The social impact of Australia’s arts and cultural sector
Before COVID-19, Australia's cultural and creative activity contributed nearly $112 billion to Australia’s economy - 6.4 per cent of GDP - and employed more than 195,000 Australians. But Covid has hit the arts and cultural sector hard.
At the height of the first lockdown more than half of all arts and recreation businesses ceased trading – the highest proportion of 17 industries analysed, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey.
UTS Business School and the Social Impact Toolbox, in partnership with Nelson Meers Foundation, have launched their first Sector Briefing Report: ‘The Social Impact of Australia’s Arts and Cultural Sector’.
The report aims to build the capacity of arts and cultural organisations to evaluate their programs by making accessible the evidence, methodologies and tools needed to measure and communicate social impact.
Written by Andrew Wearring, Professor Bronwen Dalton and Rachel Bertram, the report compiles sector insights, current research findings and examples of evaluations across arts and cultural organisations.
"We hope this report and the UTS Social Impact Toolbox will help all Australian arts and cultural organisations, regardless of size or resourcing, to present methodologically robust evaluations of their activities to secure the support of funders while also informing better practice," said Professor Dalton.
“In this environment it is critical that the sector and individual organisations build a body of evidence demonstrating their social impact.
“It will not be enough to assume this contribution is self-evident, and it will require overcoming the challenge of measuring and articulating arts and cultural organisations' contribution to society.
We need to... include in our narratives more holistic measures, such as way artistic expression improves mood, the health benefits of dance, or the value of inclusion and visibility in a community choir.
“Making a valid, reliable and rigorous case for the true value of their work will not only enhance organisations’ ability to secure government or philanthropic funds, but will shape policy priorities,” she said.
Rachel Bertram, a specialist in social impact evaluation, argues that power of the arts is often underestimated, with evaluators placing an emphasis on economic metrics such as attendees, income and employment.
“This fails to fully capture the depth and breadth of the benefits Australia’s collective creative endeavour has on individuals, communities and society as a whole,” Ms Bertram says.
"We need to start telling the whole social impact story and include in our narratives more holistic measures, such as way artistic expression improves mood, the health benefits of dance, or the value of inclusion and visibility in a community choir,” she says.
Read the report: The Social Impact of Australia’s Arts and Cultural Sector