Four years on… ALBERT DRIVE Project

Hard to believe, but it’s almost four years since the final event of the ALBERT DRIVE Project took place in Tramway. The Symposium is beautifully documented HERE along with pages of content covering details of all of the artist outcomes, individual collaborators, community members and volunteers.

Looking over it as I prepared this new website for my freelance work, it reminded me of the importance of stopping, looking back and reflecting on experience from where you are now. Reflective action research has been a critical and vital part of my practice as a cultural sector professional, ever since my first major project – Tramway’s Footprints, which began in 2011.

The project Director, Sarah Munro, critically embedded an action researcher, Sam Harrison, into a central role within the project. Collaborating with him, and developing an understanding of the role of observation, reflection, and evidence-based decision-making in planning, has been a core tenet of my practice ever since.

As I consider the learning from the ALBERT DRIVE Project anew from my new position as an independent consultant, I realise just how much the experience has influenced my deeply held-beliefs on the value, impact and potential of arts and culture. At a time when the sector across Scotland is debating and reviewing the Draft Culture Strategy for Scotland, the ability to look back and connect with the documentation of the project and its learning, has been fascinating.

It’s a reminder that, as someone recently said to me, “good cultural projects are always context-specific”, rooted in their time, place, and the people invested in them. That’s not to say that we cant look beyond the specifics, and learn from the values that underpin their development and delivery.

This is a time period of looming International constitutional changes, local government ‘Efficiency Savings’ and national cultural policy in flux. Putting the effort into rigorous questioning of values and vision, and how they will inform the structure and priorities of delivery, will always be an economical use of time, if you want to realise the best possible outcomes for those involved.

Quality Assessment in the Arts – A Glasgow Perspective

Last year I was invited to contribute to a special edition of Cultural Trends Journal Vol 26, No4, edited by Professor Sara Selwood, academic, independent cultural analyst, writer and researcher.

Exploring the experience of applying quality assessment methodologies in a variety of cultural projects and programmes taking place in Glasgow between 2014 and 2016, the article outlines some of my learning around this area. This includes reflections on the vital role that structures and processes of leadership and governance have in the organisational ability to learn from and address questions of quality, value and impact arising from the insight these methodologies provide.

The contribution contains a response to applying the Culture Counts methodology, now currently being rolled out across Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations through the Insights and Impacts Toolkit approach, as well as Creative Scotland’s own Artistic and Quality Review Framework which is currently being developed into a toolkit version.

I’m intrigued to know whether any arts organisation would say that it has demonstrably improved their quality through successfully applying one or other of these methodologies, and responding to the findings?

Does the Cultural Sector use measurement for improvement? Should it? Who does it benefit most to gather this information?