Arts and Social Exclusion: A Review Prepared for the Arts Council of England

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This 43-page report is a literature review commissioned by the Arts Council of England to support its two-year social inclusion research program. It examines the impact of arts in addressing social exclusion with the purpose of informing the design of the research and placing it in a policy context. The first section attempts to define social exclusion, offers ideas and obstacles to measuring it, and relates it to the arts. It describes the government’s Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) that was created in 1997, along with a committee formed to explore best practices in using arts, sport, and leisure to engage people in poor neighborhoods. The second section speaks to evaluation, addressing theoretical approaches (the purpose and some perspectives), its relationship to the arts (with examples), and the challenges of measuring impact in the arts realm. A concise table on page 7 contrasts positivistic and naturalistic approaches. An excellent list about measuring the impact of the arts on pages 10-11 points out the following challenges: reaching clarity of outcomes, conceptual confusion, appropriate ways of measuring outcomes, lack of an established methodology, measuring progress, not all outcomes are immediate, difficulties establishing cause and effect, sensitivity of evaluations, and determination of benefits. The third section focuses on the contribution of the arts to neighborhood renewal and social inclusion. It reviews current research related to topics such as the effects of the arts on individuals as well as in education, health and well-being, social capital, and community development. On pages 14-17, helpful tables summarize points and link them to specific studies. The fourth section, "Working Principles," identifies best practices for arts and social inclusion work. Among the themes of good practice are: connecting with local needs; control, equitable partnerships, and flexibility of working methods; project planning and resources; and quality, excellence, or pride in achievement. Appendix 1 presents four examples of indicator lists and measurement tools that could be useful to arts and civic engagement practitioners as they offer concrete outcomes, list indicators, and identify questions. Note that, as this is written for the Arts Council of England, that there may be slightly different evaluation uses and culture, as well as terminology, such as referring to outputs and outcomes as indicators.

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