Measuring the Impact of Artistic Activism
Social change is hard. Over the years social issue campaigners and activists have employed a variety of marketing and communications efforts to attract public interest to their issues and causes to varying degrees of success. More recently, activists have turned to the arts for inspiration and as a way to engage audiences through deep and emotional connections to create more powerful and meaningful interactions. At the same time, more artists are imbuing their work with social and political messaging to advance the issues they feel most passionate about.
Now that there is a growing body of work in the field, as well as a host of different training programs available to artists and activists, there is an opportunity to develop common definitions, best practices and a generic working theory-of-change model for artistic activism programs. What we’re looking for are answers to the question “Do these practices work?” and what are the metrics we should use for measuring them?
Why study this?
Like any burgeoning field of social intervention practice, we need a common vocabulary, established practices, a shared understanding of how these efforts actually work (or don’t) and an appropriate metrics with which to evaluate success. We need the collective knowledge of leaders in the field to help codify what we believe to be true anecdotally. This knowledge will help not only help trainers and academics work more efficiently and collaboratively, but also provide a basic knowledge base to novice and experienced practitioners. It will also help to demonstrate the impact of this kind of work to a larger and more diverse group of funders to help them recognize these interventions as effective practices worthy of their investments.
Some of the key questions we expect that this initiative will address include:
- How have artistic activism projects changed attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of target audiences?
- What kind of practices have been most successful and why? What best practices can be documented?
- What sort of evaluative strategies do trainers and practitioners employ?
- What opportunities exist to expand, continue or sustain time and/or place-based interventions?
- What language do practitioners, trainers, academics and other use to describe interventions?
- Is there consensus on a generic Theory-Of-Change model for artistic activism?
- What metrics should be used for evaluating impact of these practices?
- What other needs exist currently in the field?