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Better data, better policy – making data work

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The cultural sector makes a significant contribution to people’s lives, to society and the economy – so why do we struggle to convey its impact?

Making data work is a research project led by the Centre for Cultural Value and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The work brings together UK cultural sector partners, data specialists and policymakers to explore how better data can lead to better policy. The team included researchers from arts management, cultural policy, psychology and quantitative sociology, working closely with industry experts from The Audience Agency and MyCake.

At the heart of the research, we observed different and divergent protocols for data collection, collation, storage, analysis and impact evaluation across the cultural sector. These varied and excessive approaches to data management have led to a chaotic and sporadic landscape for cultural evaluation, making it harder to demonstrate impact at the level of national policy.

Ben Walmsley, Director at the Centre for Cultural Value, notes that it is now essential to evidence the true value of what the cultural sector does:

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, it has never been more important to understand the impacts that cultural activity and engagement have on people’s lives.

The research also focuses on the variety of voices and perspectives evident within the cultural sector. We consider the role of creative practitioners alongside the parts artists, audiences and communities play in data collection.

The report also identifies opportunities for funders, sector bodies and policymakers and explores how they might be able to improve cultural data practices.

Ben Walmsley adds:

The Centre for Cultural Value is committed to supporting the development of a more effective data infrastructure for the cultural sector. Only a rigorous, joined-up approach to cultural sector data can deliver this goal and our new report highlights some of the ways we might collaborate to achieve this.

Delve deeper into the full report, read the executive summary and find out more about the suggested next steps.

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