Measuring impact of the arts as a creative learning charity
Artis Foundation’s evaluation journey: part one
As part of our Measuring Wellbeing series, we’re looking at the evaluation journies of a range of civil society organisations, as told by the people leading the change and learning. This week, June Stevenson, Chief Executive of Artis Foundation, part of the RSA Evidence Champions Network, explains why they are using wellbeing as a lens in their evaluation process.
Another September, another school year begins. At Artis, it’s our fifteenth year of delivering performing arts programmes in schools.
But this year is a bit different for Artis: it’s our first September as the Artis Foundation, a charity we formed in January to take forward the historic work of the social business Artis, with a particular focus on where the arts gap is most acute.
Doing it differently: measuring wellbeing impact
As we shift towards more collaboration with a range of external funders we are determined to prove our impact, knowing that for these children high quality arts experiences are woefully lacking, and our abilty to track the difference we believe we make to their lives will make a vital difference in securing funds.
So what will be different in evaluation terms this September?
Two main things, both of which will be supported by new partners as we seek to be more collaborative as a charity.
Firstly, the further rolling out of Artis Bounce, our whole-class mental wellbeing programme, which has had strong evaluation metholodgy built in from the beginning. The six-week programme uses arts activities to explore the language children use to express their feelings and their understanding of mental health, and achieve their Discover Arts Award. Developed jointly with a Clinical Commissioning Group and public health team, the focus is on preventative impact – building resilience and understanding to equip children in self-managing their mental wellbeing.
This year, we will be building on the evaluation, now using the Stirling wellbeing scale for pupils (more suitable for our younger participants than the commonly used Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale). This allows us to track pupil wellbeing through measuring positive outlook and positive emotional state, with an adaptation to include statements about ability to read and express feelings and seek help – outcomes to support longer-term self-management of wellbeing.
Evaluation process and culture
Pupils complete the simple questionnaire before and after the programme, supervised by the class teachers, with results set alongside equivalent teacher perception questionnaires and interviews. It is valuable for us to capture whole class changes alongside individual impact – giving a broader picture of how the children relate to one another and take responsibility for the group’s wellbeing alongside their own.
We have been awarded a Sound Connections IMPACT Bursary to support us in this, which is enabling a partnership with Project Oracle this autumn, to give another expert external view.
Secondly, as we change and grow as an organisation, we are very aware of the need to embed a strong culture of monitoring and evalution into our core Artis Learning programmes. Whereas initially evaluation was limited to Specialist end of year qualitative comments, two years ago we developed the Artis Learning Framework, a spreadsheet-based monitoring tool linked to national curriculum areas, that we’ve been using to track individual pupils’ progress in communication skills each term.
Now we are rolling out a simplified version to all our schools, focused on confidence, communication and participation – our headline impact areas. We’re going digital with termly data collection by embedding a Typeform monitoring questionnaire in our website.
So there is much to do, and we are delighted to have many supporters joining with us on this journey. We look forward to posting an update on our progress later in the year… watch this space!