Accounting for Quality: Arts evaluation, public value and the case of ‘Culture Counts’

Cultural Trends
Abi Gilmore
Hilary Glow
Katya Johanson

Arts policy has a longstanding relationship with the concept of “quality” and the ways in which organisations measure, evaluate and account for it. Culture Counts, an evaluation system and digital platform, compiles data from standardised evaluation surveys of different stakeholder groups – organisations, audiences, critics, funders and peers – and provides the means to compare and triangulate data in an accessible format. As a result, it claims to provide a more effective, democratic tool for quality measurement of art, which demonstrates the public value of funding [Department of Culture and the Arts, & Knell, J. (2014). Public value measurement framework: Measuring the quality of the arts. Perth: Department of Culture and the Arts.].

Through qualitative research with two consortia of organisations involved in Culture Counts pilot projects in Manchester, England and Victoria, Australia, we explore these claims, comparing the reception and promotion of the system in both countries and considering its potential incorporation into policy assessment frameworks and adoption within arts organisations’ existing evaluation capacities.