Jane Wilson, Chair of Arts Development UK, looks at CASE from a local authority perspective and how it can support operational activity and policy development.
It’s good to see that CASE is now starting to get a higher profile with arts professionals. Local authority arts officers are becoming more aware of CASE and many are now making use of the resources.
More use of CASE
It would be great to see even more use of CASE at local authority level. Take up of CASE at local level has taken time, but it does take time to build a whole new set of tools, to get people to use them, to identify the challenges in using new resources, and to maximize their benefits. If we look at other sectors we find the use of data and evidence as a basis for decision-making took a while to become established. The CASE programme only came into existence after 2008, with significant publications only really starting to come out in mid 2010.
Training events aimed specifically at local authorities, such as the CASE webinar are certainly very welcome, as would be more opportunities for learning about the Local Profiles and Insights tools.
Tools for the job
I mention the Local Profiles and Insight tools in particular because they are an excellent time-saving route into CASE for busy officers, providing directly relevant information for bid writing and policy development. Solid and relevant demographic data, ranging from arts engagement through to the numbers of creative businesses in a place, really helps, for example, with the process of making links between engagement and economic activity. The example of Arts Audiences: Insight (PDF 6.5MB) one of the practical tools developed from the Taking Part survey which pre-dates the CASE programme, demonstrates how time, publicity and an iterative process of development can embed a new way of thinking, using robust evidence, into everyday practice. I expect over time the Local Profiles and Insights Tools will also become embedded into everyday practice.
As the range of data, analyses and tools available through the programme increase, there will be more points of entry, and ways for professionals to engage. Right now, the evidence base isn’t the easiest of tools for a busy local authority arts officer to interrogate, being more suited to students and academics familiar with that language, and I would like to see that resource become more accessible.
Long term value
However, CASE should not be judged on its capacity to have the immediate impact often wanted from policy initiatives, or even on its immediate products, which will inevitably change over time. There’s as much value in CASE over the long term. For me, the critical shift that the programme is making, is the questions it asks about why and how people take part in culture and how we can help or hinder that process. The particular value of CASE, above and beyond the very helpful tools it generates along the way, is that it is actually asking these questions at all.
Photo by Mark Hunter on Flickr. Some rights reserved.