Our Impact & Insight Toolkit will help organisations understand how well their intentions for their work aligns with the experiences of their peers and the public. John Knell, from Counting What Counts, reflects on why the Toolkit is so important and what it means for Arts Council-funded organisations.

The audience at a performance of IDFB 2014 - B-Town.

IDFB 2014 – B-Town. Photograph by Tim Cross.

We have now launched the Arts Council’s Impact & Insight Toolkit, with registration opening for all National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). NPOs will now have the opportunity to use the Toolkit to evaluate the impact of their work on the people who experience it.

A sector-led desire for knowledge

Since opening the Manchester Metrics Pilot in 2013, it has been the sector-led nature of this impact evaluation work that has excited me most. I have had the privilege of facilitating conversations with inspiring creative practitioners about how they want their work to be experienced, and what that might mean in terms of how best to capture the resulting impact.

I’ve always been deeply impressed with the energy I saw coming from the sector, fuelled by their desire to know more about their audiences, the impact of their work, and to really get under the skin of individual and collective responses to their creative alchemy.

Constance (Nisa Cole) asks the audience's help as they wander through the Williamson Park woods
Photo © Claire Griffiths.

It is for that reason that so many NPOs, and cultural organisations around the world, have generously shared their creative expertise with us to help build a joint approach to evaluating how audiences and participants experience their work.

The Arts Council has responded to that interest from the sector, and the Impact & Insight Toolkit gives NPOs a central role in the continued development and evolution of evaluation across the hugely diverse range of cultural experiences they offer. I am therefore delighted to be part of the team chosen to implement the Impact & Insight Toolkit.

Join the platform

The new platform, rolling out this week, has been designed with cultural experience at its heart. NPOs will be able to better understand what their audiences, participants, and peers think about their work, helping to inform critical reflection across the sector. NPOs will produce a wide range of data insights which they can use to assess their impact and, most important, to understand whether their work is meeting their creative intentions.

We’ve asked all Band 2 & 3 NPOs to register and we urge Band 1s to consider joining at this point too, although there will be further opportunities over the next two years to take part.

At an organisational level, the data will help an NPO understand its impact. On a national level, over the coming years, the findings from the Toolkit, drawn from across the wealth of organisations within the portfolio, will be pulled together to give us some really exciting insight into the interaction of audiences and organisations, and help us understand how cultural experiences are valued across the country.

IDFB 2014 - Put Your Foot Down. Photography by Tim Cross.


IDFB 2014 – Put Your Foot Down. Photo © Tim Cross / DanceXchange

Our aspiration is that, in a few years’ time, NPOs will be working together to create a stronger data culture across the sector, collaborating in peer groups, sharing data and insight and using that evidence to make decisions that benefit us all.

We want your input

We’re now asking NPOs to consider exactly how much input they want to have: from core users, to joining the Strategic Development Strand (which will be meeting to refine and develop the entire process), to being part of artform and discipline strands that will create the space for NPOs to develop, test and validate metrics for evaluating specific artforms and types of cultural experience.

We can’t wait to start these meetings, and to work with and support all NPOs as they start this journey. Whether that NPO is an experienced evaluation expert curious about how the Toolkit can add value to what they do already; or a committed evaluation improver wondering how the Toolkit might allow them to take some major steps to capturing their impact better, our aim is to support everyone.

We are excited about how much we are going to learn from each other, and how together we can enrich our shared understanding of the wide-ranging value of the work you make.

Find out more

Take a look at the Toolkit

Impact and Insight Toolkit – 10 Things You Need To Know