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Public value - what is it and how do you measure it?

Lone Keast highlights some tools and resources for measuring public value of arts and cultural work…

At a forum on public value at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre last year, the godfather of public value, American academic Mark Moore defined public value simply as ‘value for the public’.  He explained that there are returns on taxpayer and government investment that the public care a great deal about, for example, value for money, social benefit and as we can see in the emerging Queensland Plan themes, community cohesion.

During consultation for the Arts for all Queenslanders strategy, workshop and survey participants recognised that public value is an increasingly important concept for arts and culture but wanted to know ‘how do you measure public value?’ and then ‘how do you use it to demonstrate the worthwhileness of your work?’.

Governments and arts and cultural organisations  who receive government support are in the process of learning more about public value measurement, why it is important and how it can contribute to sustainability, good growth and meaning making.  Perhaps we are learning about what entrepreneurs have known for decades – that understanding how and why we fail and succeed in connecting with publics and markets and how we might adapt in response will determine the sustained or diminished relevance of our work.

The Arts for all Queenslanders strategy priority ‘returns on arts and cultural investment’ emphasises the need for value to be derived from the use of resources invested in arts and culture.  To assist arts and cultural practitioners and businesses to evaluate projects and programs we have produced tools and resources that we hope will enable you to build value measurement into your own work. These tools include data collection spreadsheets, sample surveys and fact sheets about evaluation, data tracking and planning and can be accessed via Arts Acumen.

We would love to hear if you are using them, finding them helpful and what other tools and resources you might need to measure and articulate the value of your arts and cultural work.

Lone is Director, Policy and Strategy, Arts Queensland, Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts.






Feature image:  Cropped from ‘Woodford Fire Event 2012’, photo:  Martin Ollman.