ENCATC Advanced Seminar on Rethinking Cultural Evaluation: Going Beyond GDP

Beyond the Obvious: Culture Action Europe Conference
17th November 2014
NCFA November Newsletter
18th November 2014


I attended an ENCATC Advanced Seminar titled Rethinking Cultural Evaluation: Going Beyond GDP on 22 October at the Paris offices of the media company Vivendi, just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe.

ENCACT describes itself as the leading European network on Cultural Management and Cultural Policy education, gathering together higher educational institutions and training organizations dealing with cultural management education and training. Established in Warsaw in 1992, the network counts over 100 members in 40 countries across Europe and beyond. Its sole Irish member is the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUIG.

ENCACT has the status of an international non-profit organisation, an official UNESCO partner NGO, and of  “observer” to the Steering Committee for Culture of the Council of Europe.

The day’s proceedings repeated the mantra that ‘culture is difficult to measure’ and demonstrated there is greatest interest in measuring it where it is linked to economic impact.

The structure of the seminar was as follows

Panel 1: Open Frameworks

Melika Medici Caucino, Programme Specialist, Division of Creativity, UNESCO
María Iglesias Portela, Head of Research and Analysis – KEA European Affairs
Lorena Sanchez, Project Coordinator of Better Life Initiative, OECD

Panel 2: New Methodologies
Kim Dunphy, Research Programme Manager at the Cultural Development Network, Australia
Claudine de With, Researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Pascale Thumerelle, Vice President CSR at Vivendi, France

Round Table Discussion
Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Coordinator of the Cultural and Creative Industries activity, European Commission – Joint Research Center
Olivier Le Guay, Editorial Manager at the Forum d’Avignon, France

Link to presentations.

I arrived towards the end of the first panel, in time for Lorena Sanchez’ presentation. She described how culture is not included among the 11 indices of what matters in people’s lives that the OECD currently measures. There was no indicator for culture because it was not easy to measure. This was the view of others, including Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska. She presented the European Commission’s role as, in line with the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs, ensure that the culture sector is able to increasingly contribute to employment and growth across Europe. Her office measures what it is asked to measure and qualitative values are hard to evaluate.

A recurring term that was new to me was ‘spill-over.’ Maria Iglesias Portela of KEA defined this as a ‘process takes place when creativity originating from culture and creative professionals and industries (“culture-based creativity”) influences innovation in sectors where culture and creative professionals do not usually evolve.’ Despite the novelty of the term its connection between investments in culture and economic outcomes was familiar.

When proceedings were opened up to the audience I proposed that the challenge in measuring culture had its basis in ideology rather than in a fundamental intellectual difficulty. If the thrust of policy is to create workers rather than to form citizens then the appropriate instruments for this exercise will be used.  A society than can conceive quantum physics can also measure culture, if it wants to.

Other contributors such as Kim Dunphy of the Cultural Development Network, Australia proposed a holistic model for evaluating outcomes of artistic engagement, applicable in project settings as presented but potentially scalable for larger programmes.

There wasn’t a great deal of rethinking cultural evaluation on the day, more of a restatement of the challenges faced when proposing to do so. The overall impression I formed from the seminar was of a forum for very interesting discussion that could only be enhanced by more contributions from artists and cultural managers, who can offer first hand practical experience and challenge instrumental-only thinking.

Willie White
Director, Dublin Theatre Festival

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