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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details

Swan, P.J. & Atkinson, S. Managing evaluation: a community arts organisation's perspective. Arts & Health. 2012;4:217-229.

Author(s) from Durham


Background: Arts and health organisations must increasingly provide measurable evidence of impact to stakeholders, which can pose both logistical and ideological challenges. This article examines the relationship between the ethos of an arts and health organisation and external demands for evaluation. Methods: Research involved an ethnographic engagement where the first author worked closely with the organisation for a year. In addition to informal discussions, 20 semi-structured interviews were conducted with core staff and practitioners. Transcribed interviews were coded and emerging themes were identified. Results: Staff considered evaluation to be necessary and useful, yet also to be time-consuming and a potential threat to the organisation's ethos. Nevertheless, they were able to negotiate the terms of evaluation to enable them to meet their own needs as well as those of funders and other stakeholders. Conclusions: While not completely resisting outside demands for evaluation, the organisation was seen to intentionally rework demands for evidence into processes it felt it could work with, thus enabling its ethos to be maintained.