventry City of Culture
"A particular challenge for the publicly funded arts, culture and heritage sector is how to ... [measure] the impact of their artistic, cultural and social value creation." Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value, 2015.
UK cultural institutions increasingly depend on social impact measurement (SIM) of arts and culture programmes. Social impact measurement is invaluable in determining how best to tackle inequalities in participation and engagement, ensuring that arts and culture are relevant to a variety of audiences, as well as serving to improve investment in the sector, tailoring programmes to regional and demographic circumstances and helping to create legacy effects - such as social cohesion and civic pride.
What does SIM involve?
SIM is the process of defining and expressing changes in the human condition (physical, mental, emotional, artistic, cultural, and spiritual) that result from organisational operations and interventions.
The demand for SIM has never been greater, as policymakers, investors and industry leaders are calling out for information that helps them understand, plan for, monitor, and evidence positive contributions to societal progress.
Access to SIM depends extensively on frontline stakeholders responsible for the delivery of impact work, such as social enterprises, employees, and community members who design, deliver, and receive social impact programmes on behalf of governments, investors and businesses.
Yet, these frontline stakeholders are struggling to adopt, apply, and learn from the range of SIM approaches. Whilst there has been a proliferation of sophisticated SIM methods generated from policymakers, investors, and academics, significantly less work has considered the social processes of SIM methods, especially at the frontline.
The demand for SIM has never been greater, as policymakers, investors and industry leaders seek information to help them understand, plan for, monitor and evidence contributions to societal progress. Photo credit: Graeme Peacock.
Social processes of SIM methods, especially at the frontline (such as social enterprises, employees and community members), have traditionally been understudied. Photo credit: Jamie Gray.
The research will explore how City of Culture stakeholders react, interpret and adjust to various SIM approaches. Photo credit: Andrew Moore.
Understanding what drives or hinders engagement with arts and culture
Social processes are the ways in which individuals and groups relate, react, adjust, and readjust to phenomenon. Unpacking the social processes of SIM is key to understanding which behaviours drive and hinder adoption, implementation, and learning.
Using phenomenological analysis, stakeholder interviews and diaries, as well as observations, Dr Haley Beer's Fellowship will unpack how stakeholders of Coventry City of Culture 2021 - frontline beneficiaries, employees, managers, evaluators, and impact analysts - react, interpret and adjust to a range of established and newer, qualitative and quantitative, SIM approaches. The research forms part of the University's Monitoring and Evaluation work, which evaluates the cultural, social, economic and health and wellbeing impacts of the City of Culture programme and activities on the City and its people.
Dr Beer, who is based in Warwick Business School, hopes that the results of her research will contribute to the development of SIM theory, by exploring understudied social processes.
The project will also provide practical insight on how to best design and enact SIM for frontline actor engagement and benefit.
In turn, it will benefit wider society by enabling social impact stakeholders to gain better access to and learning from SIM processes so that impact efforts can flourish and thrive.