Ross Harvie, 25 January 2014

Firstly please excuse my spelling (no spell check on this computer)

Secondly apologies for not getting the names of the brilliant people who contributed to

our session. They all were amazing and contributed hugely to our conversation.

For years in the arts, i have been used to gathering outputs for funders, how many

people came to a performance or workshop, how many performances we did and


Very rarely in a grant funded climate am I asked why we went somewhere and what

happened to that audience after the show, e.g. what is the lasting impact of that show

on that particular audience member, that because even though they may be on our

mailing list, I do not ask them to call me to tell me whether they are still thinking about

that piece of theatre two weeks later.

It's easier with social projects to stay in touch, I am kept informed for example that 4

people who attended by mental health cross artform project are either in work or

volunteering in the community, a important outcome of the project. I also know that I

can positively say that some participants left the house this morning to access the

project and this hasn't happened in the last 2 months. It because they were excited

about this opportunity and the thought of fun contributed to their health and wellbeing,

in short their happiness.

So how can we have such positive outcomes across all the art we are doing, not just

the social projects that we know tick big boxes?

My worry steams from a move in Local Authority Funding from a grant giving process

towards a commissioning agenda. For a start many commissions are payment by

results and clear outcomes my restrict the flow and natural direction our projects end

up taking.

We had the following questions raised:

whether measuring happiness was useful?

Whether raising awareness of an issue is an outcome? Whether the fact we all quite

often enhance our funding with other funding to create better quality projects is a

positive spin for funders?

The biggest question is how we are going to keep in touch with our audiences and get

them to engage with our long term evaluation process. We ARE going to ask the

audience what action they are going to take/or have taken after seeing our production,

we want to know the effect of our work two weeks, 1 month and 6 months down the

line. At least we will know the difference we have made. The practicalities of this are

impossible, but I am willing to invest some time in trying to develop this relationship

with some of our audiences.

We must develop a way of speaking in non-arts speak to funders where we are no

longer dealing with an arts service (for example I am dealing with a commissioning

officer who has no interest in the arts currently!) We must talk up the importance of the

arts as a form of education and the development of the next generation of artists. It's

important to show we are opening doors and creating platforms but most importantly

get the anecdotal evidence right, we need to be less flaky about our impacts. MOST

IMPORTANT, we must get to know our audiences, not pretend we know our

audiences, the relationship goes further than a feedback form or card survey between

productions. We need to stalk them and follow up with them and actively get to know

them better.

With our project work, we must not just evaluate with our participants, but also with

parents, careers and friends of our participants. For example, we want to know about

the slightest engagement from a dementia participant, particularly when this type of

condition is more focused on decline.

We have to know our stuff too, so we can recognise these outcomes. We must know

from the start of a project what we are trying to achieve, rather than finding out at the

end we have achieved a goal without aiming for that achievement.

Simply raising awareness itself of an client group to key stakeholders is an outcome,

and we must open the minds of our audiences to society, people, tolerance and

humanity as well as to the arts. My favourite example of this was the time we took a

piece of touring theatre to an urban community centre and one child asked “when is

the film about to start?” he sat still frightened for the entire production that the film was

3D and moving in front of his eyes. I bet he was talking about the production for weeks


We must protect imagination and give a platform for young poeple to think and dream

and the outcome of this is that our young people become brighter, more educated and


There is so much to engage in out there (particularly in London) and we must get

better at collectively measuring our outcomes, as an industry we are stronger. We

shouldn't put aside amateur work or community plays as the engagement in the arts is

equally if not stronger in this sector. And non-funded work should also consider its

outcomes for the industry as a whole. IMPORTANT: we must remember that the

audience is the most important stakeholder to our work as they are the initial funder of

our local authority.

So, we decided that the plural of evidence based is anecdotal, the stories of real

people not science is still important in a outcomes climate. We might be less free to

shape our projects once we have started, but we will know what outcomes we are

working towards.

The evaluation process needs to become fun and we must collaborate with unlikely

partners (e.g. i'm collaborating with our health and wellbeing partnership board at our

local authority). We must think in different ways. Try starting with outcomes and stop

chasing the money for projects where we can not deliver the appropriate outcomes.

We must have an AMBITION to stick to the targets and bring this back to our aim and

ethos and most importantly our organisations vision. We can make outcomes creative,

fun and enriching and the stable part of using the arts for a catalyst for change. We

are not interested in world outcomes such as the economic arguments but individual

real world stuff that helps people. We must not let passion get in our way to achieving

our goals, we must articulate clearly (probably something I haven't done in this

report!). We mustn't get caught up in the outputs debate, quality must come before

quantity. And finally, we must use all the resources available to us and remember that

1 hour a week may not be long enough with our participants to make a huge

difference, the limits of time are always against us within the realms of our funding.

Thanks everyone.


P.s. top tips:

The evaluation cook book for examples of evaluation tools

NPC have tools on measuring wellbeing


Local Authority, commissioning, evaluation, outcomes, Funding, funding, Evaluation,

grants, local authority