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What is the value of cultural activity?

In this step you will learn what role evaluation should play in understanding and capturing the impact of cultural activities, projects and programmes

Welcome to the Evaluation for arts, culture and heritage: principles and practice course.

This course explores the role that evaluation should play in understanding and capturing the impact of cultural activities, projects and programmes. It explains the key terms, definitions and concepts of evaluation and outlines a range of principles, methods, models, frameworks and processes that work together to produce rigorous and credible evaluation. You’ll be guided to develop your own evaluation plan throughout this course.

The course is designed for anyone who deals with arts and cultural evaluation directly or indirectly in the course of their professional lives as well as for students of arts and cultural management and cultural policy. It provides illustrative examples and case studies of evaluation in action and includes talks and interviews with senior sector practitioners and academics.

Week 1 focuses on what evaluation is for in the cultural sector and the principles that underpin it. In Week 2 you will consider specific methods and techniques to support your evaluation activity.

Course learning objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Summarise the role evaluation plays in the cultural sector.
  2. Investigate effective evaluation approaches in the cultural sector and relevant methods to deliver these.
  3. Reflect on challenges and practicalities of delivering evaluation.
  4. Develop a plan to communicate evaluation findings for different purposes and audiences.
  5. Identify ways evaluation can become a learning experience at organisational or programme level.

Centre for Cultural Value

This course has been developed by the Centre for Cultural Value, a national research centre based at the University of Leeds. Find out more about the course authors.

The Centre plays a key role in supporting the cultural sector to develop research, evaluation and reflective practice skills. We work alongside practitioners and organisations, academics, funders and policymakers to share expert insights and best practice. In doing so, we aim to build a shared understanding of the difference culture makes to people’s lives and to society. Find out more about our work and our activity with practitioners and researchers like you.

Colleagues from the Centre for Cultural Value will be supporting the discussions in this course until 30 November 2023. The Centre is also running an optional live workshop to complement this course. Further details are on the Centre for Cultural Value events page.


This course has been designed for you to learn with others through comments and discussions at the end of each step. You will also use the course workbook (see Step 1.6) and tasks in the course to develop your approach to evaluation. In order to support your learning about cultural evaluation, join in the discussions throughout the course, providing your thoughts, sharing your experiences and offering feedback to other learners. Start off by introducing yourself:
  • What is your role within your cultural organisation or in the culture sector more broadly?
  • What are you hoping to achieve and how are you expecting the course to support your aims?
  • How confident do you feel about cultural evaluation?
If you are new to the ideas of evaluation in arts, culture or heritage sectors, we have a short self-audit (PDF) to begin your reflections.
Share and discuss your thoughts with other learners in the Comments section. Take a look at other learners’ responses, perhaps you work in similar sectors or have similar goals.
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Evaluation for Arts, Culture, and Heritage: Principles and Practice

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