On 27 April, the Foundation hosted an Arts Forum focusing on current best practices in evaluation for this sector. Representatives from 17 organisations attended including nine current and former Arts grantees. Participants discussed a range of topics from the need for better arts evaluation capacity to evaluation frameworks to the best length for a survey. The main focus of the Forum was considering what arts outcomes can look like: how to measure experiences and how to assign a value to the changes that occur.
Guest speakers from Culture Counts, Arts Victoria, the University of Melbourne, Cultural Development Network and the Australia Council also provided insights on funder expectations, project evaluation, and tools and frameworks to assign value to art experiences.
It was clear from discussions that the timing is right for an increased focus on evaluation. Arts organisations have expressed a need for training in the tools of data collection and analysis, and an appetite for shared learning to ensure we are all using comparable frameworks and indices.
Ultimately, we will see stronger evaluations of the projects we have supported, and hopefully will contribute to raising the bar of arts evaluation across the sector.
As a result, all attendees gained a better understanding of issues around evaluating arts projects. Grantees also increased their skills and networks. For the Foundation and for grantees, making connections with government agencies and university or private researchers who are leaders in evaluation is a critical component of strategic grant-making and project delivery respectively.
Feedback from the Forum attendees was very positive indicating attendees valued interaction with different arts providers to better understand their perspectives and concepts of evaluation.
‘Really loved it and very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. A great professional development and networking opportunity. Wonderful to have so many of my counterparts in the room and to hear what challenges and inspires them.’ Arts grantee
‘This has been really effective in allowing me to rethink what our organisation is doing and how we might do it better.’ Arts Grantee
‘It provided a useful insight into the current capacity and challenges of arts program grantees. I was interested to learn how developed the thinking of government bodies is in this area too.’ Funder
The Foundation firmly believes that as arts organisations develop a stronger understanding of why evaluation is critical, and how best to use the data and the stories that it produces, conversations will shift. The sector will be better able to articulate the value and impact of the arts on society, and use evidence of that impact to attract the resources required to ensure the sector thrives.