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New project to help account for the value of culture and heritage in decision-making

People in colourful costumes lined up on the interior steps of the British Museum, shot from below upwards
People in colourful costumes lined up on the interior steps of the British Museum, shot from below upwards
Imaginary characters costumes, Manga theme show at British Museum Friday Lates © Alastair Fyfe
Written by
Cat Cooper
Published date
19 November 2021

UAL Social Design Institute is to lead a new scoping study on measuring the value to the public of the UK’s culture and heritage, to help government provide the tools to the sector to evidence decision-making and funding bids where cost benefit analysis and value for money enquiry is needed.

Co-funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the study brings together a cross-disciplinary team of economists and heritage science and archaeology researchers to be led by a humanities and design scholar Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Senior Research Fellow at UAL Social Design Institute; working with a research team from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) including Dr Sadie Watson and Dr Emma Dwyer; Prof Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge, Prof Patrizia Riganti, University of Glasgow and Dr Ricky Lawton, the consultancy Simetrica-Jacobs.

The team has been awarded the AHRC and DCMS Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital research grant, requiring them to identify gaps in existing evidence and scope future areas of inquiry to further develop DCMS’s Culture and Heritage Capital (CHC) framework, which sets the foundations for capturing the value of culture and heritage to individuals and society. The team will build on recent research commissioned by DCMS, Historic England and Arts Council England to inform the development of the CHC framework, reflecting the approach set out by the HM Treasury Green Book.

We are living through a pivotal moment for our cultural and heritage industries. The past two years have demonstrated the enormous value of our cultural institutions by giving us a chilling glimpse of a world without theatres, museums, and historic buildings. This study will help us to capture and measure this value in a way that will help us to direct investment and shape policy to ensure stronger and more resilient cultural and heritage assets across the UK.

— Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC
The close and firm collaboration between AHRC and DCMS will continue to help push forward our important Culture and Heritage Capital programme. I look forward to the work of this cross-disciplinary team. They will consider the key questions to enable us to value the wide-ranging, important contributions of culture and heritage assets.

— Lord Mendoza, Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal, DCMS
Walking past a historic building, going to a theatre, engaging with an online collection or an archive - are activities which bring enjoyment to many people, individually and collectively. Not just that, culture and heritage assets provide a sense of identity, continuity and attachment, as well as an appreciation for diversity and difference – for current and future generations. Yet, only a fraction of this value is currently being captured and measured. It is great that DCMS and AHRC are supporting this area of research that will help to fill gaps in evidence and open up future avenues of inquiry.

— Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Principal Investigator and Senior Researcher, UAL Social Design Institute

Market-based measures of value such as GDP are currently used to support government decision-making, but fail to satisfactorily calculate the contribution of the culture and heritage assets to UK society.

The research team will work with an international Advisory Group comprising world-leading experts across the disciplines and sectors most pertinent to the scoping study, including cultural and environmental economics. Supporting partners include BBC, National Trust, Derby Museums, Creative Scotland, Creative England and the Creative Industries Federation, British Library, Crafts Council, BFI, Nesta’s Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and International Scientific Committee on the Economics of Conservation (ISCEC).

The study will produce a report published on DCMS’s Culture and Heritage Capital portal (gov.uk) outlining the work and methodology and presenting an operational agenda to support the implementation of the CHC framework, including a priority list of research areas to be further explored.

The Social Design Institute leads a significant portfolio of work in the area of value and valuation, including research underpinning the Design Council’s Design Economy 2021, a forthcoming evaluation report for the MAKE project in London’s Euston and St Pancras and further projects at the intersection of design and value.

More about this work

MOLA blog: Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital
UKRI: Research captures and enhances value of UK culture and heritage
DCMS: Valuing culture and heritage capital: a framework towards informing decision making

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