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This blogpost accompanies the report on Evaluating Place-Based Work. The report can be accessed here, and we recommend that you read the report to obtain a detailed understanding into the work that was undertaken and the findings that were achieved.


Place-based working has become a buzz phrase across the arts and cultural sector in recent years. This has, in part, been fuelled by the Government’s prominent emphasis on ‘levelling up’, and Arts Council England’s (ACE) emphasis on Levelling Up for Culture Places and Priority Places as part of its overall strategy, Let’s Create.

However, the recent ‘levelling up’ narrative has involved the rediscovery and relabelling of long discussed sets of practices and outcomes. Particularly for the arts and cultural sector, the notion of place-based working is neither novel nor ground-breaking.

As Counting What Counts (CWC) reviewed how we can best support cultural organisations to evaluate their work, we could find no existing toolkits explicitly designed for evaluating place-based work in the cultural sector. Therefore, we were keen to engage organisations that consider themselves place specialists, to further our understanding and develop useful metrics that capture important outcomes to place-based work, with a view to them contributing to developing an understanding of the impact of place-based work. This activity became the ‘place-based work research project’.

The year-long project involved 18 organisations from different ACE funding streams, in different locations in England, representing different artforms. We were keen that the research project would be as representative of the sector as possible and would engage organisations to whatever extent they could commit. By working with the participating organisations, we were aiming to address three key questions:

  1. How can we define place-based working?
  2. What are the different types of place-based work?
  3. What are the intended outcomes of place-based work?

The research project consisted of different phases including individual organisation interviews; online group workshops; and data collection to test newly developed metrics.

Through this we generated significant insights in relation to the research questions and aims, producing models and mental maps that we think will be very helpful to the arts and cultural sector in evaluating their place-based work.

We are particularly pleased that the process of identifying place-based outcome areas, and developing new dimension statements, has been a successful one. Of the new outcome statements, the ones which meet the standards to become dimensions are now available in the Culture Counts platform and can be inserted into your evaluations, either via the Design page of a survey, or the Dimensions Selector.  A table showing the new statements is below.

Dimension NameDimension Statement
Creative ExpressionI am more able to express myself creatively
Confidence in CollaborationI am more confident about collaborating with others
Place CelebrationIt was a celebration of [the local area]*
Personal ContributionMy contribution made a difference
Community NetworksI grew closer to people in my community
Place ValueIt made me feel like [the local area]* is important
Place RepresentationThis work captured the true character of [the local area]*
Place ReflectionIt changed my understanding of [the local area]* for the better
Personal LearningI learned something new about myself
Place LearningI learned something new about [the local area]*
Community LearningI learned something new about my community
Community ImpactI felt like we had a positive impact on our community
New ConnectionsIt gave me the opportunity to meet new people
Place ConnectionIt strengthened my connection to [the local area]*

In addition to the metrics, another key output of the project was the learning of the importance of pre-existing place attachment, when looking at how a place-based work is experienced. People which higher levels of place attachment tend to have a stronger response to place focused outcomes. Whilst unsurprising, having this proven through rigorous research is beneficial as it means that we can make reasonable recommendations regarding survey design.  The survey questions measuring place attachment can be found in the place attachment question bank.

We anticipate that the findings of this research will be of particular interest to ACE, Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), and other cultural funders, in addition to users of Culture Counts keen to evidence the outcomes of their place-based work. The findings should be used to inform the evaluation of place-specific cultural events, initiatives, and programmes.

We would thoroughly recommend that you spend some time reading and digesting the report titled Evaluating Place-Based Work, as the detail it contains really furthers understanding into the outputs of the research. Read the report here.


Many thanks to those participating organisations for their invaluable contributions.


*At the time of writing, 8th January 2024, the words in square brackets cannot be substituted for your own within Culture Counts. However, this development is in the pipeline and you can expect to have the ability to do this soon.


Photo by GeoJango Maps on Unsplash

Hand plotting a red pin onto a white map