Transported’s Story of Change

An introduction to evaluating Transported (thinking about its whole value)

National funding body the Arts Council has invested £2.5m to inspire people in Boston and South Holland, by providing them new access to the arts.  The area was nominated because in 2010 participation was around 10% lower than the England average.  This was down in part to supply and in part to demand; there is just one organisation funded through the National Portfolio to deliver the arts locally (South Holland Centre), but there is also low engagement generally. There is limited participation in community activism for example; in movements like Transition Towns or campaigns like Fun Palaces, and low use of social media.

Locally, Transported was set up to invest the funding after it was secured in a bidding process by a local consortium. It’s the Arts Council’s job to promote the arts for arts sake, but when Transported consulted local people they also wanted to see a tangible impact locally – creating better community spirit for example, improving public spaces and not surprisingly they wanted more jobs.

As luck would have it these two interests co-exist happily.  The arts, including museums, heritage and libraries, are extremely effective at improving quality of life.  In fact, recent analysis of millions of Mappiness entries (an app which randomly pings wellbeing questions at the UK’s population) showed that the arts is the second highest scorer for wellbeing.  The value of that wellbeing to people who visit museums for example, is over £3,000 a year, significantly more than engaging in say, adult education. Audiences to the arts are 5% more likely to report good health and 6% more likely to have frequently volunteered.  Participants are 14% more likely to go onto further education, giving them access to better jobs.

Transported projects demonstrate these social effects well. At FreshLinc supervisors reported an increase in pride and skills in drivers.  At Elsoms the chairman described that ‘people came away feeling uplifted’ after a six week residency in the canteen, and staff brought their families in to see the final show.  One worker was so moved he was ‘nearly brought to tears’.  At Fenside the photography project breathed life back into the community centre at a time when its existence was under threat.  The community continued to communicate through their own Facebook page and asked for a new photography club too. In a library project at Lutton a participant described how ‘It’s what Lutton needs, what a really little village needs… it definitely brings us together… it builds spirit and community’.

Our company, MB Associates, has been appointed as an independent evaluator to show the artistic and social impact of Transported and assess its whole value.  Our first task was to create a logic model of a Story of Change from the evidence of two hundred odd Transported activities. We identify the investment, the delivery approaches and the different outcomes in this animation.  This Story of Change is the first step in a methodology called Social Return On Investment, or SROI.

SROI shows the return on investment in social and environmental, as well as economic terms.  It combines the story with numerical values so the many and varied projects can be compared.  It captures knock on effects on families and friends for example,  and into the future with long-lasting impact.  Similar approaches are being used more and more in response to the Social Value Act on public spending, but also in the private sector.  For example the consulting giant KPMG has recently devised True Value, a similar triple-bottom-line approach with businesses like international cement company Holcim.

Initially, Transported focused on increasing demand with a high number of exciting and varied events.  In the next phase work was more focused, with businesses, libraries and others on more in-depth participation. Lately it is more strongly addressing the supply, working increasingly with the local arts infrastructure potentially creating an online directory and trade fair.

The whole value approach that we are using will evidence all of these market developments, as well as identifying the strengths and challenges and understanding what works.  We will get a broad picture of local people’s response as audiences to a lot more arts going on. But we also have a deep picture of how communities, participating either locally or in the workplace, can feel a more profound effect on their skills, communal pride and everyday wellbeing.  And alongside both these developments in demand we will assess whether there is matching growth in supply so that there is the potential to sustain. This is detailed and complex, but we hope in the long run to make a really good case for the whole value of the arts, from the briefest of captivating experience, to profound change in a local community.

Mandy Barnett

MB Associates

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Introducing Transported

Transported is a strategic, community-focused programme which aims to get more people in Boston Borough and South Holland enjoying and participating in arts activities.  It is overseen by a Management Group, a sub-committee of Leisure in the Community, with artsNK as its lead organisation.  It is funded by the Creative People and Places fund from […]