Over the last three years, we have been working with to evaluate the ERDF funded Network (LCN) - a professional development programme for mid-career creative practitioners from across London, delivered by SPACE, Four Corners, Cockpit Arts, and Photofusion. It supports micro-businesses from the visual arts, craft and photography sub-sectors to build resilience and sustainability. Over the three years, it worked with over 440 creative practitioners.
When we evaluate programmes of this type, it’s important that the business and economic development of the creative enterprises are seen in a holistic way when understanding their growth.
Participants in the programme are overwhelmingly sole traders operating in precarious conditions - as is typical across the sector. They have very low turnover and wages, and financial growth is complex and businesses are not solely driven by profit. For these reasons standard measures for contribution to economic growth, such as net Gross Value Added (GVA) - in which there was moderate uplift - were considered and contextualised within sector norms. The programme’s recruitment approach was also taken into consideration; the LCN programme was targeted where it is most needed rather than addressing businesses and sectors where there are typically high levels of commercial growth.
Published late last year, our evaluation showed the LCN programme has…
- Led to improved business performance - participants on the programme experienced an average turnover uplift of 15% and earnings for self-employed participants rose by an average of 40%
- Stimulated innovation - nearly 90 participants introduced new processes, products or services during the programme. Some firms are already seeing sales from these new products and services, while others see intrinsic value in their experimentation during the programme in developing their creative practice, even if it does not have direct commercial value
- Developed new creative direction - a supportive peer network facilitated a ‘safe space’, where participants felt confident to test and develop new creative ideas and production methods. Highlighted in the report’s case studies, the LCN has led to new exhibitions, markets, funding opportunities and collaborations for practitioners
- Filled a gap - 50% of respondents indicated that no other support provision offers the same level and quality of support
- Facilitated effective partnership working – the four delivery partners recognised the value of working collaboratively, sharing best practice and learning from one another.
These findings - as well as BOP’s interim evaluation report of the ERDF-funded StartEast programme - show that when funding for culture is prioritised and delivered through specialised and strategic partnerships, a range of benefits can be created; from the purely economic to the social and cultural.
These impacts have since unlocked additional funding for the LCN programme, extending its delivery until mid-2020, supporting a further 200 businesses.
The full evaluation here.
Further insights from the LCN programme video here.