Dr Eleonora Belfiore – Keynote Speaker

Director of Graduate Studies, Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick, UK

Eleonora BelfioreThe investigation of the social impact of the arts, its place in cultural policy rhetoric and the notion of the transformative power of the arts that underline the impact discourse have been a long standing research interest for Eleonora.  She has researched and published widely on the question of impact, its definition and measurement, and the role of the humanities in impact research.  Between 2004 and 2007, Eleonora worked on a 3-year research project on the social impact of the arts, jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council England. The project’s main objective was a critical reformulation of the claims made about the impacts that the arts can have on the individual and society, with a view of investigating the possibility of developing a rigorous framework and methodology for impact assessment. Eleonora has been working with Dr Anna Upchurch of Leeds University on a project funded by the AHRC entitled “Beyond utility and markets: Articulating the role of the humanities in the twenty-first century“, in collaboration with Dr Donna Zapf of Duke University. The project explores the question of the articulation of the functions and value of Humanities research beyond a narrowly instrumental and utilitarian emphasis on notions of ‘impact’ and ‘utility’.  She is presently developing further her research in the areas of the social impact of the arts, the nature of the cultural policy-making process and theoretical and historical approaches to understanding contemporary policy-making in the cultural sector.

Thriving on measurement? Articulating ‘cultural value’ in a policy context
The reflections presented in this paper start from an acknowledgement of the increasing centrality of measurement, performance indicators and auditing practices in the public sector, and consequently, in the public cultural sector. Whilst, at least at the rhetorical level, the emphasis on measurement is justified by important concerns over transparency, accountability and the effective use of resources in times of austerity, the paper explores the possibility that the ‘measurement fetishism’ that we are witnessing in cultural policy circles worldwide might in fact obscure an ongoing struggle with the articulation of the value of arts and culture in contemporary society. Measurement of impact and effectiveness according to pre-existing and government-friendly criteria might ostensibly work as diversionary tactics in the face of the cultural sector’s difficulties in making the case for its value to politicians, the media, and the general public alike. In other words, talking about ‘value for money’ might appear as an easier task than arguing for ‘money for value’. This might be a pragmatic and strategically shrewd move – and indeed, the British experience has shown that this strategy can work, at least in the short-to-medium term. However, what gets lost in the public debate over the role, function and impact of the arts in society when measurement becomes a key theme in policy debates? Can we measure cultural value without a clear articulation of what it consists of? Can we even talk about ‘cultural value’ in the singular? The paper does not promise a firm answer to all of these questions, but aims to advocate for a new and re-energised research and public discussion agenda around ‘cultural value’.

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