We Move! Global Youth Series: A Brave New World (Image: Kiaski Donkor and Eunice Walker)
Social Value Assessment (SVA) is an expanding method for assessing the impact of funded activities, including in the cultural sphere. It is argued that this form of assessment gives both a more complete and less reductive valuation of impacts and, more fundamentally, greater understanding of potential social change achieved.
The consultancy, MB Associates, was commissioned by the Coventry City of Culture Trust and has developed four case studies. These were selected due to the technical and resource-based characteristics, which made them representative of stakeholders and social outcomes across UK CoC 2021 events.
- Home Festival − an eight-day celebration of arts and homelessness projects in Coventry, co-produced by people with lived experience of homelessness.
- Animals! – a fun, interactive theatre in education and community performance by Dens & Signals featuring original songs, animals, humans and nature, with primary schools learning hedgehog homing from the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
- Pirates of the Canal Basin – a three-day inclusive participatory theatre performance, led by Coventry theatre company EGO, that was co-created over an 8-month period and included people with multiple disabilities.
- Global Youth Series – a three-day-long cultural exchange event delivered by young people, in partnership with the British Council, exploring global issues affecting young people today.
Social Return on Investment
Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a cost-benefit methodology applied to determine the monetary value of social value created for every pound spent on an intervention.
This SROI process applied a bottom-up methodology which assessed the value created in stakeholders’ own terms, rather than through the traditional cost-benefit approach, which assumes a shared value based on results from similar interventions for all stakeholders. This process involves a before and after assessment of change with participants, scenario and sensitivity testing and validation exercises.
Primary and secondary data were collected, and analysis and validation involved approximately 10,270 participants. These participants were representative of event audiences, including citizens facing social challenges, performers, disabled artists, young creatives, school children and their families, and decision makers, amongst others.
Case Study Findings
Across the four events covered in-depth by this SROI evaluation, £418,863 was invested and £1,365,566 in social value was returned. (The figure of £418,863 was provided by the Coventry City of Culture Trust and relates to the specific project spends for the four projects within the study.)
The Home Festival had a social return of 3.2 on each pound of investment, with over half that value falling to the 268 participating artists from the homeless community − equally experiencing ‘in the moment of joy’ and feeling more valued. A fifth of the value is expected to fall to the city in improved homeless policy based on ‘lived’ experience. There is potential for greater value through the long-term effects of this strategy on the population’s views of homeless people.
Animals! had a social return of 0.8. A quarter of that was due to improved skills for the theatre company Dens & Signals working with children. 20% each fell to children and families being more empowered in relation to the environment. More value could have been created by larger audiences for this bought-in project, attracting people not already environmentally engaged, and by earlier scheduling that would have allowed schools to plan a wider package of activity for their pupils.
Pirates of the Canal Basin
Pirates of the Canal Basin had a social return of 4.4. The biggest per-stakeholder impact was on the EGO team (estimated at £13K and described as transformational). Almost all the overall impact (86%) was with the 67 cast members through skills developed, confidence gained and a sense of belonging. There is potential for development of more civic pride through more systematic volunteer and local business involvement in this and other hyper-local areas
Global Youth Series
The Global Youth Series had a social return of 0.7. Most value (28%) fell to the six young creatives who felt empowered in their leadership roles, coupled with 24% to the city, as the creatives are more likely to stay and work in the area. Although they, and the creative audience, had a good experience, planning problems limited the British Council’s ability to attract an international audience and implement learning from this new model. It is here that development potential lies.
The Differences the Events Made
This value has been created from positive social impact outcomes on stakeholders’ skills, wellbeing, self-esteem, local cultural opportunities, personal relationships and professional relationships. Two negative outcomes were also factored in: increased stress, and isolation and exhaustion due to Covid-19.
The events each made a number of differences, these included:
- involving artists from marginalised groups
- second layer participation
- life-changing outcomes
- local cultural opportunities
- skills development
- increased esteem (self and other)
- relationships built (personal and professional)
- strategic changes.
There are many factors that enabled the events to make a difference, these included:
- giving due time
- taking risks
- paying fairly
- cross-sector partnerships
- longer-term support
- targeting belonging
- multi-faceted approaches.
The image above was created for day one of the three-day We Move! Global Youth Series produced by My Runway Group. It was a Coventry City of Culture Trust project that was supported by the British Council.
Mandy Barnett of MB Associates 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. (Starts at 1:44:53.)