M&E Lab: Monitoring and Evaluation

In 2018, Birmingham City Council approached us to evaluate an Arts Development programme aimed at Birmingham based black and ethnic minorities. The programme focused on overcoming barriers to cultural participation and it was a key part of Birmingham's Cultural Strategy 2016-19.

The lead academic was Dr Naudin, who has worked on several research projects exploring inequalities in Birmingham’s cultural and creative industries. Dr Turner had also delivered evaluative work and reports as part of his work with M&E Lab, and the team were further supported and complemented by research assistant Lauren Amery. The Lab and its work is situated within the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, distinctive in being produced by academic researchers at BCU working across the fields of media and cultural studies.

The evaluation involved a mixed method approach, including qualitative research (interviews, surveys, observation and ethnography) and quantitative research through questionnaires. This produced rich data informing our findings and the recommendations which can be found in this report.

A significant aspect of the evaluation project was to work collaboratively with Birmingham City Council, as a critical friend. Evaluation can sometimes be an afterthought but in this case, the evaluation team was able to collect data and embed themselves within the project to gain a more comprehensive access to participant experiences. Furthermore, the research team met regularly with Birmingham City Council, sharing emerging findings from the research to inform next steps. This approach was perceived as significant as the process of evaluating the project could then have an impact on policy and inform the delivery of the arts development programme.

Knowledge exchange took place in two ways: firstly, through this iterative approach by discussing our findings while still maintaining our critical perspective and academic rigour; secondly, through a dissemination event involving participants in Birmingham City Council’s project. Discussions from the event enabled the community and stakeholders to engage with our findings and to further inform local cultural policy.

Recommendations from the evaluation had an impact on Birmingham City Council’s cultural policies, specifically the commissioning prospectus, the Cultural Diversity funding stream for 2019-20. Dr Naudin has also been able to integrate this work into her academic research, publishing chapters based on the findings for this research in L’Entrepreneuriat dans les Secteurs de l’Art et de la Culture (edited by Hovath and Dechamp, 2021) and in A Modern Guide to the Creative Economy (edited by Comunian, Faggian, Heinonen and Wildon, Forthcoming).

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