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The Evaluation of Community Arts Projects and the Problems with Social Impact Methodology

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Abstract

This article focuses on the evaluation of participatory community arts programmes and analyses the shift in educational emphasis from aesthetic to social outcomes. It considers a range of theoretical models and practices in the field which includes my own experience.

The history of evaluative methodology highlights procedural concerns which are applied to current strategies of evaluating social impact. This is critiqued with regards to consent and participant intention, lack of discrimination between ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ instrumentality, and issues surrounding measurement and the validation of impact through social auditing.

This foregrounds broader debates concerning the politics of evaluation. An ideal democratic method is suggested that encourages participant involvement, empowerment and self-management. This is compared to normative bureaucratic and autocratic approaches steeped in top-down agendas which may exacerbate social problems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: He lectures part-time at Goldsmiths College University of London and for the Open University in cultural practice, policy and theory areas, and he is also a visiting lecturer at London Metropolitan University.

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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