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Culture and wellbeing. Theory, methodology and other challenges: an itinerary



This project aims at assessing the impact of culture on well-being, starting from the direct experience of cultural operators and organizations and from their public. As already possible with sustainability reports, cultural organizations should be able to become accountable for their contribution to the well-being of both their own operators and their audiences. That experience should also be connected to the vast international effort to develop theories on the relationship between culture and wellbeing and appropriate methodologies to assess it in quantitative and qualitative terms alike.
This project aims at assessing the impact of culture on well-being,
starting from the direct experience of cultural operators and
organizations and from their public. As already possible with
sustainability reports, cultural organizations should be able to become
accountable for their contribution to the well-being of both their own
operators and their audiences.
That experience should also be connected to the vast international
effort to develop theories on the relationship between culture and
wellbeing and appropriate methodologies to assess it in quantitative and
qualitative terms alike.
2.1. Definitions
An impact is defined as a permanent and relevant change that occurs
in a place, an ecosystem, a group or an individual as a result of the
encounter with an agent (generally referred to as impactor).
Social impact is the result of the encounter with social forces, and its
extent depends on the strength of the source of impact, the immediacy
of the event, and the number of sources exerting the impact. To put it
simply, in the original theory, social impact as a phenomenon in which
people affect one another in social situations1.
Culture is indeed a
social force
, and its social impacts deserve a special
While the notion of impact has mainly negative connotations in some
fields, like in environmental studies, the concept of social impact is
neutral, and can be applied to both desirable and undesirable changes.
Assessment is defined as a process by which a social phenomenon is
documented, measured and evaluated, through quantitative or
qualitative methods, generally to the purpose of orienting future action
or policies.
In the first months of 2015, a group of international organizations
working for the inclusion of culture in the post 2015 Development
agenda, have published a proposition paper where, among other things,
they state:
1 Latané, B. (1981). The psychology of social impact. American Psychologist, 36, 343-356.
“During the last decade the international community has collected
substantial evidence on the role of culture in development. The
conclusion is that, most often, development policies and projects which
do not take into account the cultural dimension have failed. Culture
effectively contributes to policies, strategies and programs targeting
inclusive social and economic development, environmental sustainability,
harmony, peace and security. Culture is both a driver and an enabler of
sustainable development.”2
Culture is defined by Unesco as “that complex whole which includes
knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society”.
But, since that definition leads to the conclusion that all human activities
and their products are
per se
a piece of culture, we would risk
investigating the social impact of any possible human activity. A further
refinement of the concept is therefore necessary for the present
The most recent effort to define statistically culture has been produced
by an European Statistical System Net (ESSnet Culture) in 2012 3.
Together with cultural expenditure, it describes
- the cultural sector of activity (cultural industries and cultural
employment), including 10 cultural domains:
Heritage, Archives,
Libraries, Book and Press, Visuals Arts, Performing Arts,
Audiovisual and Multimedia, Architecture, Advertising and Arts
and 6 functions:
Creation, Production/Publishing,
2 IFACCA, Agenda 21 for culture, IFCCD, Culture Action Europe, International Music Council; Arterial
Network, International Council on Monuments and Sites, International Federation of Library
Associations and Institutions, Red Latinoamericana de Arte para la Transformación Social.
Dissemination/Trade, Preservation, Education and
- Cultural participation and practices, comprising.
, i.e. practicing the arts leisure;
, i.e.
visits to cultural events and following artistic and cultural
broadcasts of all kind of media and social
, i.e. being a member of a cultural group
and association, doing voluntary work for a cultural institution etc.
In the present exercise, we propose to investigate the social impact
of actions occurring either in the context of the cultural sector and of
cultural participation and practice.
2.2. Literature and resources
A rich multidisciplinary literature is available to date for those who
venture in the field of culture’s social impacts. Studies and reports have
been promoted by governments, research institutions, cultural and
artists’ associations, health and social care organizations, and citizens’
groups of various nature. Consequently, they differ a lot in scope,
purpose, paradigms, field of application, reliability, academic, theoretical
and methodological refinement, neutrality, and even in the very notion
of culture they have put at their roots. For this project, we have
selected about 200 pieces of literature: books, handbooks, papers,
presentations, questionnaires, websites, forums and other web
resources. We have consulted at least three times as many. With the
due consideration of their heterogeneous origin, we have grounded our
motivated choice on the
contribution each of them offered to
our reflection: a well-defined concept, new data, a good question, an
interesting method for gathering information, a brilliant approach, a
useful idea or a provocative image, and so on. The process of selection
has been carried out since April, 2014, and has been characterized by an
open method, based upon wide participation and sharing.
The Annex offers a first annotated list of references. As the project is in
progress, the documents are open to continuous revision and additions.
This section proposes a brief synthesis of what the vast material thus
gathered has revealed to us, built around three axes:
a) the
place assigned to culture,
b) the growing need for formal legitimation and accountability of
resources invested in culture and
c) the specific contribution of culture to the wider efforts to measure
such complex (and in some perspectives, unmeasurable) phenomena as
value, sustainable development and wellbeing).
The three axes are not mutually excluding, and, in some cases, overlap
or mix each other. For each axis, we provide a few examples.
The cultural place of culture in the European
Every society gives, through a
process, a specific place and rank
. Ironically enough, one of the reasons of the increasing
demand for measures of economic and social impacts of culture is to be
found in the loss of social perception of its intrinsic value.
In the past, the complex object that today we call culture ranked high:
the archaic Indo-European social hierarchy tended to include the top
intellectual-creative skills among the attributes of the highest caste, and
to tribute honours and privileges to the finest artists. From built heritage
to theatre, from poetry and literature to participation in traditional rites
or the wearing of a traditional costume, the reason for the very
existence of culture (or better, of its contents, when the name by which
it goes now had probably not been invented yet 4) has gone
unquestioned for a very long time in history.
During the Communal age, the Constitution of Siena, in 1309, stated the
need for city decoration and embellishment as a duty of hospitality in
favour of the foreigners who came and who were entitled to be received
in a beautiful environment: the government, they wrote, “must cherish
the beauty of the city, for the enjoyment and merriment of the
foreigners and the honour, prosperity and growth of the city and its
Majesty and power – especially in their absolutistic or authoritarian
versions - have always spoken fluently the language of the arts, and so
have done the revolutionary forces who opposed them.
The so called High Brow culture was for centuries a distinctive status
symbol, and literature, music, painting and other fine arts were a basic
part of the education in the upper classes (the Grand Tour to Italy and
Greece provided a field refinement in the classical culture for some very
wealthy youngsters), but they were appreciated, recognized and sought
also by the lower classes, together with what came to be called
folk arts
The same held true even in times of emergency. During the World war II,
the Anglo American allies created the Monument Men military unit for
4 Cicero is one of the first recorded sources of the word culture. In his Tusculanae Dusputationes (45
b.C.), he states, with an agricultural metaphor, that cultura animi philosophia est”: philosophy is the
cultivation of the soul. Much later, in 1623, Francis Bacon wrote about “doctrina de cultura animi” (De
dignitate et augmentis scientiarum) and Immanuel Kant, in 1781, about the culture of reason (Kritik der
reinen Vernunft). Voltaire’s view is very close to the current one: "As a result of this presentation of the
subject, it is clear that everything which belongs intimately to human nature is the same from one end of
the Universe to the other; that everything that depends on custom is different, and it is accidental if it
remains the same. The empire of custom is much more vast than that of nature' it extends over manners
and all usages, it sheds variety on the scene of the universe; nature sheds unity there; she establishes
everywhere a small number of invariable principles. Thus the basis is everywhere the same, and culture
produces diverse fruits.” Essai sur les moeurs, ch. CXCVII, Oeuvres, vol. XVIII, p. 425.
5 deve avere a cuore “massimamente la bellezza della città, per cagione di diletto e allegrezza ai
forestieri, per onore, prosperità e accrescimento della città e dei cittadini. Costituto Senese, 1309.
protecting the cultural heritage endangered in areas of conflict6. They
actually spent big amounts of money and resources to safeguard the
existence of arts objects and beautiful buildings of the past.
Religious arts and architecture in Europe flourished in the past centuries
and, even in the XX century, Le Corbusier or Luigi Nervi, Oscar Niemeyer
or Ninian Comper, to name a few, contributed to it. Urban art and
architecture have for a long time expressed universally understood
The need for “roses”, together with “bread”, is another way to put it.
Culture enjoyed for a very long time an unquestioned high rank on the
scale of social values: it was a natural necessity, and the question of its
usefulness was simply out of question.
For complex reasons that go beyond the scope of the present exercise,
but are probably connected with the birth and development of the
cultural industry
, as analysed by Horkheimer and Adorno as early as
1944, the question, however, has indeed arisen. Coupled with a declining
consensus on his necessity, culture has increasingly been perceived by a
growing number of politicians and decision makers in its
dimension, and its existence has increasingly been justified on the basis
of its proved usefulness. This has of course undermined the automatic
legitimacy of relevant investments in the sector, unless economic
returns could be expected (best if in the short term). In those countries
where the bulk of financial resources for culture is public, scarcity,
spending review, economic crisis, combined with the lowering of the
social appreciation of culture, have dealt an heavy blow on the sector,
6 Annalisa Cicerchia, Le proprietà culturali in tempo di guerra e sotto il fuoco amico, in "Economia della
Cultura" 3/2012, pp. 253-262, doi: 10.1446/38895
but the same can be said of those countries where culture derive its
main resources from private support.
Initially welcomed as a deserved acknowledgement of the collateral
merits of culture, the relevance of social and economic benefits it is
expected to generate has progressively outgrown and replaced its
value. The time has come, apparently, for culture to start afresh
earn a living
Legitimation and accountability
“….The third and last duty of the sovereign or commonwealth is that of
erecting and maintaining those public institutions and public works
which, though they may be in highest degree advantageous to a great
society, are, however, of such a nature that the profit could never repay
the expense to any individual or small number of individuals”. With these
words, Adam Smith, speaking of government spending, explains the
notion of
merit good
(The Wealth of Nations, 1776).
A merit good is “a good (or service) which some "outside analyst"
considers to be intrinsically desirable, uplifting or socially valuable for
other people to consume, independently of the actual desires or
preferences of the consumer himself. In the case of such goods, it is
sometimes held that free consumer choice is inappropriate, and
therefore that if many consumers left to themselves are unwilling to
purchase "appropriate" quantities of such goods, they should be
encouraged or even compelled to consume them anyway. Such
arguments are often employed in an effort to justify government
intervention in the market place to provide such alleged merit goods to
the citizenry, either through direct government provision of the good at
no cost to the consumer or through payment of tax-financed
government subsidies that enable private providers to sell the good far
below its true costs of production. Typical examples of alleged merit
goods might include various forms of "higher culture" often ignored by
"lowbrows" (grand opera and ballet performances, museums, … etc.”7
Together with education and health services, culture is a classic example
of merit good. Public support, regulation and subsides are grounded on
this quality, i.e. on the appreciation of its intrinsic value by the
In addition, culture has an existence value. Once an arts or cultural
product is created, people place a positive value on its very existence,
over and above its commercial value. For example, a person may
perceive a symphony orchestra or an architectural masterpiece to have a
positive existence value even though they may not wish to attend a
performance or visit the building8. Another non-user value is the legacy
value: the perceived existence value of a cultural object (a statue, a film,
a book, a music, etc.) extends over time, and it is deemed to be worth
handing down to the future generations.
But again, merit, existence and legacy, all depend on the appreciation
that any given society attaches to culture. When that appreciation is
low, the very foundation of the concepts of merit, existence and legacy
value are at risk.
If culture is no longer justified per se, the entire sector suffers from a
legitimacy crisis, and its existence theoretically and politically requires to
be supported by a robust evidence of the benefits it generates. In other
words, its perceived value resides outside itself.
7 P.M.Johnson, “Merit good”. A glossary of political economy terms, Accessed February 2d, 2015.
Accountability is therefore the next question to address. A delicate
question, because in the last 25 years, while its intrinsic value was
progressively shrinking in the collective imagination, culture has been the
object of great expectations because of its instrumental value.
During the 1990s, in Europe, potential culture-based job and business
creation were a common topic of debate. This is one of the reasons why
the greatest source of EU funding for culture, starting in 1994-1999,
have in fact been the Structural Funds, i.e. the funding tool of the
Union’s economic cohesion policy9. Their rate of contribution to the EU
expenditure for culture reached at a certain point 83%, against 7.7%
from the sectorial programmes (“Culture”, “Media”, etc.). “There would
not have been a Creative Estonia policy programme, a Quartier de la
Création (Nantes), a revitalised Temple Bar quarter (Dublin) or a
Prototype Fund for video games (Dundee) without EU regional funding.
Nantes Métropole has spent 18% of its ERDF budget (around 54
million) on projects related to urban renovation and attractiveness,
including the creation of cultural facilities. Even Berlin has devoted 50
million to culture and CIs. These are important amounts, especially if
compared with the 400 million total budget of the European Culture
Programme.” 10.
Nonetheless, in the document of the Lisbon strategy, aimed at making
the EU "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in
the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better
jobs and greater social cohesion", by 2010, the noun culture appeared
9 For further details, see: and
only twice, and never in the sense we are using here, but as
“entrepreneurial culture” and “technological culture”.
Data were scarce, though, measures scarcer and their need begun to be
felt, even in those countries and in those milieux that at the time were
not adequately equipped. Built on the Unesco structure, Eurostat
published its statistical framework for culture in 2000 (revised by a
special ESSnet in 2012).
In 2006, the EC released a Report on the Economy of Culture in
Europe 11 , based on 2003 (and earlier) data and a quite inclusive
definition of the sector. Probably a delusion for those who were
expecting big numbers, the Report documented that culture and
creativity are not labour-intensive industries (at their pre-crisis best,
they reached 3.1% of the entire European labour force), and that they
contributed to the GDP of the Union by the 2.6%.
Note that, after 2006,
is being gradually integrated and finally
replaced in the collective expectations about development, growth and
wealth by
In December, 2014, a new report13 was released by EY. The 2012 data it
contains are heartening: with revenues of 535.9b, the creative and
cultural industries (CCIs) contribute to 4.2% of Europe’s GDP. The sector
is its third-largest employer, after construction and food and beverage
service activities, such as bars and restaurants. Employment tends to
retain the same percentage (3.1%). One should however consider that
both EU GDP and employment have consistently changed between 2003
and 2012: in absolute terms, 2003’s 2.6% was equivalent to 654b, and
12 See Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class: And How it’s transforming work, leisure,
community and everyday life. New York: Perseus Book Group and;
the people employed was 5.8 million, against 7 million estimated for
Observatories have been created and data collection has slightly
increased, with special emphasis on cultural economics. Two
Eurobarometers (in 2007 and 201314) have been devoted to cultural
participation, but, being based on a sample of about 1,000 citizens per
Member State, scholars tend to question their reliability.
On the whole, there is a neat discrepancy between whatever
expectations politicians have on the
value of culture and
the actual available data to assess such value. This holds true at both
macro and micro, EU and the local level.
Cultural-creative industries apart, the question remains how to assess
the impact of culture. Documentation on the ex post evaluation of
cultural projects in the Structural funds is unfortunately not detailed and
comparable enough, brilliant cases like Temple Bar in Dublin
The Kea report on culture in the Structural funds underlines that culture
“can be mined to attain different policy objectives:
· improve social cohesion;
· increase knowledge;
· protect and promote heritage;
· develop the local economy.”
In particular, the study of selected cases shows a coherent set of
impacts, such as:
· development of creative entrepreneurship and talents (Tartu Centre
for CIs, the video games Prototype Fund in Dundee, VC Fund in Berlin,
Nantes and its performing arts scene);
· incubation of innovation and new business models (CIs Development
Programme in Finland);
· encouragement of spill over effects between culture-based creativity
and other sectors (ICT, manufacturing, tourism, etc.) (the Kunstgreb
project on artistic interventions in Denmark, BUDA Fabric in Kortrijk);
· revitalisation of cities’ quarters and image (Quartier de la Création
Nantes, Klarendal quarter in Arnhem, Temple Bar in Dublin).
More on the cultural policy side, the European Capitals of Culture (ECoC)
projects have been regularly analysed, also thanks to the methodological
efforts carried out under the «Impacts 08 project» 15 . The method
investigates the social, cultural and economic impacts of the ECoC
experience on the city, and its legacy, in terms of sustainability of the
cultural activities, infrastructures and governance. The process is made
easier by the very structure of the ECoC projects, where desired impacts
are clearly stated with target indicators, in a proper strategic planning
framework, where specific and operational objectives are made explicit
from the beginning.
This introduces an important aspect of accountability: it is much easier
when evaluation (criteria, targets, parameters, indicators) is built in any
project since the early stage of their planning. Ex post evaluation
requires an ex ante frame of reference: when that frame is missing,
assessment becomes much harder and its results are likely to be less
reliable and relevant.
15 See, for a recent report,
Sustainable development, Well-being and other
complex measures, or the Other Reason
The social construction of value is a crucial theme when culture is
involved. The most interesting and collective effort to research in that
direction is «Cultural Value Project» by the Arts and Humanities Research
Council, UK16. In their own terms, “the AHRC wishes to make a major
contribution to how we think about the value of arts and culture to
individuals and to society. Recent years have seen many attempts to
capture that value in straightforward ways, not least in order to make
the case to governments for public funding, but none have commanded
widespread confidence.”
Launched in 2012, and coordinating now about 70 separate projects,
CVP investigates the components of cultural value, analysing the most
recurrent benefits of culture in the international literature: “The benefits
of cultural experience have been associated with a number of areas:
economic benefits (not just economic impact which has in recent years
been a dominant argument, but also the creative industries, cultural
vibrancy as an influence on UK inward investment, and the argument
that a vibrant arts and cultural environment has consequences for
innovation across the economy more broadly); health, medicine and well-
being; urban regeneration and community cohesion; cultural diplomacy –
to mention just some.” But, above all, CVP focuses on “the role of
cultural activity in helping to shape reflective and engaged members of
society. It focuses on the benefits of: an enhanced reflectiveness; an
improved appreciation of the other and an understanding of oneself; a
sense of the diversity of human experience and values; an ability to
reflect on difficult aspects of one’s own life and that of others.”17
CVP’s approach leads us to a possible place where intrinsic and
instrumental values of culture can be reconciled.
It is not the only one. The same can be said for the international efforts
to investigate
cultural sustainability
, i.e. to add culture as the fourth,
indispensable pillar 18 , to environment, society and economy as the
constituents of sustainable development. A good example of such an
endeavour is the COST Action19 IS1007: “Due to its broad definition and
understanding “culture” can be regarded as a fundamental issue, even a
precondition to be met on the path towards Sustainable Development
(SD) that is necessary to get to grips with in our various European
societies. Yet the theoretical and conceptual understanding of culture
within the general frames of sustainability remains vague. Consequently,
the role of culture in the political framework of sustainable development
is poorly operationalised. Therefore, the ultimate goal of this proposed
COST-Action is to increase understanding of and determine the role of
culture in SD based on multidisciplinary principles.”20. 25 countries take
part in the project, which is carried out by investigating and
operationalizing the concept of culture in the context of SD through
multidisciplinary approaches and analyses; by examining the best
practices for bringing culture into policy and practical domains, and by
developing means and indicators for assessing the impacts of culture on
SD. The results of the Actions will be exploited by the scientific
18 Among which the most relevant is “Agenda 21 for Culture UCLG Culture Committee”
19 Cooperation in Science and Technology.
community, policy makers, administrative personnel and practitioners
working with sustainability and culture from the EU to the local level.
Another valuable opportunity to re-consider the intrinsic value of culture
is represented by the «international research on well-being
The need to go beyond GDP as index of development has been evident
among a minority of international distinguished scholars and policy
makers for over 50 years. The last four years have seed renewed
momentum of the issue, that is gaining consensus, also thanks to such
relevant stirrups as the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Report and OECD’s Better
Life Index initiative. Measuring well-being however is by no means
easier than measuring development. It implies, first, identifying its basic
building blocks, i.e. describing phenomena that act as symptoms of
wellbeing, and are necessary and sufficient, taken all together, to
represent it.
If culture needs assessing and communicating its social impacts, the
measures of wellbeing need culture for being reliable, sustainable and
So far, the only example of formal inclusion of culture in a project of
measurement of well-being is due to the initiative of Enrico Giovannini,
then President of the Italian Statistical Institute. Cultural participation
(expressed by a synthetic index) and cultural heritage and landscape
have been considered among the over 100 detailed indicators that
describe well-being in the BES (Benessere equo e sostenibile) project21.
lesson learned
Let us suppose that the cultural process we have been and are
witnessing the shifting place of culture in our societies is a circular
one and that we are approaching the closing of the circle. The intrinsic
value of culture, and consequently the consensus surrounding it, have
progressively weakened, to be replaced by an instrumental perception of
the value of culture, that depends on its economic impact: income, jobs,
business, turnover. In the meanwhile, a widespread social indifference or
even contempt for intellectuals and artists, and a neat decline in the
overall rate of participation/consumption in areas like book reading,
theatre, concerts, museums and arts galleries, etc. has arisen.
But then, probably prompted by the delusion for the negative
performances of the economy, the need for creativity, imagination,
critical intelligence, even negative thought, unconventional points of
view, newly found ties with traditions, beauty, harmony, knowledge,
deep-reaching communication, empowerment, is creating a new place for
culture, not only in our future, but also in our present.
We are challenged to represent and to communicate that need.
About 30 cultural leaders from 15 different European and non-European
countries have participated in October, 2014, in a one-day lab organised
by CAE in Newcastle on how can the cultural sector in Europe measure
the impact of cultural activity. Their reflection, prompted by two short
introductory presentations, was also oriented by two basic questions,
- How big is the measurement opportunity for me/my
- How much experience and knowledge my organisation has in
dealing with this issue?
The need for effective and appropriate ways for assessing and
evaluating the desired social consequences of the activity of the cultural
organisations is the main concern emerging from the discussion. Number
and indicators are in some cases the most effective language, but
sometimes they are not the most appropriate. The need for translation
between the quantitative and the qualitative languages and for the
creation of a new language has been mentioned by many.
The answer could include a continuum of impacts: from ‘knowledge and
relationships’, through ‘values and social capacity’ to ‘participation and
quality’. The group shared good practices such as how to implement the
‘Most Significant Change’ method of evaluation. All were convinced that
numerical data underpinning the arguments for culture are, above all, a
necessary means to an end: to build consensus about the value of
culture, without being led by them but using them in the most
interesting way.
4.1. The results we expect
We are convinced that culture is a powerful answer to many concerns of
our time.
We are proposing ways:
- to appreciate that contribution in communicable terms;
- to compare different situations and practices and learn from
the comparison;
- to inspire and orient policy choices and policies at various
- to increase the accountability of the sector at large and of
its actors.
We are aware that there are not such things as standard values, optimal
performances in this field, and that each individual context produces its
own unique interaction with cultural actions because of its specific
history, social and economic profile, and background culture.
Nonetheless, we expect that relative changes positive changes and
impacts can be recorded and should be communicated and shared.
4.2. The approach
In consideration of the complexity of the challenge and of the cultural
sector, we suggest a
varying geometry
approach, with qualitative and
qualitative methods will be used where most appropriate. This entails a
sort of Swiss army knife strategy, i.e. the design of a set of different
instrument for collecting and organizing information (data, stories,
narratives, cases, indicators, etc.).
One possible approach is the
Zero impact hypothesis.
It consists in
assuming a hypothetical cultural activity with no social impact at all, and
measuring the deviation of the actual practices from that model. This
will lead us to record the smallest change brought about by culture as a
traceable element.
4.3. Observed phenomena
Cultural organisations, their audiences, their activities and the (planned
and unplanned) social impacts they generate are the main phenomena
observed in the project. The assessment process can start from both
ends: from the desired social changes or from cultural organisations and
their activities. Tests will be run for both options.
4.4. Information format and sources
Numerical indicators and quantitative data on culture are rare to find in
appropriate time series, sufficient detail, updated and comparable. They
are often derived from different sources, built in different ways for
diverse purposes, and address a very narrow palette of phenomena.
Other, culture-tailored, ways of collecting, processing, comparing and
analysing information are therefore necessary. Thus, sources may vary
and information can be derived from existing statistical sources as well
as ad hoc surveys and/or information collection of qualitative kind
(narratives, etc.).
4.5. Scale
The search for the appropriate scale(s) is a crucial issue when discussing
social impact. It involves the availability of data (generally not available
below the national/regional-nuts II level), but also, more important, the
definition of the basic units involved both in generating and in receiving
the impact. The local micro dimension is probably the best starting point
for the analysis.
Our project will try to describe ex post - what is the impact area of
various cultural activities, possibly comparing it with the assumed ex
ante - area.
4.6. Time and Duration
Regardless of what many politicians expect, culture seldom produces
short-term impacts. Although they are less spendable in terms of
consensus and votes, mid and long term impacts are very relevant, and
should be assessed with the most appropriate method. Long-term
impacts are generally more difficult to grasp, and the causal chain
leading to them is multiple. The time factor must also been taken into
account when considering the duration, nature and intensity of the
cultural experience (single, repeated, frequent, individual, collective,
etc.) and the duration, nature and intensity of the impacts.
4.7. Typologies of action
To the purpose of this project, one-time, occasional activities will not be
included. Especially for the pilot survey (see below) and the first tests,
regular, repeated activities involving the same audience will be preferred.
With reference to the statistical definition of the cultural sector in its
various domains (heritage, archives, libraries, performing and visual arts,
architecture, audio-visual, books and press), eligible actions can be
selected among any of them, provided that they satisfy the double
condition of duration and homogeneous public.
5.1. Pilot survey
The pilot stage of the project will be characterised by a
Swiss army knife
, using different tools for eliciting as much information as
possible on the social impact of cultural activities.
CAE member organizations who will volunteer will be involved in a pilot
survey based upon four mean experiences of data collection, i.e.: ad hoc
questionnaire; structured storytelling; MSC – Most Significant Change
technique; SROI – Social Return on Investments,.
A simple
ad hoc
questionnaire will be designed to collect among
the participating CAE members comparable basic descriptive
information on the actions both past and to come - they think
have the widest and deeper impact and their stakeholders.
Narratives on cases emerging from the questionnaire will be
recorded and organized in a structured way, in the form of a
dynamic repository, accessible by operators and scholars.
“The most significant change (MSC) technique is a means of
“monitoring without indicators” (but can also be used in
MSC is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is
participatory because many project stakeholders are involved both
in deciding the sorts of changes to be recorded and in analysing
the data collected. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs
throughout the program cycle and provides information to help
people manage the program. It contributes to evaluation because
it provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help
assess the performance of the program as a whole.
Essentially, the process involves the collection of significant
change (SC) stories emanating from the field level, and the
systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by
panels of designated stakeholders or staff. (…) MSC is most
Where it is not possible to predict in any detail or with any
certainty what the outcome will be
Where outcomes will vary widely across beneficiaries
Where there may not yet be agreements between stakeholders
on what outcomes are the most important
Where interventions are expected to be highly participatory,
including any forms of monitoring and evaluation of the results”22.
As indicated by many participants in CAE Labs in Newcastle, MSC
approach is worth adopting when data, indicators and quantitative
information is scarce or not adequate to represent the impacts
that have occurred.
“SROI Social return on investment is an approach to
understanding and managing the value of the social, economic and
environmental outcomes created by an activity or an organisation.
It is based on a set of principles that are applied within a
SROI seeks to include the values of people that are often excluded
from markets in the same terms as used in markets, that is
22 See
money, in order to give people a voice in resource allocation
decisions. (…) SROI is an account of value creation and the
account requires a mix of information including qualitative,
quantitative and financial.”23 SROI “focuses on answering five key
1. Who changes? Taking account of all the people,
organisations and environments affected significantly.
2. How do they change? Focusing on all the important positive
and negative changes that take place, not just what was
3. How do you know? Gathering evidence to go beyond
individual opinion.
4. How much is you? Taking account of all the other influences
that might have changed things for the better (or worse).
5. How important are the changes? Understanding the relative
value of the outcomes to all the people, organisations and
environments affected. 24.
SROI seems best suited for those actions which have been
implemented with the intentional purpose of generating social
5.2. Actors
The project will involve CAE members, on a voluntary basis. Collective
actors (companies, groups, etc.) will be preferred to individuals both
among the audiences and the artists/organizers.
5.3. A tentative list of domains
We believe that cultural activities produce a
continuum of impacts
than single, separate, distinctive effects on individuals and communities.
However, there have been, over the last years, interesting efforts to list
the areas where the social impacts of culture can be expected to be
greater. The Annex collects a sample of contributions of this kind.
Here we limit ourselves to mention some of the most frequently cited,
On the collective level:
- Liveability of places
- Social inclusion
- Cultural diversity, recognition and tolerance
- Empowerment of specific social groups
- Social capital
- Knowledge as common good
- Cooperative action
- New forms of income generation
- New occupations
On the individual level:
- Development of independent, critical thinking
- Development of creative, out-of-the-box thinking
- Self-esteem
- Identity and sense of belonging
- Satisfaction for one’s own leisure time
- Increased capacity of self-expression
- Sense of physical well-being
- Sense of psychological well-being
The pilot study will start from the above tentative list, aiming at
generating a new one, tested on the field. In the initial stage, each
component of the impact list will receive equal weight and involve no
5.4. Other methodological aspects
Besides qualitative and qualitative approaches, other aspects will be
taken in due account, for the reasons cited earlier: for instance, the
cultural quality of the social context where the cultural experience takes
place, the possible interaction with other cultural experiences (both
simultaneous and past), individual and collective attitudes, etc. The
difference between
audiences, with high levels of
participation/involvement in various cultural experiences and relatively
audiences, with low cultural participation rates should be
assessed and recorded.
Along with measures for the ex post evaluation of the social impact, the
project will develop tools for ex ante planning of the desired social
A special thanks to the contribution of Annalisa Cicerchia, CAE scientific co-director.
Specialized texts and books offering a theoretical overview of specific
concepts: ........................................................................................................................ 29
Scientific articles on specialized journals and websites: ................................................. 31
Reports, studies, work papers, data and metadata results of surveys,
investigations, researches, participatory action researches: .......................................... 32
Background papers, working papers, reports, presentations and records in
conferences, debates and meetings. .............................................................................. 42
Project summaries and mid-term reports ....................................................................... 45
Sets of methods, measurement principles and frameworks for research: ...................... 47
Indicators and measurements: ........................................................................................ 50
Research tools: ............................................................................................................... 55
Non-scientific articles on non-specialized journals: ........................................................ 55
Book reviews: ................................................................................................................. 56
Websites: ........................................................................................................................ 56
Calls for papers: .............................................................................................................. 56
Board resolutions: ........................................................................................................... 56
Magazines: ...................................................................................................................... 57
25 I wish to thank Nicla Pace for her precious help in the final classification of the resources collected
here. AC
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ocial and economic impacts of the arts and culture are a recurring topic in the literature of last two decades or more. Scepticism, in various extents, about their measurability coexists with an increasing accountability demand. In many cases, efforts to reporting cultural impacts appear disembodied from any planning frame of reference. It is so in many ex post evaluations, aimed at recollecting unplanned and unintended outcomes and spillovers of cultural projects of various nature. The European Capital of Culture Programme has increasingly developed a praxis for planning, monitoring and short term and medium term evaluating the desired impacts of the cultural investments, activities, events, etc. for candidate and selected cities. This paper investigates the impact and result indicators provided in the six Italian shortlisted cities Bidbooks in the selection process resulted in the adoption of Matera as European Capital of culture for 2019.
Technical Report
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Abstract Building upon extensive research from 2 validated well-being instruments, the objective of this research was to develop and validate a comprehensive and actionable well-being instrument that informs and facilitates improvement of well-being for individuals, communities, and nations. The goals of the measure were comprehensiveness, validity and reliability, significant relationships with health and performance outcomes, and diagnostic capability for intervention. For measure development and validation, questions from the Well-being Assessment and Wellbeing Finder were simultaneously administered as a test item pool to over 13,000 individuals across 3 independent samples. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted on a random selection from the first sample and confirmed in the other samples. Further evidence of validity was established through correlations to the established well-being scores from the Well-Being Assessment and Wellbeing Finder, and individual outcomes capturing health care utilization and productivity. Results showed the Well-Being 5 score comprehensively captures the known constructs within well-being, demonstrates good reliability and validity, significantly relates to health and performance outcomes, is diagnostic and informative for intervention, and can track and compare well-being over time and across groups. With this tool, well-being deficiencies within a population can be effectively identified, prioritized, and addressed, yielding the potential for substantial improvements to the health status, performance, and quality of life for individuals and cost savings for stakeholders. (Population Health Management 2014;xx:xxx-xxx).
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This article presents the theoretical and methodological considerations behind a research method which the author calls 'phronetic planning research'. Such research sets out to answer four questions of power and values for specific instances of planning: (1) Where are we going with planning? (2) Who gains and who loses, and by which mechanisms of power? (3) Is this development desirable? (4) What, if anything, should we do about it? A central task of phronetic planning research is to provide concrete examples and detailed narratives of the ways in which power and values work in planning and with what consequences to whom, and to suggest how relations of power and values could be changed to work with other consequences. Insofar as planning situations become clear, they are clarified by detailed stories of who is doing what to whom. Clarifications of that kind are a principal concern for phronetic planning research and provide the main link to praxis.
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