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Monitoring and Evaluation in
Art for Social Change
Why this resource?
There has been growing interest in better understanding and documenting whether and how creative community-based initiatives can bring about social change. However, for some community groups, the topic of evaluation can be fraught with frustration.
This resource seeks to clarify some of the diverse theories, methods and techniques that may be useful for evaluating such projects.
This resource resource assumes minimal previous knowledge of the topics presented. Although recognizing that project development and evaluation are intrinsically linked, this toolkit is for the evaluation itself rather than how to develop the project.
Artist Evaluation
Community-Based Initiatives & Social Change
There is increasing integration of the arts in community-based social change initiatives. This toolkit draws on examples and concepts in the community-engaged art field, but the information on evaluation can be applied across a wide range of community-based projects and programs, including in the areas of health promotion, social justice, and environmental sustainability, among others.
There is much debate about what constitutes social change – or what are the pathways to equity-sensitive social transformation.
Peace Mural
Who is this toolkit for?
This toolkit is for anyone interested in evaluating a community-based health promotion or social equity initiative, whether you are a member of a community organization, an artist, a community organizer, an advocate, an activist, a health promotion practitioner, a community development planner, a funder, or a researcher.
How to use this tool
There are many ways to use this tool: For example, you could:
Follow the 7-step Evaluation Guide
Go through the Basic Evaluation Mini-Course
Choose one of the animated scenarios
Seek examples that relate to the art form, outcome, issues, target group or methods you are looking for
Try out the quiz
Or even just: Use the search command to find specific topics

Download other guides
The tool is designed to link to the materials you need. (For example, from the scenarios, you can access details of how to do focus groups, design surveys, find existing questionnaires, etc.)
‘Art for Social Change’
Regardless of the art form or tool used, ‘art for social change’ engages the members of an identified community using creative imagination and expression to work out identity, shared values and aspirations. It is hoped that participation in this kind of creative engagement would lower the threshold for many forms of social participation and social action, and would help people to find new ways to see and be engaged in the world.
While there is great potential for individual learning and development using the arts, issues affecting individuals are always considered in relation to group awareness and group interests. Building skills for social change requires meaningful participation in shaping collaboratively created work.
(Reference: Goldbard, A. (2006). New creative community. The art of cultural development. Oakland, California: New Village Press)
Photo from Santa Fe University.
Critical considerations before you start an evaluation
There are critical debates surrounding the use of arts in social change and in community-engaged practices that are important to consider before approaching the issue of evaluation. Although these considerations may not have definitive answers or solutions, they are nonetheless important to be aware of and to consider in the practice and evaluation of art for social change.
Types of ‘Art For Social Change’ Projects
There are 3 major types of art projects that can be said to be aiming to generate social change:
  1. Artist creation: the artist(s) create their own artwork, and the social change content is in the work itself (e.g., Pablo Picasso’s Guernica)
  2. Group problem solving: the artist(s) act as facilitators using art as part of a problem solving process, where group art creation is not the final goal of the project (e.g., image theatre to improve teamwork in a workforce)
  3. Group artwork creation: the artist(s) act as facilitators for group art creation for social good (e.g., see the Examples page)
This guide assumes that your project being evaluated is going to fall into the category of “group artwork creation.” It's important to clarify that such projects are not focused solely on the production of art, but on the process of making art together, for example to work out identity, shared values, and aspirations.
ASC Types
Photos by Isengart, Medialab Prado, Jumblies Theatre distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Community-engaged art and its various terms
“Art as a community-based, collectively driven activity is probably as old as art-making itself, and indeed, as the very catalyzing of ‘community’ as such. In recent years, a variety of terms have been used, each with its own nuanced goals and practices. These include: socially engaged art, community arts, community cultural development, social arts, and participatory arts. In addition, the practices of arts education, creative arts therapies, popular education and creative leadership processes are closely related. While a series of networks of those who practice community-based art have now been established and a body of literature addressing shared concerns is currently being amassed, the boundaries of this community of practice and research, is necessarily porous.”
(Reference: Spiegel, JB (2018) Social Circus, Buen Vivir: A critical inquiry into one bold political vision within a social arts global movement in The Art of Collectivity: Social transformation, Buen Vivir and Ecuador’s social circus in global perspective. McGill-Queens University Press.)
From Evaluation to Research
There is a continuum from “operational process evaluations to show funders how funds have been spent” to “inquiry for more in-depth understanding of the social impact of a project that contributes new knowledge to the field”. Some authorities consider only the former to be “evaluation” and the latter to be “research” best conducted by academic scholars. It may be wise to see this as a continuum rather than a dichotomy (either one or the other).
Research vs. Evaluation
If the intention is to publish in a peer-reviewed journal to inform world knowledge, this would be to the right of the continuum and would require research ethics approval (a requirement for publishing in a peer-reviewed academic journal). Alternatively, if the evaluation is being conducted for the organization's own internal use and not intended for a broader audience, this would be to the left of the continuum.
Regardless of the position along the continuum, it is important to conduct the research/evaluation ethically and systematically so it can be used and interpreted by other people.
More about Terminology
The words “evaluator” and “researcher” are used interchangeably in this tool, for simplicity.
Similarly, the words “data” and “information” are used interchangeably; both mean the results of quantitative, qualitative and/or arts-based evaluation or research.
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