Measuring the impacts of Creative CityMaking

Documenting and communicating lessons learned is a goal of Creative CityMaking. Artist Ashley Hanson addresses challenges, concerns, and opportunities surrounding collecting information to measure the impact of the arts.
ASHLEY HANSON: Evaluation seems to be the big buzz-word in the arts world on a local and national level. How can we better measure the quality or success of arts programming? Is there a way in which something that is fluid, creative and abstract by nature can be quantified? Which indicators of success apply to the project, the community? The list of questions goes on and on…
The CityMaking team have been facing these same questions in our work and have been discussing creative ways to address the issue of evaluation. One of the challenges that we have found is determining how we aggregate the information that we are receiving from the community into a format that can inform the planning process, communicate what the people want, and be beneficial to the partners and stakeholders, all while continuing to experiment with engagement strategies.

Last week, we met with the project evaluator to discuss some of these challenges and find ways that we can be sure we are addressing all of the above. She encouraged us to capture stories after each engagement; write down our experience, as well as what we witnessed with the people we were working with. Although this information may be difficult to quantify, it does speak to the more experiential nature of the engagement strategies we are implementing.
Creative CityMaking Team Roger Cummings, Caroline Kent, and Sam Ero-Phillips developed a ‘zine to ask people about who they are and what they think about the community that they shared with people at the Linden Hills Festival. This was an artistic tool that provided input for the plan and evaluation at the same time.
We have also been given a survey created by the evaluation team, with input from the stakeholders and artists, that we have been asked to use with each person that we engage with for longer than 15 minutes. This survey was the cause of much conversation at our last convening, as many of the artists felt that there were much more creative (and informative) ways that we could ask the same questions. Besides, isn’t that what artists are meant to do? Find new, creative ways to tackle challenges that are facing our current systems?For example, instead of a Yes or No tickbox to a complex question, perhaps having a continuum, where people place themselves in relationship to how they feel in a larger context. Or involving more participatory evaluation strategies, like storytelling (capturing via audio), self-identifying (ie. in a chalkboard photo), or mapping their experience or involvement.
I think what it boils down to is trying to get at the singular core question behind this work – are we engaging people that otherwise would not be engaged in shaping their city? And the ways in which we can ask and answer that question are infinite, but the goal remains the same. Everyone has a right to not only participate and be heard, but have easier access to participation.Everyone has the right to be listened to and have their opinions taken into consideration. Everyone has the capability to be a Creative CityMaker – and our hope is that through this work, more people will believe and act on that notion. And hopefully the tools of measurement that are provided and created during this year-long project can help inform the larger local and national evaluation conversation.


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