How do we measure and talk about the impact of transformational creative practices?

How can we understand the ways in which creative practices engage with societal change? Discussions about the impact and value of creative practices are of high interest to policymakers, creative practitioners, researchers, and others. The experimental productions (ExPs) deployed in the CreaTures laboratory and recorded in the observatory are evaluated in generative and systematic ways, identifying and highlighting a number of factors that are core to harnessing the impact of creative practice in processes of sustainable future-making.

The evaluation of CreaTures ExPs offers synthesis-level insights into the power of creative practices in contexts of societal change – but it also allows for a critical investigation into how evaluation might, itself, be a leverage point for change. If creative practices are evaluated and valued differently, what happens to their potential for contributing to societal change?

The evaluation processes in the CreaTures project include three key activities:

  • Developing evaluation theory and principles: this involves an investigation into indicators and methods that are used to assess transformational creative practice and subsequent development of new evaluation principles.
  • Co-researching together with creative practices gathered in the laboratory and observatory: drawing on interviews with creative practitioners and interactions with audiences, we identify diverse ways to talk about creative practice. Informed, we develop indicators for assessing the potential of creative practice to support eco-social change.
  • Interaction with policymakers: moving from policy recommendations to collaborative engagement. This involves gathering evaluation insights from diverse cultural and institutional policy actors. We conduct interviews with policymakers from the cultural sector in multiple countries and organise ‘soft space’ policy sessions with the interviewees.  

Together, these evaluation activities contributed to the CreaTures  Framework – a transdisciplinary, evidence-based, open-access tool highlighting the strengths and opportunities for creative practices in stimulating action towards socially and ecologically sustainable futures. The framework sets out how creative practices can stimulate action towards eco-socially sustainable futures. Four curated paths through the Framework – Research, Policy Making, Creative Practice and Funding – offer a collection of resources charting the key concepts and terms, processes, tools for evaluation, and resources for various stages of creative practices.

The framework has been developed and refined through a series of engagement events, including co-creative workshops and other working assemblies with diverse local stakeholders from public, private, not-for-profit, and community sectors.

An important result of the evaluation research is the 9 Dimensions tool for reflective evaluation. This tool was created to allow creative practitioners, funders, policymakers, and researchers to evaluate the link between creative practices and sustainability transformations together in new and more inclusive ways.

The 9 Dimensions tool was created through an elaborate research process with all users – read more about the research here. We applied this evaluation tool to all 20 Experimental Productions, leading to a number of cross-cutting insights.