Measuring the impact of the arts to convey it effectively
Blog post from Director and CEO Simon Brault
In 2016, the Canada Council for the Arts launched its strategic plan, Shaping a New Future, and an innovative funding model, while also committing to better reporting on its investments. At this point, the Council was at the very beginning of a five-year cycle (2016–21) that would see its budget incrementally doubled.
In order to accurately measure the projected progress of the newly invested funds, we established a point of reference. A precise statement of our investments for the 2015–16 fiscal year (by artistic discipline, region, organization, and type of grant) became our point of reference for reporting on our progress.
An evidence-based decision-making practice
The Council adopted an exemplary approach to open data, which provides the arts community and the general public with (widely accessed) funding data—as with its Stats and Stories tool, for example.
Our enhanced capacity to extract data enables us to make evidence-based decisions. This places us among the world leaders in the field of quantitative measurement of arts funding.
Measuring the impact of the arts: the Council’s responsibility
In 2017, we launched a major research project with a view to better understanding, documenting and explaining the value of the arts and the multitude of short- and long-term impacts of our investments on the cultural sector and society at large. We recently published an impact framework that illustrates our chosen approach.
By doing away with the conventional clash between quantitative and qualitative measurement, or between counting the number of activities and the analysis of results, we are renewing the conversation on the necessity, usefulness, and scope of public arts funding within a democracy.
The Council deliberately chose not to make the artists and organizations it supports responsible for demonstrating the value of our investments. Implementing approaches and research projects to champion the crucial importance of public funding and access to the arts across society is our responsibility, and we’re taking on that responsibility with the collaboration and contribution of the sector.
Acknowledging Indigenous cultures in our research
A few months ago, we conducted a survey and collected a first bundle of data on the results of our current granting programs—on which we will soon report.
Many other projects are also underway. One of the most innovative ones focusses on decolonizing approaches, methodologies, and protocols for research and measurement that do not take into account Indigenous spirituality, cultures, cosmogony, and rights. Stay tuned as this is something I will certainly revisit.