National Partnership for Culture: Workshop 4 – measuring change workshop report

Output report for the meeting of the National Partnership for Culture on culture and measuring change held in September 2021.

This note contains a high level summary of the main themes, issues and ideas advanced by participants at the above workshop.

Overview of culture sector data landscape

Dave O’Brien was invited to present a short overview of the culture sector data landscape and highlight areas of consideration for the group.

Dave highlighted that while a lot is known about the cultural workforce there is very little that can be said below UK level. He argued that in the context of intersections, it is almost impossible to draw out information on gender, race, income level, meaning that the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour survey is not helpful. While Dave pointed out that Scotland is better served in consumption data, particularly formal engagement, he argued it is hard to make links between consumption data and other areas of interest, for example workforce data or geographical data.

Highlighting that data does not always capture specific groups, Dave stated that young freelance workers, formal arts worker or those engaged in cultural activity do not always appear in formal surveys but that culture is a crucial part of their lives. Recommendations were made that these are precisely the people that should be kept in mind when thinking about cultural policy to ensure their voices are not absent.

The section was concluded by David Stevenson highlighting a challenge in the way the Culture Strategy was written. He argued that it is bold and ambitious but not measurable, and that if the sector were to select proxy indicators it may become a fight for whose voice is loudest.

For this reason, he explained that the Measuring Change Group (MCG) developed ‘critical questions’, which highlight areas for attention, and require the collection of specific information in order to facilitate making judgements on activity. Answering these questions will require a range of data to be collected, although he suggested it may be possible to collect this by making improvements to existing data sets.

Priority indicators

This first discussion focussed on the priority indicators suggested by the MCG. Members were asked what the priority indicators would be if they were to judge the progress against the Culture Strategy on an annual basis, and what data would be required to achieve this.

These indicators were grouped by theme with key questions attached to each theme. The indicators suggested by MCG would require a range of quantitative data. Some of this exists already but some would have to be acquired for this purpose.

Participants put forward the following points:

  • there was an understanding that ONS data will not be replicated in Scotland. There must be a prioritisation of the data that would allow the sector to measure the delivery of the Culture Strategy. This could also mean assessing the cultural data landscape for gaps and mapping the datasets that exist to understand the interconnectedness and what, if any, value it would add.
  • there needs to be wider consideration by the Scottish Government around priority setting for key agencies and working collaboratively to align those priorities with indicators developed for the Culture Strategy.
  • clear guidelines should be created around how data is being collected rather than just what is being collected, to ensure consistency and foster a deeper understanding.
  • indicators should be developed that can evidence a tangible change and demonstrate the impact of organisations having policy plans in place. Analysis is required to address the question of what real human change looks like.
  • consideration should be given to adherence to the Fair Work Convention principles and to whether union rhetoric and ideas could strengthen the fair work message.
  • when capturing measures, thought should be given to the purpose and process of capturing data and what caveats should be placed on the information. For example, in measuring Education and Skills measures, there are workers in the sector who do not have degrees, or those with formal cultural qualifications who do not work in the sector. In both instances, a large pool of people would either not be counted or would be incorrectly captured in the data set.
  • to ensure the work is not entirely adult-centric, there should be measures and indicators that seek to understand the cultural point of view of from children or young people and their experiences of culture through communities and education. This would link in to the children, young people and mental health strategies of the National Performance Framework.
  • consideration should be given to an indicator taking into account pathways; either in to cultural careers or community experiences in order to measure engagement or the effects of culture in transforming communities.
  • indicators should not be focussed only on the sector but include the public view; what they value about culture and how they get meaning from being involved in culture.

Existing data sets and data sharing

This discussion focussed on understanding the data already held in the sector and identifying where there are good data sets and evidence of strong data sharing between sectors.

Participants put forward the following points:

  • the Scottish Cultural Evidence Network was discussed but it was highlighted that the network has been dormant for a long time. Information was shared through the network, although agencies had competing priorities depending on corporate direction or political opportunity. It was felt that this network could be restarted and that there should be consideration into how agencies work more closely together to combine research and share data, ultimately being led by Culture Strategy priorities.
  • there are known issues about the key sector growth database but it is reliable from an economic development perspective and consideration should be taken into how we draw this in to the conversation and enhance how this could be used for the culture sector.
  • consideration should be given to how best to share current, ongoing and future data sets so that other organisations and bodies may be able to feed in.
  • opportunities for cross-portfolio working should be explored.
  • qualitative data should be placed as equal to quantitative data and understanding given to the value this can have for the cultural sector.
  • in considering the wider cultural picture of Scotland it is necessary to include the commercial sector and the services and data this provides.
  • improving relationships between bodies and organisations and the information gathering process is important to ensure that there is a consistent data collection method and understanding of the reason for collecting the data and the value it will have.
  • there needs to be a joined up, strategic approach to evaluation and research so that organisations are not being asked for duplicate information. Suggestions were given for either a joined up role in data co-ordination or single source to look across the culture sector data landscape to regulate evaluation and research approaches.

New data sets and ways forward

This discussion focussed on developing an understanding of the gaps in the data the sector already holds, in particular diversity and cultural asset data, and how the sector moves forward gathering the types of new data that might be required.

The main ideas on how to move forward were:

  • a scaled up version of the omnibus survey from Creative Scotland that it is multiagency and provides a single source which can be shared
  • a centralised reporting system that is completed once rather than continuous reporting to multiple organisations
  • a cultural observatory and who would own this centrally

Participants put forward the following points:

  • create a standard set of questions that are embedded in all surveys in the sector that would ensure a centralised collectable set of data.
  • consider how to work with other data gatherers, such as tourism sector, to build questions in to their surveys that would capture culture data.
  • consider a reporting system that ensures that organisations and individuals are not reporting multiple times.
  • consider working with a neutral third-party organisation that collates information from organisations.
  • ensure that indicators provide enough information to demonstrate an accurate description of the cultural landscape and that are able to highlight any issues as they arise.
  • consider how to ensure that indicators are balanced and flexible to fit with demand and supply information.

National Partnership for Culture Secretariat

October 2021

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