Urban Astronaut at Festival of Imagineers (Photograph: Andrew Moore)
Ahead of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture (UK CoC 2021), an independent core team developed a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation strategy. This included a Theory/Story of Change model against which activities would be measured.
Evaluation Strategy & Theory/Story of Change
The Theory/Story of Change was used by the Coventry City of Culture Trust when designing the UK CoC 2021 programme, which delivering co-created and hyper-local events.
Performance Measurement and Evaluation
A comprehensive strategy to measure performance and evaluation was published in January 2020.
This document provided a profile of UK CoC 2021, its governance and direction, funder agreements, details of stakeholders and timetables, as well as the Theory of Change, performance monitoring, measurement and evaluation.
The strategy identified a set of research questions which the evaluation would seek to answer. They asked about the:
- degree to which the objectives of the programme were accomplished and its continued legacy
- performance of the programme and whether it achieved its expected outcomes
- degree to which the programme was delivered with efficiency, economy and social value.
Jonothan Neelands was part of the panel, speaking at the Cultural Policy and Evaluation Summit on 25 June 2021, in the early stages of the UK CoC 2021 year, which described the monitoring and evaluation process. (Starts 25:30)
Nick Henry and Mark Scott presented an outline of the monitoring and evaluation process at the Winning Moves Midlands Regional Evaluation Network on 2 February 2022. The presentation is available on YouTube (starting at 7:30, with questions ending at 28:45).
In addition to the externally commissioned work, the core monitoring and evaluation team produced a series of reports that used the Performance Measurement and Evaluation Strategy as a baseline from which to assess UK CoC 2021.
A series of six quarterly Progress Reports were released that covered the period from January 2018 to June 2021.
In January 2022, an Interim Report was produced that evaluated UK CoC 2021 activity between December 2017 and November 2021.
This was followed in September 2022 by a Supplementary Report that covered the remainder of the UK CoC 2021 year for the period December 2021 to May 2022.
The Final Evaluation Report was released in November 2021 that covered the bidding process, the build-up period, the UK CoC 2021 year and immediate post-year legacy plans.
Although the title of UK City of Culture does not come with ready-made funding, its award enables discussion with a range of funding organisations.
As a result, the UK CoC 2021 programme was built upon several streams − that primarily included the Heritage Lottery Fund (Dynamic City/Green Futures), the Community Lottery Fund (Collaborative City/Love Coventry) and Spirit of 2012 (Caring City) − which shaped the City of Culture Trust’s approach to delivery. Each funder received a report detailing the activities undertaken and providing a summary of findings:
- Green Futures Programme report (released January 2023) found that the hyper-local co-creation model in place had engaged communities and brought them closer to green spaces and nature within Coventry.
- Love Coventry Programme report (published February 2023) reviewed the strand that celebrated community and citizens’ stories from all neighbourhoods of the city.
- Caring City Programme report (published March 2023) detailed the work with seldom-heard communities to improve wellbeing, self-esteem and social-connectedness.
Economic and Social Value
The UK CoC 2021 was distinctive in seeking a stronger balance of social, cultural and environmental outcomes, alongside the now common economic impacts based upon visitors and their expenditure, and potential and cultural creative sector development (as seen in the Theory/Story of Change).
The evaluation framework, approach and methodology sought to carry this emphasis through, with decisions taken to contract out both UK CoC 2021 Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) and a Social Value Assessment (SVA) with equal weight. In combination, they could provide a ‘total value’ of impact for UK CoC 2021.
The approach recognised the challenges and risks of such an intent but was deliberately seeking to test boundaries in value assessment of cultural mega-events.
Economic Impact Assessment
A baseline report was presented in July 2021, which was followed in November 2023 by a final report. EIA is also included in an annex to the final evaluation report.
Social Value Assessment
Social return on investment has been calculated for four carefully selected case studies. These are presented within the final evaluation report.