Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Accounting for Culture

 | 
Caroline Andrew
, 
Monica Gattinger
, 
M. Sharon Jeannotte
, 
et al.

Part IV. Governance, Indicators, and Engagement in the Cultural Sector

16. Cultural Indicators and Benchmarks in Community Indicator Projects

Nancy Duxbury

Texte intégral

  • 1 Nancy Duxbury, “Exploring the Role of Arts and Culture in Urban Sustainable Development: A Journey (...)
  • 2 In general, it appears that the earlier work of unesco (early 1970s) does not inform the current r (...)

1Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of interest and activity around quality of life and sustainability indicator projects in communities across Canada and the United States. However, the inclusion of arts and cultural themes, issues, and indicators in the initial wave of quality of life and sustainability projects was rare.1 In more recent years, the presence of cultural indicators in these community indicator projects has evolved from isolated scenes characterized by fledgling, pioneering attempts to that of an emerging field and more widespread phenomenon. 2 Nonetheless, contributions to this field are dispersed, diverse, and still generally disconnected. It is still relatively undeveloped as an indicator area and in only a few instances have improvements in the quality of the indicators been pursued with productive results.

2In these early years, we can observe three interrelated dimensions influencing the development of cultural indicators relating to quality of life and the general evolution of this work: 1) the indicators themselves, i.e., what is being chosen, developed, used, and referenced as indicators, legacies, and reference points; 2) conceptual influences, i.e., the conceptual and theoretical grounding of concepts and frameworks guiding the selection of indicators; and 3) contextual influences, i.e., the use-contexts and pressures of practice that are influencing the choice and development of the indicators.

3Using these three dimensions as guides, this chapter aims to highlight and draw linkages among some current projects and initiatives in Canada and the United States that are contributing to the advancement of cultural indicators within the context of community indicator projects. To contextualize this discussion, the chapter begins with a short overview of key developments in the recent evolution of community indicator projects and the emergence of arts and culture indicators within this environment. It then examines the conceptual and contextual influences in the development of these indicators. It concludes by pointing to key gaps that need to be addressed.

  • 3 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation et al., Listening and Learning: Community Indicator Profile (...)
  • 4 Christopher Madden, Statistical Indicators for Arts Policy: Discussion Paper (Sydney: Internationa (...)

4The sweeping collection of community indicator projects underway is generally driven by activity in two areas. On one hand, it is a movement driven by “grassroots leaders seeking better ways to measure progress, to engage community members in a dialogue about the future, and to change community outcomes.”3 On the other hand, it is also informed or influenced by efforts to improve “social” indicators generally, which have developed in response to “a widespread aspiration among governments and social scientists to develop better measures of progress and to meet the demands for greater accountability in government policies and programs.”4

  • 5 Peter Berry, “Quality of Life Indicators Evaluation Report” (paper prepared for the city of Ottawa (...)

5In general, indicators are defined as “bits of information that summarize the characteristics of systems or highlight what is happening in a system,” which can “simplify complex phenomena” and enable a community to “gauge the general status of a system to inform action.5 The choice and development of indicators in each project is informed by a wide range of factors, including: the overarching goals and guiding framework of the project, the values and aspirations of the project participants in the community, and developments in the larger field(s) of indicators and related research areas.

Merging Frameworks, Broadening Scope

  • 6 The Flett Consulting Group Inc. and FoTenn Consultants Inc., “Quality of Life Reporting System Eva (...)
  • 7 Ibid., A-9.

6Since the mid-1990s, community indicator projects and analyses have been increasingly framed within a quality of life movement, an integrative model which is closely linked to sustainability and healthy communities models, two other integrative models that arrived in the 1980s.6 Most recent projects follow one of these integrative models, including measures and indicators addressing social, economic, and environmental issues discretely and in an integrative sense which “identifies links and analyzes cross-and cumulative impacts among indicators.”7

7The terrain incorporated into these models has been broadening, with recent interpretations including measures of governance, the physical environment, and the ecological footprint. Furthermore, while quality of life and sustainability labels are still evident, increasingly these projects are being subsumed into multidimensional, comprehensive community indicator programs:

  • 8 Ottawa 20/20 Indicator Workbook, 3.

Although initially there were significant differences among… types of indicators and reporting, over time it has become evident that community reporting needs to cover economic, social and environmental aspects in a balanced and integrated fashion. In recent years the differences among these types of reporting are diminishing8

  • 9 Flett and FoTenn, “Quality of Life,” A-11.

8The broadening scope of indicators is also reflected in a conceptual shift underway “to complement quantitative, objective measure with subjective, opinion-based measures and indicators” within projects. There is also evidence of “greater balance between quantitative and qualitative research methods in newer generation measures and indicators,”9 an especially important development for culture, where quantitative data is usually economic.

The Emergence of Arts and Culture as an Indicator Area

  • 10 http://www.urban.org/nnip/acipproject.html.

9Within this broader world of community indicators, the cultural and arts environment has gained increasing prominence, especially in neighbourhood-based models, with significant credit due to the inclusion of arts and culture indicators in the community building project within the Urban Institute’s National Neighbourhood Indicators Partnership (nnip). With partners in twelve cities across the United States, the nnip sought to improve methods for developing new indicators, examining neighbourhood dynamics, and facilitating the advancement and establishment of neighbourhood indicator systems.10 The arts and culture indicators project brought research on cultural indicators into this broader discussion of “neighbourhood indicators” that the nnip promoted.

  • 11 Boston Foundation, Creativity and Innovation: A Bridge to the Future-A Summary of the Boston Indic (...)
  • 12 Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley, Creative Community Index: Measuring Progress Toward a Vibrant (...)

10The inclusion of arts and culture in individual projects is now generally widespread, although it varies from very prominent11 to slight or not at all. Organizations specializing in community indicators generally include at least a few culture-related indicators in their lists. Projects entirely focused on cultural indicators also exist but are rare.12

  • 13 Ibid. See also Heidi K. Rettig, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, “Measuring the Impact of t (...)

11Developments in cultural indicators in the United States are linked, in large part, to the involvement of foundations as sources of funding. For instance, the Rockefeller Foundation funded the Urban Institute’s multi-year project and the Knight Foundation has supported initiatives in developing and analyzing community indicators as well as experimental work to improve the development of indicators for arts and culture.13 In Canada, efforts to include cultural indicators in community indicator projects to date are generally less developed and have emerged out of various community and cultural planning situations. They are informed by organizations and companies specializing in community indicators, and informal communications among municipal colleagues in other communities, but these efforts are not supported by an equivalent financial support infrastructure.

  • 14 Chris Dwyer, cited in Alan AtKisson, “Rethinking Cultural Indicators,” Urban Quality Indicators 12 (...)

12In general, the cultural indicators in the community indicator projects fall into two categories: what we do (actions, investments) and outside conditions (progress toward our goals). The linking (and evaluative) question of “What impact have we made?” lies between these two measurement areas, but many projects do not adequately address this question. As well, what is also typically missing is “how arts and culture contribute to social health.”14

Cultural Indicators in Use: Legacies and Influences of Practice

  • 15 For example, when the team developing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (fcm) Quality of (...)

13In the development of indicators, the standard practice (or the “leading edge” practice) has a significant influence on new and emerging projects and initiatives. Indicators act as legacies of (sometimes undocumented) thought and decisions, as landmarks and reference points, and inform other projects. As particular indicators are chosen, developed, and used, they become examples or even models for other projects. Similarly, the omission of particular types of indicators in projects also sends a signal, and lays down a pattern others may adopt.15

  • 16 Rettig, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts.”

14In general, “comprehensive indicators of the cultural vitality of a community” have been difficult to find.16 The “thinness” of cultural indicators within community indicator projects has meant that the instances of cultural indicators that do exist have played important roles in providing both knowledge and assurance to others. It could be argued that the types of indicators chosen, and their development and interpretation, have been as important for the community’s own knowledge as the signals their inclusion and development has sent to others. In part, the level of influence of relatively undeveloped indicators (some without established measurements) has reflected the paucity of alternate information available for reference in a context of growing demands for articulating and measuring “results.”

  • 17 Maria-Rosario Jackson and Joaquin Herranz Jr., Culture Counts in Communities: A Framework for Meas (...)
  • 18 See, for instance, Boston Foundation, Creativity and Innovation, and Boston Foundation, The Wisdom (...)

15Today, a range of pioneering efforts is available to examine and some of the lessons learned from these projects are being assessed, which is furthering and improving this knowledge base and legacy.17 The emergence of the newest wave of comprehensive indicator projects that incorporate arts and culture to a significant degree, while of limited numbers, also provide robust examples.18 However, most of these efforts continue to have a “pioneering air” around them, and a comprehensive, integrating framework has yet to form. Outside of the efforts of the Urban Institute in the United States (and a few consultants working closely with this organization), it appears that the full range of community indicator examples and analysis (and related initiatives) have not yet been brought together in order to inform the creation of an integrative framework based on practice and legacy.

  • 19 Arts Council England, Local Performance Indicators for the Arts (2003), available at http://www.lo (...)
  • 20 Ibid., 3.
  • 21 “Outcome” measures include the level of services offered and capacity of infrastructure available, (...)

16Work just outside of the community indicator context that focuses on governmental accountability and benchmarking performance measurements may also inform evolving community indicators initiatives. For instance, a recent multi-partner project in the United Kingdom put forward a framework and “core set” of indicators for performance measurement that is concerned with the role local authorities play in supporting the arts.19 The set of indicators focuses on “comparable outcome-related measures of arts provision” as well as flexible standard-based measures to help local authorities to evaluate service quality and improvement over time.20 While the “outcome” measures resemble those found in community indicator projects21 and the (generally qualitative) rationales and measures related to “strategic objectives” could help inform conceptual research linking arts and culture to broader policy and community objectives, the project itself does not position itself as potentially linked to broader applications such as community quality of life indicator projects.

Conceptual Influences: Grounding Concepts and Determining Frameworks

  • 22 Duxbury, “Exploring the Role of Arts and Culture.”

17One of the key deficiencies limiting the advancement of cultural indicators has been the lack of a conceptual research base underlying the choice of art and culture indicators.22 This conceptual deficiency has two components: the need to develop indicators meaningful to understanding and guiding cultural development, and the need to relate cultural indicators to concepts of quality of life and/or sustainability.

Indicators of Cultural Development

  • 23 Madden, Statistical Indicators.
  • 24 Leif H. Gouiedo, “Proposals for a Set of Cultural Indicators,” Statistical Journal of the United N (...)
  • 25 Madden, Statistical Indicators, 6.
  • 26 Ibid.

18As Christopher Madden reveals, there is an abundance of literature on cultural indicators found globally, and much recent activity and discussion.23 The literature on cultural indicators can be traced at least as far back as the early 1970s,24 and indicator development has been an active part of cultural policy research since that time. Madden argues that although indicators are not in widespread use in cultural policy, thinking on cultural indicators is now well developed. Even so, a review of the cultural indicator literature reveals a number of common analytical and co-ordination issues: confusion about what indicators are and how they should be used, a lack of quality data, unwieldy frameworks (consisting in many cases of “large matrices of indicator ‘wish lists’”), and vague policy objectives.25 Madden also notes that “analysts rarely devote sufficient time to exploring indicator theory or articulating clearly the interrelationships between indicators, data, and statistics, and between indicators, policy evaluation and cultural analysis.”26 Further research attention to these matters is needed to inform and guide the development and implementation of meaningful cultural indicators in practice.

19In relation to community-level cultural indicators, considerations of community goals for cultural development and cultural planning objectives also come into play. In addition to grounding the development of selected indicators, conceptual research also informs the development of conceptual frameworks to guide and frame an entire project, and the choice of related indicators within these frames. The best example of this is articulated in Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley’s Creative Community Index (2003), which was funded by the Knight Foundation as part of a unique demonstration project. The project features an engaging and cohesive conceptual framework that organizes and ties the indicators to rationales and educative information, which, in turn, is rooted in literature. Significant analysis and careful explanation frame and ground the presentation of the indicators.

20Through these framing conceptual rationales and frameworks, distinctive community values and approaches are articulated. For instance, in the United States, the Silicon Valley project focused on building a creative community, rooted in interactions among cultural activity, business innovation, and civic vitality. In contrast, the Urban Institute’s cultural indicator efforts are focused on community building in neighbourhoods. Can such diverse efforts be rationalized and drawn together, or would the particular purposes of each project be undermined in the process?

  • 27 City of Ottawa, Ottawa 20/20 Arts Plan (Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 2003), available at http://www.ott (...)
  • 28 The City of Ottawa identified three broad areas of creativity measurement and proposed “suggested (...)

21Two Canadian examples are also instructive here. The City of Ottawa and the City of Toronto each proposed a set of cultural indicators to measure progress on the cities’ recent cultural plans.27 The differing priorities, contexts, and approaches to municipal cultural development of these municipalities are evident in their choices of cultural indicators: Toronto’s indicators largely relate to economic development and activity levels while Ottawa’s suggested measures28 generally focus on opportunity levels and citizen participation, activities, and partnerships. These examples illustrate the tension between the importance of community relevance and the challenges of consistency and comparability across communities.

Indicators of Culture as a Component of Quality of Life and Sustainability

  • 29 Issues involved in “scaling up” their neighbourhood-based research framework to encompass a city-w (...)

22In addition to improving the development of cultural indicators that meaningfully reflect and inform cultural development, more comprehensive research about the roles, benefits, and impacts of culture in a community or society is also needed. Field research and literature reviews conducted by the Arts and Culture Indicators Project suggest that participation in arts, culture, and creativity at the neighbourhood level29 may contribute, directly or indirectly, to a list of important positive impacts:

  • Supporting civic participation and social capital;
  • Catalyzing economic development;
  • Improving the built environment;
  • Promoting stewardship of place;
  • Augmenting public safety;
  • Preserving cultural heritage;
  • Bridging cultural/ethnic/racial boundaries;
  • Transmitting cultural values and history; and
  • Creating group memory and group identity.30

23However, research efforts in these areas are generally pursued in isolation, and rarely linked with one another to form a more comprehensive understanding of “culture in context.”

  • 31 Ibid.
  • 32 Ibid., 47n46. This footnote lists some promising studies on the social impact of the arts that hav (...)
  • 33 A valuable outcome of the Arts and Culture Indicator project is the development of a holistic view (...)

24As Jackson and Herranz point out, a rise in research and practice examining the contribution of arts and culture to community building (and other social issues) provides a base for theoretically grounding the arts and cultural indicators used in community indicator programs.31 They oudine results of literature reviews which point to a number of promising avenues, including recendy launched projects studying social impacts of the arts,32 promising areas of research literature,33 and the knowledge resources residing within practitioners in the community arts field.

  • 34 Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (New York: Basic Books, 2002); Richard Florida and (...)

25From an economic perspective, Richard Florida’s work has drawn renewed attention to the economic dimensions of cultural resources and investments, especially in terms of economic competitiveness.34 His creativity index rankings for cities have sparked action in many communities across the United States (and elsewhere) and now appear as an indicator in many projects. Research to link arts and cultural dimensions and resources into broader concepts of creativity and innovative milieus may be useful here.

26Further work in these areas could provide conceptual and empirical roots to underpin arguments for the inclusion of arts and culture in broader frameworks of quality of life or sustainability indicators, and inform the development of selected indicators) illustrating particular connections, benefits, or impacts. It would help link inputs and outputs to outcomes. It could also point to how to best integrate, assess, and present these topics and issues within the prevailing quality of life and sustainability analytical and reporting frameworks.

27This brings us to another key area to consider: the guiding concepts of quality of life or sustainability that frame and determine the inclusion of categories and measures within the projects. The essential challenge is that while meaningful definitions of quality of life and social sustainability have been articulated through community indicator projects, seldom have they referred to arts and culture. Furthermore, while the inclusion of arts and culture indicators is generally widespread in community indicator projects, this is not yet universal practice nor widely understood and supported. Thus, the beginning point for greater inclusion of arts and culture in quality of life or sustainability projects is to build onto the prevailing frameworks in place.

Quality of Life

28For Canadian municipalities, the prevailing way to examine quality of life is that of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Quality of Life Reporting System. According to this framework, quality of fife is enhanced and reinforced in municipalities that:

  1. Develop and maintain a vibrant local economy;
  2. Protect and enhance the natural and built environment;
  3. Offer opportunities for the attainment of personal goals, hopes, and aspirations;
  4. Promote a fair and equitable sharing of common resources;
  5. Enable residents to meet their basic needs; and
  6. Support rich social interactions and the inclusion of all residents in community life.
  • 35 Federation of Canadian Municipalities, “The Federation of Canadian Municipalities Quality of Life (...)

29Quality of life in any given municipality is influenced by interrelated factors, such as: affordable, appropriate housing; civic engagement; community and social infrastructure; education; employment; the local economy; the natural environment; personal and community health; personal financial security; and personal safety.35

30This framework was informed but another influential project, the quality of fife template developed by Canadian Policy Research Networks.

Sustainability

31In prevailing sustainability frameworks, culture is usually included within a concept of social sustainability (if at all). However, culture is also beginning to be explored as a fourth pillar of sustainability, the others being the environmental, economic, and social pillars. In their influential work, Mario Polèse and Richard Stren define social sustainability in the following way:

  • 36 Mario Polèse and Richard Stren, The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management (...)

Social sustainability for a city is defined as development (and/or growth) that is compatible with the harmonious evolution of civil society, fostering an environment conducive to the compatible cohabitation of culturally and socially diverse groups while at the same time encouraging social integration, with improvements in the quality of life for all segments of the population. … Social sustainability is strongly reflected in the degree to which inequalities and social discontinuity are reduced. … To achieve social sustainability, cities must reduce both the level of exclusion of marginal and/or disadvantaged groups, and the degree of social and spatial fragmentation that both encourages and reflects this exclusionary pattern. Social sustainability, in this respect, may be seen as the polar opposite of exclusion, both in territorial and social terms. Urban policies conducive to social sustainability must, among other things, seek to being people together, to weave the various parts of the city into a cohesive whole, and to increase accessibility (spatial and otherwise) to public services and employment, within the framework, ideally, of a local governance structure which is democratic, efficient, and equitable. This is all about building durable urban “bridges”… capable of standing the test of time.36

32In addition to purely theoretical approaches, some existing projects are also defining concepts of social sustainability. For example, the Greater Vancouver Regional District is developing a project on social sustainability within a regional planning framework. For this project, social sustainability was defined using the work of Robert Goodland of the World Bank:

  • 37 Rick Gates, City of Vancouver, memo to Greater Vancouver Regional District Social Indicators Subco (...)

For a community to function and be sustainable, the basic needs of its residents must be met. A socially sustainable community must have the ability to maintain and build on its own resources and have the resiliency to prevent and/or effectively address problems in the future. Two types or levels of resources in the community are available to build social sustainability (and, indeed, economic and environmental sustainability)—individual or human capacity, and social or community capacity.
Individual or human capacity refers to the attributes and resources that individuals can contribute to their own wellbeing, and to the wellbeing of the community as a whole. Such resources include education, skills, health, values and leadership. Social or community capacity is the basic framework of society, and includes mutual trust, reciprocity, relationships, communications, and interconnectedness between groups. It is these types of attributes that enable individuals to work together to improve their quality of life and to ensure that such improvements are sustainable.
To be effective and sustainable, these individual and community resources need to be developed and used within the context of four guiding principles: equity, social inclusion and interaction, security and adaptability.37

  • 38 See Duxbury, Exploring the Role of Arts and Culture, for an overview of the process up to 2001.

33Although not explicit in this definition, in the project social sustainability includes components related to arts, culture, and heritage.38

34Another notable development in this area is found in Ottawa. The newly amalgamated City’s first official plans as set out in the Ottawa 20/20 Arts Plan were based on a goal of sustainable development, where social, environmental, cultural, and economic issues would be kept in balance. Although this model of sustainability does not explicitly reference arts and culture, one of the overarching 20/20 principles is that Ottawa is a “creative city, rich in heritage, unique in identity.” Arts and heritage were positioned as a pillar of the new City of Ottawa, vital to its future development.

  • 39 Jon Hawkes, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s Essential Role in Public Planning (Melb (...)
  • 40 Jon Hawkes, “Understanding Culture” (address to the Local Government Community Services Associatio (...)

35Evolving thinking about culture as the fourth pillar of sustainability, which has been most actively discussed in Australia through the activities of the Cultural Development Network, has also recently emerged in Canadian policy circles, and may also be useful in conceptually grounding culture within a broader sustainability context. Rooted in Australia’s community cultural development as well as unesco’s cultural diversity and policy traditions, Jon Hawkes has developed an initial framework on which to explore this concept.39 Hawkes has further explored this terrain and pointed out the debates embodied in the more well known social, economic and environmental pillars of the sustainability model.40 Much conceptual work remains to more fully flesh out thinking about culture as a pillar of sustainability so that these ideas are more fully grounded within sustainability theory and are also readily understandable to a general citizenry.

36All of these developments—in both official planning and more general community contexts—would be strengthened by further conceptual grounding to link and integrate arts and culture more soundly into the prevailing concepts of quality of life, sustainability, and social sustainability which frame various projects. This need exists in addition to further conceptual thinking to underlie the choice of measures to adopt as cultural indicators.

37Improving our understanding of culture in community-building and social and economic contexts entails attention to both conceptual and methodological dimensions. As Chris Dwyer and Susan Frankel have suggested,

  • 41 M. Chris Dwyer and Susan L. Frankel, Reconnaissance Report of Existing and Potential Uses of Arts (...)

Instead of indicators emerging from a well-founded theory and research base as may happen in other fields, arts and culture indicators are likely to be designed to link eventually to a developing theory and research base. From the point of view of strengthening the value of indicators, the problem is one of identifying the linkages to the theory and research base with the clearest potential for payoff and then, strengthening the empirical base”.41

  • 42 Jackson and Herranz, Culture Counts, 19.

38Cultural indicators can be viewed as tools of research, empirically grounding theory and assisting in its development. The inclusion of arts and culture indicators in larger projects could produce evidence to establish cultural rationales, produce empirical data, and develop theory. The trend towards a more integrative approach to indicator models which identifies links and analyzes cross impacts and cumulative impacts among indicators, combined with the recent emergence of arts and cultural indicators appears to offer an opportunity for the development of greater understanding of the roles of arts and culture within a quality of life/community context. The context of community indicators may provide a research setting to develop “theoretical or empirical research that speaks to how arts and cultural participation contribute to social dynamics.”42. Another outcome could be a richer understanding of cultural contributions to a community’s economy.

  • 43 Ibid., 34.
  • 44 Ibid., 34-35.

39The complexity of this work should not be understated. As Jackson and Herranz note, “Researchers should not confuse searching for clarity with expecting to find simplicity.”43 They identify two main theoretical and methodological challenges to documenting arts/culture/creativity impacts: “having definitions that are either too narrow to capture what we are looking for or too broad for policy use” and “trying to establish simple causal relationships in an area that is inherently complex—with many interacting forces and about which not enough is yet known to justify efforts to build formal causal models, even complex ones.”44

Contextual Influences: Use-contexts and Pressures of Practice

40The contextual influences at work in the development and implementation of cultural indicators (and influencing the sustainability of cultural indicator projects) should not be underestimated. The environment in which indicators are developed and used is complex and dynamic. Indicators are used in many processes—co-ordination, planning, evaluation, analysis, education, enlightenment, and decision-making—across contexts such as governance, philanthropy, and advocacy. Ideally, they are used in concert with other sources of knowledge being brought to bear in the situation.

41This section briefly outlines some of the multi-dimensional use-contexts in which community-level cultural indicators are applied. Then, it considers the rising pressure to develop indicators that contextualize these uses.

Indicators as a Tool of Governance and Government

  • 45 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Listening and Learning.

42Indicators can assist with effective co-ordination of distributed power, information, and resources (i.e., governance). Indicators can serve as a neutral resource shared among participants in a process, which can help level the playing field among various stakeholders.45 As an analytic tool, indicators can succinctly present a picture of changing conditions and help improve understanding of complex social conditions. Combined with other information tools, indicators can assist with planning and making effective, strategic funding (or other) decisions:

  • 46 Ibid., 16.

Indicators projects contribute to—and do not displace—the value of other information tools. In many cases… they help stakeholders improve and refine their ongoing work. For instance, indicators help Foundation staff prepare for site visits. Indicators help us ask sharper questions in the due diligence phase of grant making. Perhaps most important, indicators force us to question our own biases and conventional wisdom.46

43Indicators are also incorporated into evaluation frameworks, as tools to evaluate governance/investment success and/or to assess investment impacts. The introduction to one cultural program impact study suggests the broadening scope for program evaluation that may quickly take it into the realm of community indicators:

  • 47 Jan Muir, The Regional Impact of Cultural Programs: Some Case Study Findings (Canberra: Communicat (...)

Cultural programs serve cultural objectives. Their success is judged by their ability to increase the excellence, diversity and accessibility of cultural activity and to encourage participation in it. However, cultural programs influence the communities in which they operate in other ways. Increasingly, they are seen as having economic and community impacts that increase the vitality of regional communities and contribute to regional development.47

  • 48 Oksana Dexter, personal communication, November 5, 2003.

44Administrative systems and controls may incorporate indicators on internal processes as well as outside community impacts. For instance, an administrative wave currently passing through Canadian municipalities (and other levels of government) is the core services review. The core services review focuses on—it articulates—local expectations, realities, and purposes and aligns civic operations to these expectations.48 In the case of the City of Ottawa, this process is being used as a means to address a large operating deficit and pressures to cut operations and service levels. This process may link indicators more closely to budgetary processes and funding decisions. In this context, the impact measures should be sensitive enough to illustrate the impact of changes in budget levels in, say, five percent increments.

  • 49 The Creative City Networks Intermunicipal Comparative Framework Project is a comprehensive, multi- (...)

45Indicators are also used to evaluate one’s (competitive) position vis-à-vis other jurisdictions. In contrast with the more internal focus of a core services review, there is also a growing desire to be aware of what is being done elsewhere and, most importantly, to know “how we compare.” The popularity of Richard Florida’s creativity index in indicator projects and the attention it is receiving from politicians in many cities attests to this. The growing need for quickly available comparable information in the area of municipal cultural development was the impetus for the Creative City Network’s Intermunicipal Comparative Framework project.49

  • 50 See, e.g., the City of Ottawa 20/20 Web site.

46Related to this is the desire to know whether a change in a community is a local issue or more widespread trend, which is in part fueling the desire for consistency in measuring cultural impacts across municipalities.50

Indicators as a Tool for Advocacy and Communication

47As part of an overall educative process, indicators can play key roles:

  • 51 Rettig, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts.”

Arts indicators can anchor discussions about arts and culture with objective evidence meaningful to decision-makers outside the sector. They can also track change over time. … Indicators can also help uncover assets and needs in a community. … But perhaps most important, the indicators numbers can do the talking in local debates about public funding for the arts.51

  • 52 Comments made by Anne Russo at the Creative City Network conference, St. John’s, New-foundland, Oc (...)

48They can also assist in improving the receptivity of an audience to new ideas: “Numbers give people permission to support something they don’t understand” and can increase individuals’ “comfort zone.”52

  • 53 Delegate comments at the Creative City Network annual conference, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Octobe (...)

49However, their use must be tempered. Weighing heavily on the use of indicators brings its own dangers. Indicators can produce a “façade of scientific management” which can distort the artistic process and may not add clarity or understanding. And there is the eternal dilemma that “there is no objective way to measure the human spirit in contact with art.”53

50The relationship between creators of indicators and the subject(s) of the indicators is crucial. Acceptance of indicators as meaningful and valid tools that can contribute to shared goals and objectives must be earned through their careful application and use. The allure of quantitative indicators as a basis for action must be accompanied by caution, reflection, and other knowledge:

  • 54 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Listening and Learning, 16, 22, 61.

Staff and local leaders must not forget what they know when in the presence of data. They must not follow data blindly in setting priorities. Also, indicators data do not dictate what… stakeholders value. [W]e want to identify grant-making priorities at the intersection of indicators information and local knowledge. …
One thing we learned from the Community Indicators project is that our ability to make a difference hinges on our understanding of the local context. Taken alone, the customary statistics used to sum up the well-being of the nation are not enough. They mask the remarkable differences. …
Because each community is its own special case, explanations that fit one community may not fit another.54

Mounting Pressures

51The level of pressure to develop indicators, while variable from community to community, is generally perceived to be rising. Mounting pressures to develop indicators are originating from multiple sources, and in practice their influences overlap. For municipalities, pressure to develop indicators typically originates from two directions: program review/evaluation/efficiency measures and the growing prevalence of quality of life/community indicator projects:

  • 55 Flett and FoTenn, “Quality of Life,” A-3.

Many organizations have embraced the need to monitor and evaluate policy and program effectiveness. While the federal government has the most experience in this area, municipalities across Canada have developed and manage monitoring and evaluation systems. … Many of these efforts address concerns over policy and program efficiency, and they are often oriented towards performance measurement. However, we see a significant and complementary movement towards monitoring and evaluation of sustainability, the healthy community, and finally quality of life?55

  • 56 See, for example, the City of Toronto Culture Plan, the Ottawa 20/20 Quality of Life Report Card a (...)

52More specific contextual uses include tying cultural indicators to formally adopted plans with explicit goals and objectives,56 and in some cases to funding levels as part of core services review processes in Canadian municipalities.

  • 57 City of Toronto, 2003, p. 44.

53In the practice of developing indicators, the various pressures and rationales for indicators cannot always be cleanly separated. Tellingly, the City of Toronto’s proposed measurements related to their recently adopted cultural plan are described as benchmarks of the “health of the Creative City,” but they are also meant to serve an evaluative function. For example, the city’s report states that, “Measuring the success of this Culture Plan is like measuring the efficiency of any other realm of government.”57

54In some situations, cultural development staff can feel trapped by the pressures from the system(s) in which they operate to provide indicators. The potential for misuse of these indicators, and the general fluidity in the use of indicators as measures and as evaluation tools have staff frightened that indicators of the state of their community’s cultural sector may reflect negatively on them and their work. This situation underscores the need for both more developed and widely known conceptual and empirical research as well as the development of a support network in this area to which individuals can turn for advice and expertise.

55The complexity of context of use must be appreciated. Once developed, the indicators live within a dynamic, changing, and not always predictable environment. Once indicators or benchmarks are developed, their use is uncontrollable and may be inappropriate. Although careful development and framing of indicators can help, the various uses of indicators (e.g., measuring community conditions, measuring success, setting service levels, assessing impacts of funding) can’t always be anticipated or neatly unbundled. Misperception of the intent and meaning of an indicator can occur, especially when measures of a complex environment are used to evaluate performance and perhaps set funding levels.

56On a more positive note, within the midst of this general obsession with indicators, some individuals feel a more moderate view of indicators may be on the near horizon. This echoes a growing awareness of the need to balance the use of indicators with other types of information and the importance of analysis in the process of producing meaning from them.

Key Gaps to Address

57Significant advancements in the development of cultural indicators for community-level quality of life/sustainability indicator projects require attention to all three areas outlined in this chapter.

58To begin, greater attention to the indicators in use and in development is needed. A comprehensive review of the full range of community-based cultural indicator examples and analysis, and related initiatives and resources, should be conducted to gain a better understanding of existing practice and trends. This should include both experts in community indicators as well as experts in cultural research, and should be designed, in part, as an educative exercise for both these groups. Such work could also form the basis for the development of a multi-community network to support advancements in the development of cultural indicators in relation to community quality of life and indicator projects as well as (often closely aligned) cultural planning performance measures.

59Conceptual and empirical research is needed, both in the development of indicators meaningful to understanding and guiding cultural development, and in relating cultural indicators to quality of life and sustainability contexts. From the perspective of improvements in cultural indicators, Madden proposes that future development of cultural indicators would benefit from focus and clarity in three areas:

  • Greater clarity about the nature of artistic activities (why people undertake arts activities and their public and private benefits);
  • Greater clarity in the articulation of objectives for cultural policies and in determining the appropriate indicators for measuring performance against objectives; and
  • More strategic targeting of development work on cultural indicators, especially the prioritizing of a limited number of indicators.58
  • 59 Rettig, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts.”

60This work should be underpinned, or accompanied, by conceptual research on the rationales and conceptual groundings for the choice and development of particular indicators, both relating to culture directly and in relating culture to broader concepts of quality of life and/or sustainability. In part, this would help ground and address ongoing disagreements as to “what markers best capture cultural vitality in their communities.”59

  • 60 See, e.g., Muir, 2003.
  • 61 See, for instance, the variation in data availability for the cultural indicators of the Boston In (...)

61Hand in hand with the development of conceptual rationales is the development of sources of reliable data relevant to this conceptual work. The task of obtaining “evidence,” especially causal evidence, currently presents many challenges in this area.60 Gaps between indicator statements, or topics, and data available to address and measure such indicators, are common, and basic data on community conditions may not be available.61 And it is more difficult to measure an impact that is more broadly conceived. Indeed, much of the importance of art and culture to individuals, societies, and regions cannot readily be measured at present.

  • 62 Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley’s Creative Community Index (2003) and, more generally, the Kni (...)

62Greater attention to methodologies and practices of interpreting and presenting indicators is also needed. The importance of rigorous analysis of indicator data is often forgotten, and yet it is vital to understanding the significance of changes in the data and interrelationships among data sets.62

  • 63 Madden, Statistical Indicators, 7.

63Finally, co-ordination issues must be addressed. As Madden notes, “there appears to be little contact between agencies that are currently developing cultural indicators.”63 Better sharing and co-ordination would help mitigate two key problems:

  1. The multiplicity of work—development work is being replicated worldwide;
  2. Differences in approach—despite some broad similarities in much of the cultural indicator work, different indicator developers are adopting different approaches and frameworks, and developing different types of indicators.64
  • 65 Other resources of interest include Nancy Duxbury, Creative Cities: Principles and Practices (Otta (...)

64This challenge is even more profoundly felt outside the core “cultural indicator” field of study, where diverse contributions and informing contexts are even more difficult to co-ordinate and integrate. Related to this, there is currently limited capacity to comprehensively address multiple dimensions and varied influences. The need to attend to the various dimensions influencing the development and use of cultural indicators—the state of practice and existing examples, the conceptual influences, and the contextual influences—adds complexity to investigations and advancements in the area. With the exception of the ongoing comprehensive efforts of the Urban Institute in the United States, the capacity to adequately consider and advance the area in a comprehensive, multi-dimensional, and inclusive manner is currently difficult to locate.65

Notes

1 Nancy Duxbury, “Exploring the Role of Arts and Culture in Urban Sustainable Development: A Journey in Progress” (paper presented at the Table d’hôte on Building Sustainable Communities: Culture and Social Cohesion, Hull, Quebec, December 5, 2001).

2 In general, it appears that the earlier work of unesco (early 1970s) does not inform the current round of community indicator projects.

3 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation et al., Listening and Learning: Community Indicator Profiles of Knight Foundation Communities and the Nation (Miami: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation et al., 2001), 13, available at http://www.knightfdn.org/publications/listeningandlearning/index.html.

4 Christopher Madden, Statistical Indicators for Arts Policy: Discussion Paper (Sydney: International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies, 2004), 4, available at http://www.ifacca.org/ifacca2/en/default.asp.

5 Peter Berry, “Quality of Life Indicators Evaluation Report” (paper prepared for the city of Ottawa’s Environmental Advisory Committee, 2002), cited in Ottawa 20/20 Indicator Workbook, (Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 2003), 3. See also Madden, Appendix 2, for a review of current literature on cultural indicators, including discussions on what are cultural indicators and relationships between data, indicators, and analysis/evaluation.

6 The Flett Consulting Group Inc. and FoTenn Consultants Inc., “Quality of Life Reporting System Evaluation: Final Report-Appendices” (paper prepared for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2002). This paper provides a useful and succinct overview of the evolution of indicators through the twentieth century to the current day.

7 Ibid., A-9.

8 Ottawa 20/20 Indicator Workbook, 3.

9 Flett and FoTenn, “Quality of Life,” A-11.

10 http://www.urban.org/nnip/acipproject.html.

11 Boston Foundation, Creativity and Innovation: A Bridge to the Future-A Summary of the Boston Indicators Report (Boston: The Boston Foundation, 2002); Boston Foundation, The Wisdom of Our Choices: Boston’s Indicators of Progress, Change and Sustainahility (Boston: The Boston Foundation, 2000), available at http://www.tbf.org/indicators.

12 Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley, Creative Community Index: Measuring Progress Toward a Vibrant Silicon Valley (Silicon Valley: CISV, 2003), availlable at http://www.ci-sv.org/cna.shtml; Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley, “Cultural Initiatives Releases Creative Community Index,” news release, July 10, 2002, availlable at http://www.ci-svorg/whatsnew.shtm.

13 Ibid. See also Heidi K. Rettig, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts in Communities,” news release, Fall 2002; Princeton Survey Research Associates, Inc., John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Community Indicators Project: A Report on Public Opinion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton Survey Research Associates, 1999). The Rettig and Princeton Survey Research Associates documents are available from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, at http://www.knightfdn.org.

14 Chris Dwyer, cited in Alan AtKisson, “Rethinking Cultural Indicators,” Urban Quality Indicators 12 (Winter 1999): 3-4.

15 For example, when the team developing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (fcm) Quality of Life indicators decided to move from a social indicators model to a comprehensive quality of life model, they decided to use the Canadian Policy Research Networks (cprn) template as a starting point (Rick Gates, personal correspondence, September 5, 2002). The fcm did not have the resources or time to do a nation-wide survey to determine the main factors people use to define and determine their own quality of life, and the CPRN had recently completed such an exercise. Joseph Michalski, Asking Citizens What Matters for Quality of Life in Canada—Results of cprn’s Public Dialogue Process, (Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2001), available at http://www.cprn.org/en/doc.cfm?doc=90. The exclusion of arts and culture from the fcm’s resultant report is in part due to the origins of the new framework to the work conducted by the cprn. When the cprn did their survey, this area rated too low in importance to be included. In the process of revising the fcmsys tem, team members had to be fairly rigorous about denying various subject requests if they were not backed with “good solid evidence that people really do consider them to be essential to their well-being and happiness.” (Rick Gates, personal correspondence, September 5, 2002). Because arts and culture were excluded from the key reference study, and in the absence of this strong supplementary evidence, they were also excluded from the initial release of the fcmreport. See Canadian Policy Research Networks, Workshop on Quality of Life, February 19, 2003, Ottawa, Ontario: Report (Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2003).

16 Rettig, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts.”

17 Maria-Rosario Jackson and Joaquin Herranz Jr., Culture Counts in Communities: A Framework for Measurement (Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2002), available at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=310834.

18 See, for instance, Boston Foundation, Creativity and Innovation, and Boston Foundation, The Wisdom of Our Choices.

19 Arts Council England, Local Performance Indicators for the Arts (2003), available at http://www.local-pi-library.gov.uk/PI_arts.pdf. The indicators were developed as a component of the U.K. Audit Commission and Improvement and Development Agency’s Library of Local Performance Indicators.

20 Ibid., 3.

21 “Outcome” measures include the level of services offered and capacity of infrastructure available, various attendance/participation measures, the level of usage of local authority funded/managed venues, the number and membership of voluntary arts organizations, and satisfaction ratings of residents and target groups with the arts facilities, events, and services supported.

22 Duxbury, “Exploring the Role of Arts and Culture.”

23 Madden, Statistical Indicators.

24 Leif H. Gouiedo, “Proposals for a Set of Cultural Indicators,” Statistical Journal of the United Nations, 10 (2003): 227-89.

25 Madden, Statistical Indicators, 6.

26 Ibid.

27 City of Ottawa, Ottawa 20/20 Arts Plan (Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 2003), available at http://www.ottawa.ca/2020/arts/toc_en.shtml; City of Toronto, Culture Division, Culture Plan for the Creative City (Toronto: City of Toronto, 2003), available at http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/culture/cultureplan.htm. These official plans, and associated indicators, exist alongside of more broadly-based community indicator projects.

28 The City of Ottawa identified three broad areas of creativity measurement and proposed “suggested measures” which would be developed further in concert with other cities via the Creative City Network.

29 Issues involved in “scaling up” their neighbourhood-based research framework to encompass a city-wide, region-wide, or even larger areas, have not been investigated.

30 Jackson and Harranz, Culture Counts, 33.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid., 47n46. This footnote lists some promising studies on the social impact of the arts that have been launched in recent years, but many of these studies are still in their early stages.

33 A valuable outcome of the Arts and Culture Indicator project is the development of a holistic view of the research being conducted which could be applied to better understand the impacts of arts and culture to individuals and communities. Jackson and Herranz note that although “the direct impacts of arts, culture and creative expression on communities—particularly the roles participation plays in communities—are not, for the most part, either well documented or understood in the arts or community-building fields,” fields such as education, youth development, and economics have extensive literature on the direct impacts of artistic activities on individuals and communities. Culture Counts, 31-32. They also identify research with the potential to better describe the indirect social effects of arts, culture, and creativity in neighbourhoods: “These include identifying community assets and their significant role in community building, social capital research suggesting that a broad array of civic activities promotes a stronger civil society and democratic engagement, and research on whether a community’s characteristics influence individual behavior,” Ibid. A literature review indicated that “with a few exceptions, these research approaches have so far overlooked arts and culture as a major influence and neglected the unique and considerable role they can play.” Ibid.

34 Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (New York: Basic Books, 2002); Richard Florida and Meric Gertler, Competing on Creativity: Placing Ontario’s Cities in North American Context (Toronto: Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, 2002), available at www.competeprosper.ca/research/index.php.

35 Federation of Canadian Municipalities, “The Federation of Canadian Municipalities Quality of Life Reporting System: Highlights Report 2004” (Ottawa: Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2004), available at http://www.fcm.ca/qol3/archives.html.

36 Mario Polèse and Richard Stren, The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management of Change (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 15-16.

37 Rick Gates, City of Vancouver, memo to Greater Vancouver Regional District Social Indicators Subcommittee, June 12, 2002.

38 See Duxbury, Exploring the Role of Arts and Culture, for an overview of the process up to 2001.

39 Jon Hawkes, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s Essential Role in Public Planning (Melbourne, Australia: Common Ground P/L and Cultural Development Network, 2001).

40 Jon Hawkes, “Understanding Culture” (address to the Local Government Community Services Association of Australia’s national conference, “Just & Vibrant Communities,” July 28, 2003), available at http://culturaldevelopment.net/publications.html.

41 M. Chris Dwyer and Susan L. Frankel, Reconnaissance Report of Existing and Potential Uses of Arts and Culture Data (Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, 1997) (paper prepared for The Urban Institute’s Arts and Culture Indicators in Community Building Project), 32.

42 Jackson and Herranz, Culture Counts, 19.

43 Ibid., 34.

44 Ibid., 34-35.

45 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Listening and Learning.

46 Ibid., 16.

47 Jan Muir, The Regional Impact of Cultural Programs: Some Case Study Findings (Canberra: Communications Research Unit, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 2003), 1. The study was conducted by the Australia Council and the Australian Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and is available from the author atjan.muir@dcita.gov.au.

48 Oksana Dexter, personal communication, November 5, 2003.

49 The Creative City Networks Intermunicipal Comparative Framework Project is a comprehensive, multi-phase information gathering and standardization research initiative. Phase One is a broad qualitative survey of policy, programs, processes, and other infrastructure, and aims to understand the general framework, scope, and nature of local government involvement in cultural development across Canada. Phase Two is a quantitative survey that will capture of local government investment in cultural development across Canada. It will expand the information gathered in Phase One to include the value of direct and indirect support through funding programs, administrative costs, operational costs and other mechanisms. Phase Three will feature further details in selected topic areas, such as heritage support mechanisms and the role of libraries in local cultural development. Results from the pilot Phase One survey will be released in 2004.

50 See, e.g., the City of Ottawa 20/20 Web site.

51 Rettig, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts.”

52 Comments made by Anne Russo at the Creative City Network conference, St. John’s, New-foundland, October 2003.

53 Delegate comments at the Creative City Network annual conference, St. John’s, Newfoundland, October 2003.

54 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Listening and Learning, 16, 22, 61.

55 Flett and FoTenn, “Quality of Life,” A-3.

56 See, for example, the City of Toronto Culture Plan, the Ottawa 20/20 Quality of Life Report Card and Arts Plan Progress Indicators.

57 City of Toronto, 2003, p. 44.

58 Madden, Statistical Indicators, 7.

59 Rettig, “Measuring the Impact of the Arts.”

60 See, e.g., Muir, 2003.

61 See, for instance, the variation in data availability for the cultural indicators of the Boston Indicators project, as well as the data problems with cultural indicators encountered by the Vision 2020 Hamilton Sustainability Indicators project, Sustainable Seattle, and others.

62 Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley’s Creative Community Index (2003) and, more generally, the Knight Foundation’s 2001 publication, Listening and Learning: Community Indicator Profiles of Knight Foundation Communities and the Nation, are good examples of the benefits realizable through a careful analysis and presentation of indicators.

63 Madden, Statistical Indicators, 7.

64 Ibid.

65 Other resources of interest include Nancy Duxbury, Creative Cities: Principles and Practices (Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2004); Acacia Consulting and Research, “The Federation of Canadian Municipalities Quality of Life in Canadian Communities 2003 Report; Draft Domain and Indicator Definitions” (paper prepared for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, May 2003); Harvey Low, The FCM Quality of Life Reporting System: Methodology Guide (Ottawa: Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2002). A significant number and variety of resources on measures and indicators is available on the Internet from various organizations. Recently, Redefining Progress and the International Institute for Sustainable Development have merged their database of indicators projects. Redefining Progress provides an annotated directory of projects around the world and is a very useful hub for indicator projects generally. The organization also operates a listserv on the topic to support inter-project communication. See http://www.rprogress.org. Affiliated with the York Centre for Sustainability at York University in Toronto, http://www.sustreport.org is a useful general reference site on sustainability indicators and projects. Finally, Partners for Livable Communities maintains an extensive compilation of community indicators. The organization surveyed community indicator efforts to track quality of life, selecting ten representative programs for in-depth analysis and creating a database of 2000 indicators, sorted into three broad categories: People, Economy, and Environment.

Auteur

Director of research and information of the Creative City Network of Canada, a national non-profit organization she co-founded that facilitates sharing of knowledge and expertise among municipal cultural staff in over 125 communities across Canada. She is also a member of Statistics Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Culture Statistics, and special projects editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication. From 1995-2003 she was a cultural planning analyst at the City of Vancouver’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and from 2000 to 2002 she was a board member of the Canadian Cultural Research Network. She holds a doctorate in communication and a master’s in publishing from Simon Fraser University, and a bachelor of commerce degree in management from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. In 2001, she was awarded the Dean of Graduate Studies Medal for Research Excellence for the Faculty of Applied Science at Simon Fraser University

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2005

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540