Chapter 2
Why should we measure the social impact of culture?

In Chapter 1 we identified the challenges in society and highlighted that arts and culture helps solve them.  Below are more reasons why we should measure the social impact of arts and culture:

  1. To make the case for Arts and Culture so we can demonstrate their additional social value. We can show how they transform lives, help people change behaviour, reduce loneliness, improve mental health, keep people out of hospital, prison, happy

People live longer, more safely and are less of a burden on the public purse if they aren’t lonely

  1. The Public Services Social Value Act 2012
    requires people who commission, or buy, public services to consider securing added economic, social or environmental benefits for their local area.  If we are going to talk to commissioners, local authorities, social investors about the value of arts and culture, we must speak in that language rather than ‘artspeak’.
  2. To demonstrate what we think we know – that arts and culture address social, environmental and economic issues, thereby improving mental and physical health
    (and saving public money)

Examples of what arts and culture can do for individuals and communities that we demonstrate:

Empowering individuals
Unlocking potential
Raising confidence
Enhancing a sense of belonging and self-esteem
Building community
Linking people and facilitating friendships
Reducing isolation and loneliness
Challenging stereotypes
Reducing inequality
Creating enjoyable public spaces
Creating employment, training and volunteering opportunities
Connecting people and places


  1. To keep learning how to do things better and share that learning with others – the successes and challenges.
    This learning informs future decisions about the work you may take on, whether the chosen factors to measure were the most appropriate, how to do things differently in future.

In conclusion, there are plenty of reasons why we should measure social impact and how arts and culture can play a part in alleviating society’s challenges.  Next we will look at how to measure impact – the practice, tools and techniques.

Illustration by Beatrice Simpkis