In 2019, Arts Council England launched the Impact and Insight Toolkit; a standardised evaluation process for funded arts organisations using the Culture Counts Evaluation Platform.
Through extensive research and development, the Toolkit was designed for organisations to capture feedback and report on the impact of their activities. This was part of Arts Council’s ambition to aid organisations to embed reflective practice into their artistic operations and align their cultural and social relevance to the needs of their communities.
Over 8 years of research was conducted, prior to the rollout of the Impact and Insight Toolkit. The research was staged and developed organically through ongoing consultation with the sector. Milestones included:
- 2013: Manchester Metrics Pilot
- 2015: UK Quality Metrics Development (Home & Nesta)
- 2016: UK National Quality Metrics Test
- 2016: UK National Quality Metrics Test Evaluation (conducted by Nordicity)
- 2017: Participatory Metrics Development and Evaluation (Shared Intelligence and Mighty Creative)
- 2019: Cohort Metric Research
All National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) have access to the Toolkit, with Band 2 and 3 organisations being required to undertake a minimum-level of evaluation as part funding agreement with Arts Council. As Arts Council England has evolved its strategy and investment principles over time, so too has the Toolkit continued to evolve. Culture Counts delivery partners Counting What Counts, has continued to work with NPOs to develop new evaluation templates, data protection guidance, integration with other tools, artform specific metrics, reporting templates and general evaluation support, guidance and training.
As a world leader in the evaluation of arts and cultural activity, Arts Council England continues to encourage forward-thinking, best-practice approaches towards investing in arts and cultural experience that deliver relevant impacts for their communities.
“All of the work we invest in is ultimately for the benefit of people and communities across England.”Dr Darren Henley OBE, Arts Council England View the dashboard
In 2013, a group of organisations in Manchester, aware of the Public Value Measurement Framework worked being developed in Western Australia, registered interest in developing a shared evaluation approach themselves. With pilot support provided by Arts Council England, the Manchester Group developed a series of metrics that would form the core of the evaluation pilot.
The Manchester Group’s articulation for this was to mirror the process undertaken in Western Australia; to lead a bottom-up sector-led process towards developing metrics that organisations felt spoke to their priorities firstly, rather than wait for Art Council itself to commission one and then impose it from top-down. By supporting this pilot, Arts Council England then went on to ask whether a sector-led approach to evaluation could also serve its own investment principle needs of supporting arts and cultural activity to ultimately benefit the people and communities across England.
The Manchester Group underwent a similar development process to that of developing the Public Value Measurement Framework (PVMF) in Australia – discussing the principles of their activities and collaborating to develop a set of metrics that spoke to these principles using shared and consistent language. The finalisation of the Manchester Pilot (and the PVMF in Australia) led to ACE spearheading the development of the ‘Quality Metrics’ framework. In collaboration with HOME Group and funding support from ACE and Nesta, Counting What Counts and Culture Counts took refined the metrics from both activities and then supported in a national implemented test with 150 organisations supported by Arts Council England.
After further evaluation and the development of a participatory metrics framework to complement the types of work that could be evaluated, Culture Counts and Counting What Counts was awarded the tender to deliver the rollout of what would be called the Impact and Insight Toolkit; a standardised evaluation process for all Arts Council funded organisations to monitor the impact of their programmes and activities. This rollout would include ongoing with sector cohort groups to continue to refine and build metrics to complement the toolkit and the types of activities it can evaluate, with the goal of delivering evaluation evidence that can support decision-making and reflective practice for many types of arts and cultural organisations.
In 2019, Arts Council England launched the Impact and Insight Toolkit. Culture Counts and Counting What Counts built the toolkit to employ the Culture Counts Evaluation Platform and integrated new features required by Arts Council England into the software, including a peer portal and reporting templates. The process delivers standardised reporting and evaluation templates for all participating organisations and an aggregate BI dashboard for the Arts Council to monitor the use of the toolkit. Work is underway to deliver an anonymised dashboard that represents the data gathered through the toolkit, in alignment with open data government policy to support further research and sector benchmarking.
Shared Intelligence: Testing the Accessibility of Arts Council England’s Quality and Participatory Metrics
Image attribution: Arts Council England
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