Anyone doing research will tell you that, sometimes, reports ‘grow arms and legs’. This unforeseen scoping up can be difficult to deal with, but can also be very worthwhile. This was the case with the new Drew Wylie report on film exhibition in Scotland, published today. The degree of cooperation and support from all of Scotland’s film organisations meant that it was possible to combine the knowledge of each constituent part and assemble a combined database of exhibitors. This provided a platform for a major survey of all types of exhibitor, from a rural film society, to a mobile operator, to independents, to multi-screens. The data that came back was extremely rich, but also complex as each sub-sector has a very different approach to how they record their activity. This resulted in an extensive round of work with our commissioner, Creative Scotland, as we disassembled the various ‘apples and pears’ of data. We think that the results present a holistic picture of a complicated sector that will support joined up investment and development for some time to come.
We often hear about the Bilbao Effect in relation to culture and regeneration, or the Mozart Effect on our thinking , but what about exploring the Jordi Savall Effect around dialogue between cultures? This week’s Voice of Europe session in Barcelona considered how we could support intercultural dialogue, including how we evaluate it’s impact. This is a pretty important topic given Europe’s challenges around borders and identity.
Culture professionals know what an important contribution arts and creativity can make at the economic, social and cultural levels of a changing society. But this requires investment and the demonstration of its impact. Our discussions suggested the need for an evaluation framework for intercultural dialogue that is longitudinal and embedded into EU, regional and national funding schemes, and the working practices of cultural institutions. Catalan musician Jordi Savall brings together European and Arab musical traditions and finds musical inspiration for everyone – a positive cultural effect to counteract an unrelentingly negative media narrative around cross border movement and integration.
Will the producers of evidence ever be reconciled with its marketplace? Supporting an outward looking culture of evidence exchange to inform social policy is the aim of a new initiative led by Carnegie UK Trust in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and subsequent discussions usefully traverse the importance of telling the story, understanding the ‘knowledge into action journey’ and ‘changing the value consensus’. Herding cats would be easier. Sifting evidence is needed to enhance quality and authority, but technologically liberated citizen researchers are a growing force. Interdisciplinarity and cross-sectoral working are a clear direction of travel, but the institutional frame remains relatively unchanged. The contradiction of global context and the degree of UK focus in the report is particularly noticeable in Scotland following independence minded international comparison and relationship building.
This is not to say that this initiative is not important. Recent UK Government figures show that almost two thirds of UK R&D is done and ‘told’ by the private sector and initiatives that can contribute to critical mass and effective communications for the research of underrepresented sectors are to be welcomed.
Information on UK R&D spend can be found on page 26 of: http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/rp14-47/social-indicators
A week of discussions about cultural value and a feeling that there is a general anti-economist cultural volksgeist afoot, ironically coinciding with the long overdue realisation that the UK’s creative economy is big and buoyant. The new appetite for social value now pops up regularly in Think Tank communiques. Social value is, however, not the same thing as artistic value, and it may get confusing if an evidence gathering industry develops. We have the expansion of the instrumental value agenda such as Sacco’s work for the EU, or the ACE funded Quality Metrics Pilot closer to home. We also have the AHRC Cultural Value Project attempting to widen the state’s gaze on culture beyond instrumentalism.
While the heart of this question lies with the philosopher, qualitative research into intrinsic cultural value will hopefully prompt reflection on transparency, and the use of experts and peer assessment in how we invest in, and strategise culture. Is there a need for a new type of observatory for cultural research, cushioned from sectoral territoriality, political whim, and NGO self interest? Or does it already exist, only needing pulling together into the right dissemination platform?
Image: The Galileo Project
Clive Mitchell of Scottish Natural Heritage explores the awkward fit between linear measurement frameworks and messy outcomes. Our Wallace tendencies now run deep, unthinkingly making targets out of indicators that are there to simplify complexity, not to ignore it. Many of us have been forced to wear these made to be measured trousers, marching us off in the wrong strategic direction and Mitchell (speaking at the joint RSA/NLS Public Service Reform Network event earlier this month) has a daunting list of obstacles to getting it right. He points out that outcomes are multi-dimensional and indicators uni-dimensional, requiring us to use adaptive approaches to measurement that respond to specific sets of circumstances. Wise words in a sector of measuring ‘judges’ and deliverers in the dock.