Building on my first Priceless? blog, this week I’d like to issue a challenge: how many measures of ‘cultural value’ can you think of?
Mind your language
OK, so perhaps I shouldn’t say ‘measure’. Why not? Well, one of the major themes running through the blog discussion so far is the need to take care in the language we use when discussing the idea of measuring cultural value. Definitions of the words ‘value’, ‘culture’ and ‘measure’ are all contested and convey different meanings.
When thinking about demonstrating the benefits the cultural sector brings to the public, the word ‘measure’ tends to direct thought towards counting things, and, of course, economic valuation. Yet the broader notion of ‘capturing cultural value’ also allows room for alternative ways of thinking about representing cultural value using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Organisations in the cultural sector have largely been individually grappling with how to provide the most powerful evidence of the value of their efforts. The dominant discourse traditionally is one of metrics, inputs and outputs. Yet there is a parallel concern that this renders broader public benefits invisible or intangible.
A joined-up approach
The Priceless? blog wants to hear about and learn from your experience of measuring or capturing cultural value. What ‘measures’ does your organisation use? What ‘measures’ do you think DCMS should use (or not use)? Is anything important being missed?
It seems that the time has come to share best practice in the sector. Do non-economic approaches to valuation have anything meaningful to offer? Who is at the forefront of developing novel economic or narrative approaches? What can we learn from other policy areas?
‘Measure’ for ‘measure’
I would like to issue a challenge. I bet that there are so many diverse approaches to demonstrating the value of the cultural sector that we can collectively generate a list of one hundred ‘measures’ of cultural value this week. And as an incentive – as if you would need one – there are some DCMS prizes for the most creative suggestions!
The point is that my research wants to draw together a comprehensive list of standard and novel approaches to ‘measuring’ or capturing cultural value, and then later go on to investigate what works best and in which contexts.
I will start the ball rolling by listing some methods Phase One of ‘Measuring Cultural Value’ recommended that DCMS could use.
1. Contingent valuation/stated preference techniques
2. Travel cost/willingness to pay
3. Subjective wellbeing
Now, over to you …
4. Improved equity
5. Enhanced quality of public debate
6. Changes in individual or collective perception/attitudes
7. Contributing to cultural preservation and enrichment
8. Income generated
9. Visitor/attendance figures
10. Visitor/public satisfaction ratings
11. Public participation in events
12. Degree of ‘transformativity’
13. Number of lives changed
14. Social Return on Investment (SRoI)
15. Multi-criteria Analysis (MCA) of various stakeholder views on ‘value’ generated
16. Value of tangible assets
17. Product sales
18. Media mentions
19. Website visits
20. Number of downloads
21. Awards/prizes received
22. Critical acclaim
23. ‘Brand’ visibility
24. Market share
25. Creative industries employment figures
26. Number of arts/cultural sector volunteers
27. Life-changing experience
28. Number of books borrowed
31. Cost Benefit Analysis
32. Return on Investment
33. Philanthropic bequests
34. Revenue from commercial transsfers (e.g. film and TV productions)
35. Artistic/aesthetic quality
36. Social cohesion
Use the comment section below to share your ‘measures’ of cultural value, your views on these questions or other aspects of measuring cultural value.
Dr Claire Donovan is a Reader in the Health Economics Research Group at Brunel University, London. ‘Measuring Cultural Value (Phase 2)’ is jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
This interactive blog seeks to stimulate discussion across the cultural sector on the very idea of measuring cultural value. Dr Claire Donovan is an academic working at DCMS to write a report on this issue, and wants to know what you think. Can the value of culture be measured by government in monetary (or other) terms, or is it ‘priceless’?