DCMS blog

Measuring the value of culture: an update

by

Claire Donovan

Lecturer at Brunel University

Dr Claire Donovan of Brunel University was asked to research the different ways of measuring the value of culture. A series of blogs by Dr Donovan followed to stimulate discussion about whether the value of culture can be measured. Here, Claire speaks about her report, which focuses on the part of this research which engaged directly with the views of the cultural sector, and was published last week.


It has been over a year since the first ‘Priceless?’ blog was posted on the DCMS website. The aim was to encourage discussion across the cultural sector about the very idea of measuring cultural value, and to frame the design of two workshops on this topic with evaluation experts. Your views have also fed into research for a report I was writing for DCMS, and which was published last week.

Measure For Measure

The original blog discussion began by asking if the value of culture can be measured in monetary (or other) terms, or if it is ‘priceless’. There have been more than 5,400 lifetime page views of the blog. The collective answers that were reached were: yes, the value of culture can be measured (although the word ‘captured’ was preferred as this was more inclusive of a range of methods); and yes, culture is also priceless.
Cultural Value
The strength of the blog discussion was that the cultural sector saw no contradiction in valuing our culture using an array of monetary or narrative approaches, and with capturing the unique value that the cultural sector creates. Indeed, this holistic approach breaks free from a ‘one size fits all’ model and lays the foundation for a pick and mix approach that can vary depending on context.

The Tempest

I began the blog with some trepidation as my impression was that the use of economic valuation techniques to value arts and culture grated against the ethos of a great deal of the cultural sector, and that the debate was polarized. This was true, but the blog and project workshops revealed a willingness to accept a holistic approach that used economic techniques where relevant, but also used other types of measures, or indicators, or qualitative and narrative approaches. The holistic approach turned out to be a fruitful way to move a somewhat static debate forward.

As You Like It

The Priceless? blog and the project workshops have shown that the cultural sector has a great deal of expertise to draw on, and a wealth of experience in different approaches to valuation, and is willing to engage with, and develop, a holistic and pragmatic approach together with DCMS.

All’s Well That Ends Well

I hope the project report, A Holistic Approach to Valuing Our Culture, marks the beginning of more opportunities for active dialogue and engagement between DCMS and the cultural sector to develop novel approaches to capturing cultural value, and to provide helpful resources relevant to all types of cultural enterprises. Once again, it’s over to you.

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