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Culture Counts - can intrinsic value be measured?

Much has been written about the intrinsic value of the arts but the challenge remains: how can arts organisations measure the value they are creating from their events and activities?

This is the question Arts Queensland hopes to answer through our participation in a six-month trial of a new audience surveying platform called Culture Counts, developed by Western Australian economics consultancy, Pracsys.

Audience surveying is not new to the arts sector, however Culture Counts is different to other approaches in a few key ways:

1. The surveys are built around a set of core dimensions that have been identified through extensive research and consultation as key components of intrinsic value – for example, relevance, captivation, distinctiveness, and so on. Survey questions have been designed to capture these dimensions – for instance, the dimension of relevance would be tested by people rating the extent to which the event ‘had something to say about today’s world’ or captivation by the extent to which ‘it was absorbing and held my attention’.

2. Feedback is not only collected from audience members, but also from organisers of the event and peers as part of a three-way process. The organisers and identified peers participate in pre-event surveys (self survey and peer survey) asking them to rate their expectations of the event using a selection of the core dimensions. After the event, the public, peers and organisers rate the actual experience using the same set of dimensions. This throws up some interesting questions: How accurate were organisers’ expectations of the event compared with the actual experience? What feedback do peers have? Does the public’s assessment match with that of the organisers and/or peers?

3. Tablet computers are used to collect face-to-face responses, moving away from a paper-based model. Surveys can also be administered by email or online. Survey results are fed into a Culture Counts database which aggregates data and generates real-time reports about the event (this data is private). Organisations also have the option to share their data with like organisations from their own and/or other jurisdictions, allowing them to benchmark their performance with others.

The platform has already been trialled in WA and in the UK (in partnership with the Arts Council England) and is now moving into final beta testing before being released on the market later in 2015. Apart from Arts Queensland, Brisbane City Council and Creative Victoria are also participating in this phase of the pilot.

In November 2014, arts and cultural organisations were invited to attend a presentation about the platform led by the Culture Counts team. Arts Queensland invited expressions of interest from those attendees who wanted to participate in the trial using one of their events. The eight participating Queensland organisations supported by Arts Queensland are:

The four Brisbane City Council sponsored organisations are:

Over the next six months, as these events are rolled out, participating organisations will write for this blog about their experiences of Culture Counts – what they learnt about their event and about surveying in general and any challenges that may have arisen.  The first post will be from the Institute of Modern Art within the next couple of weeks.

At the end of the process, Culture Counts will provide a report to Arts Queensland about the findings from the trial. We will share information about the overall learnings on measuring intrinsic value via this blog, so stay tuned!

For more information about the platform, visit the Culture Counts website.

Feature image by marxus, courtesy of Free Images.

Read the blog posts from participating organisations at these links: