Opinion Former Article

ESRC: New approaches to capturing the value of culture, media and sport

Finding appropriate ways to understand the value of culture, media and sport to society and explain this with evidence that convinces has proved a challenge for many years. New approaches to this issue are outlined in 'Not Only .... But Also: Capturing the Value of Culture Media and Sport'. This new booklet highlights these approaches and the views of leading experts, policymakers and academic researchers as presented during a Public Policy Seminar jointly organised by the Economic and Social Council (ESRC), the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), held in June 2009.

Explaining the rationale for the seminar, Barbara Follett MP, Minister for Tourism and Culture says: "We all value the opportunities we have to participate in cultural and sporting activities and we know that our lives are enriched by them. Understanding the value of our sectors is key to making the strongest argument for investing in culture and sport. Reflecting that value fairly in how we make decisions is essential if we are to do the sectors justice, and deliver value to the public. In a world of limited resources it is imperative that we are able to articulate the value these activities add to society. The economic climate makes this even more necessary."

Discussing the complexities involved in finding ways to articulate the value that culture and sport add to society, speakers at the one day seminar highlighted:

. The need to overcome the complexities involved in capturing and measuring value in culture and sport, without relying on economic measures alone. In particular, the need to find more comprehensive and meaningful ways of understanding the value and impact of culture, media and sport.
. The value of bringing together academics, independent researchers, policymakers and practitioners in a new discussion forum. Closer collaboration and knowledge exchange between research and policy communities is considered key to the development of a strategic, policy-relevant, high-quality, cross-cutting, social and economic evidence base for culture, media and sport.
. The future key research priorities including the need for longitudinal research into the longer term impact of culture and sport on individual's lives and means to measure the less quantifiable aspects of value such as happiness and wellbeing.

In addition, two alternative ways of thinking about value were proposed: the first offered a new approach to assessing the cultural value of UK film; the second highlighted a new approach for valuing engagement in culture and sport.

Describing the booklet that summarises the seminar, Barbara Follett MP explains: "This publication is a jumping-off point for the way DCMS looks at the value of what we do. Recent work in the new DCMS-led Culture and Sport Evidence programme - 'CASE' - shows the benefit of us approaching this collaboratively and intelligently. The CASE programme is not the end point but the starting point for what I hope will be a new chapter in the debate about value - and how we account for it in public policy in culture and sport."

"It's about moving beyond simple economic conceptions of value to understand how culture and sport affect people's lives," she continues. "It's about making better public policy. This seminar is a great example of intelligent collaboration - research councils, public bodies, academia, brought together by and with DCMS."

The seminar chair, DCMS Chief Analyst Anita Charlesworth noted in her concluding comments, "the seminar was more about opening up the questions than pinning down the answers. As such, we hope that this seminar will mark the first in a series of collaborative events where our combined expertise can work towards the best possible results. We hope our first joint seminar and this booklet will make a valuable contribution to this process."

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