Culture Count: Measuring Cultural Value

17 April 2012 Artery

Hasan Bakkshi, Director of Creative Industries at NESTA (UK), joined us recently at Culture Count: Measuring cultural value.  He thinks we need more sophisticated public funding decisions for culture – ones that are better understood by cultural institutions and by the public.

Artery spoke to Hasan about why the arts should not rely on the goodwill of policymakers, but must make their case for funding in economic terms.

Q: You addressed a full house at Culture Count – why do you think so many people are interested in measuring cultural value?

A: I think more and more people are aware that culture remains more vulnerable to cuts in funding in the absence of rigorous measurement frameworks.

Q: What do you think Australia can learn from the UK in terms of measuring cultural value?

A: The sad truth is that rigorous measurement remains the exception to the rule in the UK’s arts and cultural sector. There have plenty of panel discussions and roundtables over the years, but next to no practical examples of implementation. The main lesson from the UK is that debates in this area will not progress without clear leadership – in the UK, it is the Arts and Humanities Research Council that is beginning to show this leadership.

Q: In practical terms, what can arts organisations do to measure their impact?

A: They can devote a small fraction of their funding to go towards rigorous evaluation of their work. This may seem an impossible task given the pressure on core budgets, but it is money that will pay back many times over in the longer term.

Q: You spoke in three cities in five days. What impressions do you have of the Australian arts sector from your short visit?

A: I was impressed by the degree of interest there is in measurement and evidence in the cultural sector shown by funders, organisations and the media. Coming from the UK which has huge fiscal challenges I was however surprised by how many people in Australia attribute the barrier to more rigorous measurement to fiscal constraints. In my experience the main barriers to rigorous evaluation in the cultural area are not financial, but the lack of political will and leadership.

Q: When can we expect to see you ‘down under’ next?

A: I am actively developing research collaborations through my research fellowship at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at Queensland University of Technology and my previous work with David Throsby at Macquarie University. No doubt I’ll be back in Australia soon!

If you missed the event, you can watch a video of Hasan’s speech and the panel discussion which followed:

Our research team has also compiled a list of measurement resources on Council’s Research Hub.

Hasan Bakhshi’s visit to Australia was supported by the Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation.

Image Credit: Sharon Hickey courtesy of City of Sydney