Did we do it? New approach for evaluating cultural policies and actions.
by Dr Luydmilla Petrova, Prof Arjo Klamer and Dr. Susana Graca Oliveira
There is an urgent need for reliable evaluation of qualitative achievements from different organizations, foundations and governmental organizations. The authors argue that, after years of focusing on the quantities of (economic) life, the time has arrived for considering the qualities of life. The new creative economy, based on sustainable development, calls for a different way of thinking.
The social and cultural qualities (values) of the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) have always been relevant. To capture their importance for the community and society, the authors propose the value-based approach as the theoretical framework that allows for assessing the contribution of a policy, an organization or any activity to various social and cultural values, and the Quality Evaluator as a tool to assess the process of value creation or change.
This approach was applied in an evaluation of the Community Arts program of the Arts Council of Malta, where the authors gathering data from different groups of stakeholders, analyse it and draw conclusions for diverse layers of impact. In the paper, we discuss the theoretical framework of the value-based approach and report the findings, point out limitations and make suggestions for improvements.
To capture the importance of cultural and social values of the CCIs importance for the community and society, we need to find measures which assess adequately their wide range of contributions beyond the economic one. We follow in this well-established institutions like the World Bank, OECD and European Union which all have concluded that there is a need of new measures that adequately capture the vast diversity of contributions to the well-being of the citizens.
Addressing the need to assess the realisation of such values within the CCIs policies and beyond, we propose the value-based approach as the theoretical framework that allows for assessing the contribution of policy, organization or activity to various social and cultural values, and the Quality Evaluator as a tool to walk us through the assessment process.
We argue that the assessment of values requires a process of valorisation as oppose to evaluation (Klamer 2017). Evaluation is about judging on the basis of certain criteria (Vatin 2013). This process doesn’t create value but reaffirms or rejects already existing values. Valorisation is a process of value production through which goods gain a worth. This process is uncertain and dynamic and requires deliberation (Klamer 2003). Such social processes of valorisation are no part of the standard economic analysis, yet constitute the core of the value-based approach.
We observe that values ground the objectives of policies and organisations, which in turn trigger actions as mechanisms of realization of those very objectives and, therefore, values. Organisations, projects or governmental bodies go through their processes of valorisation when they, for instance, implement a program to support the arts that aims at increasing creative activities in a certain region, or when they promote a festival that aims at disseminating a certain artistic field, or when they promote capacity-building workshops to help cultural managers write better applications. Behind all these actions are well-established values that the policymakers and cultural organisations want to see in action in society.
But, do the policies and organisations realize their stated values? Do we see those values operating in society as desired? The quality evaluator allows us to respond to these questions.
Our focus is on the specificities of each case we approach. We do not measure anything against a predefined standard; we ask whether the organisations under study met their own expectations. The impact of their activity is assessed through the affirmation, strengthening or change of such values, in relation to the stakeholders that the evaluated organization identifies (Klamer 2017).
This approach was applied in an evaluation of the Community Arts program of the Arts Council of Malta, where we had the possibility of gathering data from different groups of stakeholders, analyse it and draw conclusions for diverse layers of impact. In the paper, we discuss the theoretical framework of the Value-based approach and report the findings, point out limitations and make suggestions for improvements.
Lyudmila Petrova co-founded CREARE (Center for Research in arts and economics) and until recently worked as a director of the Summer School in Cultural Economics at CREARE. She teaches and does research on cultural industry and cultural innovation, financing of the arts, creativity, cultural entrepreneurship and international cultural policy. Since 2013, she is working on the implementation of the value-based approach as an evaluation tool for national and international projects. She holds a PhD in cultural economics from Erasmus University.
Arjo Klamer recently retired as a professor in cultural economics at Erasmus University, where he held the chair of cultural economics. In cultural economics he is responsible for developing the value-based approach as a challenge to more orthodox ways of recognising cultural value. He has authored several books on this approach including Doing the Right Thing. In his retirement Arjo remains active in research and is currently writing another book and also developing a course on humane economics for Free University.
Susana Graca Oliveira is a researcher, lecturer and consultant in cultural economics. She is currently the economic relations and EEA Grants officer of the Norwegian Embassy in Lisbon, and she is part of the team working on the value-based approach. For the past 20 years, she worked in the cultural field, namely managing public funding mechanisms for the arts, coordinating cultural evaluation teams and leading a planning and capacity building department for the cultural sector, at the Portuguese Ministry of Culture. Over the years, she has taught Cultural Economics in several courses, and she currently teaches at a Masters and a PhD program of the Theatre and Cinema School in Lisbon. She holds a PhD in Philosophy and Economics from Erasmus University.