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Handbook on how to assess your artistic organisation

Vassilka Shishkova

‘Evaluation’ has become one of the key words in national, European and international cultural policies. Artistic and cultural organisations are increasingly asked to legitimize their public subsidy by providing concrete results – in quantitative terms, numbers of people reached and their social and economic impact. Often numbers do not reflect their artistic results (their ‘core business’), while social and economic impacts are hard to measure on short term. Evaluation risks then to become a burdensome and not-so-useful process, relying on the unfair expectations that the arts should succeed where economic, educational and health policies have more or less failed in addressing complex social issues. Obviously, with less and less public funding available.

And yet evaluation can be much more than that. If properly con- ceived, and rightly supported (with specific funding), evaluation can be a key tool for self-understanding, building knowledge and taking brave decisions about the future; it can help organisations to develop stronger relations and mutual knowledge with their funders; finally, it can provide strong evidence to convince policy-makers, audiences and society of the value of the arts for individuals, communities and society.

The crucial difference between a burdensome and pointless evaluation and a meaningful one lies in the mutual agreement between funders (commissioning the evaluation) and artistic and cultural organisations on indicators, processes, values and desired results. Acting as allies, not as enemies, is key. Unfortunately this is rarely the approach.

Based on this concept of evaluation as a shared process, and on the concerns of its members for the ‘evaluation mantra’, IETM included evaluation as a key part of its activity plan 2014-2017. In 2015 we commissioned researcher Vassilka Shishkova a General mapping of types of impact research in the performing arts sector, that provides a large overview of international models; then we organised two Satellite meetings on The art of valuing (Brussels, 2015) and Valuing the arts (Paris, 2016). Building on the experiences and dis- cussions collected so far, and on the exchanges during some of the sessions at our Plenary meetings, we are now proposing this new handbook for the self-assessment of artistic organisations.

Source: Foreward by IETM