Tomorrow’s Dorset young leaders representing The Complete Freedom of Truth, a project led by Opera Circus were invited to the European Parliament by Claire Moody MEP South West & Gibraltar and Julie Ward MEP North West England who is on the EU Committee for Culture, Education and Citizenship.

Rosie Russell, Culture+ Social Impact lead who was with the young leaders shares the importance of social impact through the arts and culture sector in Dorset and how we can measure it:

Having spent three days in Brussels talking to MEPs and Culture Action Europe about the future of culture and young people post Brexit, it’s increasingly clear that all of us in the arts and culture sector need to demonstrate even more forcefully the value of what we do.

Young leaders representing The Complete Freedom of Truth; an international youth project led by Opera Circus.


Culture Action Europe has already begun a campaign for Europeans to articulate the value of culture. Read more here. The funding cake will become smaller as UK leaves Europe, both in Europe and in UK.

Culture will be in even greater competition with health, education, environment and so on in these times of austerity.  Consequently, there is an even greater need for us all to be able to show how the arts and culture makes a difference – to health, education, the environment and social cohesion.

How can we do this?

We have to measure what we do.  It’s not enough to say ‘it’s nice’, ‘it’s good’, ‘it’s art’ because the answer to that is – ‘so what?’

We have to talk in the language that a social investor, a commissioner and/or local authority understands.

Quantitative measurements

Firstly, there are quantitative measurements such as:

  • how many people are participated in or attended the event
  • their demographic profile and
  • how far they travelled etc.

Qualitative measurements is also key

These facts and figures are not enough however. We need to go further than that.

This is the really important bit and where we can show our creative evaluation measurement skills. We should be able to show the ‘journey’ people travel as a result of their arts and culture engagement.

This can be in terms of:

  • increased confidence and self worth
  • increased knowledge and/or skills
  • increased economic benefit – getting more work or increasing turnover as a result of the artistic intervention
  • managing life better; decreased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and more engaged in their community and making new friends
  • re-engagement with education or training

Telling stories

Demonstrating individual case studies is a critical piece of the evidence that we should be using to influence and lobby for investment in culture.

These stories can show how investment in culture makes a difference by saving money spent in some areas (cost of crime, sickness, unemployment) and adding value to others – such as education, local economy and employment.

The best stories are of course told by the participants themselves in their own words rather than organisations saying, ‘this is x’ and ‘they did y’. These personal stories are more inspirational and have greater impact than organisations’ templated style which can sound dry and distant from the individual human voice.

RIO (Real Ideas Organisation) is a great example of how to tell stories and demonstrate impact.

We need to collaborate on telling the world how collectively we make a difference to the lives of people in Dorset through the arts.

If you are an arts and cultural organisation and would like to learn more about how to measure the social impact through your artistic endeavour contact Rosie Russell on

Sign up to our free workshop all about Telling Your Story – Putting forward your case for support here