Cultural Engagement is on the Agenda

16 Dec 2011 in Artforms, Audience Development Blog

The Scottish Government published its new National Performance Indicators this year, which are designed to measure progress towards the achievement of the Government’s purpose and national outcomes.

16 new outcomes were identified to deliver sustainable economic growth, of which Cultural Engagement is one. This is encouarging for the Cultural and Creative sector, as it enables us all to recognise the objectives of Scottish Government in relation to the objectives and corporate plan laid out and delivered by Creative Scotland.

While the term ‘cultural engagement’ has not been defined by the Government, it does suggest that in the coming years cultural organiastions and providers will be guided towards increasing cultural engagement (this could refer to the total number of people engaged in cultural activities, the level and type of engagement people have with the cultural sector or the ways in which people engage).

There are a number of other performance indicators that the cultural and creative sector can help to deliver on, these are the New Indicators which I can identify has having a significant impact for the cultural and creative sector:

  • Increase businesses; we are seeing a rise in the number of independent creative businesses across the Highlands and Islands, with the advent of accessible online selling this has enabled a low-cost alternative to setting up fixed premises and shops.
  • Increase exports; perhaps this is more focused on large scale exports, but it should not be overlooked that there is a large international export of craft products from across Scotland to countries like America and Canada.
  • Improve Scotland’s reputation; culture has to be at the heart of this, particularly if we focus on tourism reputation. The live arts, festivals, theatre and dance have a huge role to play in international relations.
  • Improve skills profiles; it is my impression and experience of cultural sector practictioners that we continually improve or learn new skills in order to grow our organisations. Audience development and marketing are key examples of the skills development that the cultural sectors adds to the wider economy.
  • Improve mental wellbeing; the positive impact that the arts, culture and creativity has for mental health and wellbeing is well known, organisations such as Artlink demonstrate this in abundance.
  • Improved healthcare experince; I believe this refers directly to the level of care that you recieve, but there is an arguement for the whole experience including the environment and appeal of hospitals, doctors and dental surgeries. Having had direct experience of visiting a loved one in Hospital in both Inverness and Aberdeen last year really brought home to me how important it is to have visible positive messages and images for both patients and their visitors. Artwork can play a major role in improving both the aesthetics and environment, of course it then ties in directly to improving mental wellbeing.
  • Improve people’s perceptions of the quality of public services;  this is important for all us who are and will be in reciept of public service funds now and in the future.
  • Widen use of the Internet – a lot of focus has been given to the digitisation of arts organisations and providers in the last few years, being online nowadays is essential not just for communicating your message to people but to enable those who might not otherwise engage with you, (be it for reasons of geography, finance or confidence), be given an accessible route to do so, via the internet. While surveys show that more people in Scotland use and access the internet more then any other country in the UK, we are still hampered by decent broadband and download speeds, which ultimately hampers the digital opportunities of arts organisations.
  • Improve people’s perception of their neighbourhoods – projects like Invergordon Off the Wall fit directly into this particular indicator, community cultural engagement is essential to improving people’s positive perceptions of their communities.
  • Improve the state of Scotland’s historic sites – again you can probably interpret the word ‘state’ to mean many things, there is the obvious practical state of historic sites, building maintenance, accessiblity etc, but then there is the improvement in the ‘experience’ and widening the cultural experience within historic sites, although museums and heritage have traditionally been off the radar of the Arts Agenda, there is a major arguement for greater joined up working between historic sites, heritage museums and the arts sector, after all our work is informed by our culture and culture is history.

To read the latest National Performance Indicators publication click here