WEBINAR: How Do Arts & Culture Make a Difference? A webinar on impact measurement with Animating Democracy

In the spring of 2018, OTF hosted a series of three webinars exploring approaches for measuring the impact of community-engaged arts practices. Impact evaluation is an especially hot topic in the arts sector. To many, it can seem like a daunting task to capture the diverse and nuanced impacts of participating in the arts, especially in an environment of limited resources. That’s why I was especially thrilled to come across three resources that advance accessible approaches to evaluating the impact of this important work.

In the second of these three webinars, we partnered with Animating Democracy to introduce their Continuum of Impact Guide: A Guide to Developing Social & Civic Outcomes & Indicators. In “How Do Arts & Culture Make a Difference?” Animating Democracy co-director Barbara Schaffer Bacon introduces six families of social and civic outcomes that artists and their partners commonly aspire to, and achieve, through creative work. These outcome families articulate ways the arts contribute to making change happen. This webinar introduces the guide as a practical resource to help articulate clear and realistic outcomes that can guide project design and define indicators or evidence of change that can be observed or measured.

As a practical resource, the Continuum of Impact can help you:

  • Articulate clear and realistic Outcomes that can guide program and project design and make it easier to demonstrate what seems intangible.
  • Define Indicators or evidence of change that can be observed and measured.
  • Begin crafting an evaluation Plan to collect and use data to substantiate and report outcomes and impact.
  • Consider which Data Collection methods will help you collect evidence of change.



About Animating Democracy:
Animating Democracy is a program of Americans for the Arts that inspires, informs, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to community, civic, and social change. Animating Democracy’s current work centers on building evaluation capacity of practitioners, funders, and other stakeholders to understand the impact of arts-based civic engagement and social change. Americans for the Arts is America’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts. With nearly 60 years of service, it is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts.

About Barbara Schaffer Bacon:
Barbara Schaffer Bacon co-directs Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts that inspires, informs, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to community, civic, and social change. Additionally, she contributes to Local Arts Advancement work at Americans for the Arts. She has written, edited, and contributed to many publications including Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy; Case Studies from Animating Democracy; Animating Democracy: The Artistic Imagination as a Force for Civic Dialogue; Arts & Civic Engagement: A Toolkit; Fundamentals of Local Arts Management; and The Cultural Planning Work Kit. A consultant in program design and evaluation, Barbara has served as an adviser for state and national arts agencies and private foundations. Barbara previously served as executive director of the Arts Extension Service at the University of Massachusetts. She is president of the Arts Extension Institute, Inc. and a board member for WomenArts. Barbara served for 14 years on the Belchertown, MA School Committee. She currently serves as a member of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Barbara makes a really powerful point later on in the presentation about evaluation - that when evaluation is done well, it’s an asset because it builds reflection into the experience. It isn’t just the outcome of the evaluation that is beneficial, but also the process and practice of it. I’d love to hear stories like the one she shares (that led to this conclusion) more often. What would it take for this to happen? For organizations to see evaluation as truly an asset? If there’s anything we can do at OTF, let us know!

For context: This was said as a response to Liz asking if there is one indicator that people find especially challenging. Pam replies that people find measuring shifts in attitudes, values and understanding especially difficult. She then goes on (at around 48:19 in the video) to give an example of how an organization managed to do this, and how in the end, it increased engagement with an exhibit, and the quality of the experience. Check it out, if you want to hear more!

Edited to add: I posted this last week, as a response to a different webinar. Oops! :flushed:

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