Two research projects ongoing at CCI
Dr Dave O’Brien is involved in two major research projects, funded by the AHRC. One is exploring the role of cultural intermediaries in the creative economy of Birmingham and Manchester, the other is exploring the role of the arts for people with dementia. Both projects are in the middle of some very exciting work at the moment, including a particpatory evlaution of a photography project and the appointment of artists to work in care facilities. Some more details, including links to the project websites and twitter feeds, is given below.
Cultural intermediation is a process which connects different kinds of communities into the creative economy and wider society. It plays a critical role in raising aspirations, upskilling and building confidence, all of which are vital to allow people to engage with and benefit from one of the most dynamic sectors of the contemporary UK economy.
Individual artists, professional networks, events, festivals, commissioning bodies, creative businesses, arts and cultural organisations both large and small can all play intermediary roles. Some of the most exciting opportunities for research in this area are occurring in the city regions. In part this is because of their size and multiplicity of cultural resources, but also because these areas have large concentrations of communities suffering multiple deprivation who are being left behind by the post-industrial creative economy.
Investigations undertaken as part of developing this research project revealed that those individuals and organisations undertaking cultural intermediation are coming under significant pressure. Public sector funding cuts and a new agenda of localism are changing the relationship that intermediaries have with the state, requiring a reappraisal of their activities. The ‘Big Society’ agenda places an emphasis on community-led activities at the same time that the institutional support for capacity building in those communities through cultural intermediation is being squeezed. The creative sector is itself highly fragmented with weak connections between different sectors, different communities and policy processes. So-called ‘hard-to-reach’ communities remain disconnected, suffering multiple deprivation, social disenfranchisement and exclusion.
Acknowledging the importance of cultural intermediation, the research asks to what extent these processes meet the needs of urban communities in the 21st century and how they might operate more effectively. The aim of the research is to discover how the value of cultural intermediation can be captured and how this activity can be enhanced to create more effective connection between communities and the creative economy. The objectives of the research are to: create new ways of measuring value; analyse the historic development of cultural intermediation to inform current practice; examine how intermediation fits within the existing policy landscape and the governance of relations between the different actors; explore the effectiveness of intermediation activity from a community perspective; design new forms of intermediation through a series of practice-based interventions; and reflect on the process of working across and between disciplines and sectors in order to enhance practice.
The research has a number of key applications and wider benefits. In providing a means to capture the value of intermediation, policy makers and practitioners will be able to foster better practice. This is of particular importance given the shifts in the governance and funding landscape, particularly within the public sector. The historical material, will provide a crucial evidence base situating understandings of intermediation, providing lessons to current practitioners. Those creative intermediaries directly involved in the interventions will receive training in research methods in order to analyse and improve their own practice. A subsequent ‘how-to’ research guide will disseminate these lessons more widely. Academically the research will make a major contribution to debates on: creativity and valuation; the historical evolution of the creative economy; governance and localism; practice-based methods; interdisciplinarity and epistemic communities; and the role of culture in connecting communities.
This project began on 2/4/2012 and will run for 48 months. The project was awarded just under £1.5m, lead by Dr Phil Jones of University of Birmingham. Dr Dave O’Brien is running a work package on valuation, worth £15,588
Project 2 Dementia and imagination:connecting communities and developing well-being through socially engaged visual arts practice
Although people are living longer than ever before, the number of people with dementia is increasing, and 1 in 5 people over 80 will have dementia by 2021. People with dementia and their families often become disconnected from society through the stigmatizing effect dementia has on taking part in everyday activities. Added to this, the current economic climate has meant reductions in many services, and there is often a lack of meaningful activity available to this population. Yet many people with dementia wish to remain within their communities, in the home of their choice, near their family, carers and friends, with the support of health and social care services. This research aims to address the disconnection and marginalisation of people with dementia and explore how the vision for dementia supportive communities might benefit from creative activities. Specifically, it will use a visual art intervention as the catalyst for change for understanding community connectivity, challenging attitudes and promoting well being.
Research to date, although limited, suggests a number of potential benefits of arts participation to the quality of life, health and well-being of people with dementia. This project wishes to build on this to address a new area, which will maximise the involvement of, and potential benefit to communities. It will look at how participation in community arts interventions can increase well-being and connectedness between the dementia community and wider society. It will also examine another new area, to further understand the underlying processes that create the connection between arts participation and good outcomes.
To realise the aims, the research will be set within three areas of the UK. These consist of ethnically and geographically diverse communities to contextualise the research. In each area our project partners will deliver the same visual arts intervention over a 12 month period to different groups. To understand the impact, the research will assess changes over time in the well-being and social connectedness of people with dementia, and how these changes can in turn have positive effects in communities (facilitate change in societal attitudes and promote participation and inclusion) through social contagion. The processes and outcomes of the research will be assessed using a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches, and will use art, both as a tool for analysis and for visual, creative representations of the results.
The research builds on existing relationships and develops new ones with community and policy partners, such as arts organisations, museums, galleries, health and social care practitioners, charities and local government. This will ensure full engagement and maximum benefit and impact for research, policy and practice. It will also contribute towards building future sustainability.
The project began on 1/3/2013 and runs for 38 months. It is lead by Dr Gill Windle Bangor University. Dr Dave O’Brien is running a work package on methods and valuation, worth £7716