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Beyond the Numbers Game

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Goldsmiths Research Online

Abstract

It is one of the problems of policy research and evaluation reports, not least in the arts and media sector, that many readers only read the executive summary of reports. They often look for a bold, headline finding, preferably digestible in the form of an arresting statistic. This means that the nuance and detail of the research is often lost. This report argues for a more considered and qualitative approach to evaluation and research, taking seriously the complexity of the outcomes of participatory media, which is the subject of our research. However, if we were to summarise the report in four sentences, this is what we would say. First, media activity is particularly good at attracting a diverse range of people, so there is a need for flexibility in approach for project delivery, responding to individual needs. Second, a key ingredient is media professionalism and industry kudos, combined with a developmental whole-person approach, a combination which brings benefits far beyond either a narrow, skillsbased pedagogical approach or a diversionary approach where media is not pursued seriously. Third, working with smaller numbers of people over time – quality not quantity – is often the key to creating professional standard participatory media work. Fourth, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ outcomes are interdependent and interwoven in the media process – it provides not one or the other but both. These four points have vital implications for both evaluation and monitoring practice and for funders’ policy frameworks.

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