Cultural Value and Public Policy
The Cultural Value and Public Policy research strand considers the role and value of cultural sectors and organisations in responding and contributing to public policy agendas in the UK. This work is led by LJMU’s Kerry Wilson (ICC Head of Research). The organisation and practice of cultural work has a significant impact on participation, engagement and value, both as individual cultural pursuits and as collaborative ventures with other sectors and professions. Kerry’s research interests include professional identities, ethics and codes of practice; cross-sector communities of practice; and continuing professional development. Kerry is particularly interested in the work of professional cultural sectors including museums and libraries within this context.
Through research council-funded and commissioned projects led by Kerry since the ICC’s inception in August 2010, her research has focused predominantly on the cross-sector instrumental value of arts and culture. In 2017, her work in the field was recognised by the award of a mid-career Leadership Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The award funds a two-year study of ethical dimensions of collaborative practice between museum and library sectors and partner agencies working in two priority public policy areas, including public health and wellbeing and prison education reform.
Inspired in part by existing theoretical models that seek to correlate conventional modes of intrinsic, instrumental and ‘other’ (e.g. institutional) cultural value – see for example different work by David Throsby and John Holden – Kerry’s research examines the extent to which the unique aesthetics and intrinsic elements of cultural work translate into instrumental value for collaborating (public) services and sectors. Examples of such instrumental value include workforce skills development, economic value through joint strategic planning and impact upon organisational culture. The leadership role of arts and cultural organisations in positioning themselves as strategic assets and driving forward the sector’s collaborative, instrumental cultural value is an integral point of consideration within this work.
Other signature projects include ‘Crossing Boundaries: The Value of Museums in Dementia Care’ (from September 2016), which builds upon successive, commissioned evaluation studies of the acclaimed dementia care training programme led by National Museums Liverpool, House of Memories; and research funded by the AHRC on the professional efficacy of social prescribing as a cultural commissioning model in mental health care, The Art of Social Prescribing (2014-16). The latter has enabled a closer examination of the relationship between research and the policy making process.
Kerry also led the commissioned evaluation of Arts Council England’s Libraries Development Initiative (2012-13) and the In Harmony Liverpool Research Network, funded by the AHRC (2012-13) under a Connected Communities highlight notice. Working in close collaboration with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (RLP), the network brought together an international community of interest to critically consider the socio-economic value and impact of the In Harmony Liverpool programme, a classical music education intervention based on the renowned El Sistema model. Together, the network debated three elements of cultural value emerging from the intervention, including cultural capital in the community, healthy communities, and music education and impact — generating a model for future research that would also consider the economic impact of such outcomes. The research also raised interesting discussion points concerning the professional identity and organisational culture of RLP as a leading, iconic arts institution as it continues to build its relationship with the West Everton community where In Harmony Liverpool is based.
The Cultural Cities Research Network (2011-12) was also funded by the AHRC, and was convened to explore the impact of bidding for the inaugural UK City of Culture title with a range of stakeholders from the shortlisted cities of Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield. Network discussions revealed that the ‘incentive’ of the cultural title acted as a powerful catalyst in encouraging enhanced collaborative practice, cultural leadership and policy making within cities, with lasting legacies in terms of cultural infrastructures, renewed confidence in city-wide cultural assets and strategic ambition. This grant was awarded as part of the Creative Economy strand of the cross-council Connected Communities programme led by the AHRC. Kerry was also part of Cultural Intermediation & the Creative Economy (2012-16), a major collaborative project also funded by this programme, led by Dr Phil Jones of the University of Birmingham. This project was designed to explore the theory and practice of cultural intermediation from a number of perspectives, and within the contexts of city-based structures, identities and communities, focusing on the research sites of Birmingham and Salford.
In early 2014, Kerry designed and planned a research symposium on behalf of the ICC entitled ‘The Arts ,Them and Us: creating a more equitable system for subsidised culture’, which encouraged inspiring debate on many of the issues raised by her research concerning responsibility, accountability and the politicisation of publicly-funded arts and culture.
Kerry’s earlier research on the cultural sector’s contribution to social policy, looking specifically at public library services in England, includes a two-year AHRC-funded study – ‘The Right Man for the Job? The role of empathy in community librarianship’ (2006-08) – which considered the sector’s relationship with and contribution to national social inclusion policy. The project explored the concept and practice of professional empathy in the sector, and other relevant professional implications including the extent to which public libraries are led and managed as socially inclusive organisations in their own right, and representations of multiculturalism across the service. Other AHRC-funded projects include ‘Relevant Repositories of Public Knowledge? Libraries museums and archives in the information age’ (2003-05), which explored the contemporary value placed on these organisations by the British public in an information seeking capacity. This research was undertaken by Kerry at the University of Sheffield (prior to joining LJMU in 2008). Full research reports for these and other projects are available from the Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society.