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The Active Ingredients

Our new guide for understanding arts and cultural interventions in health and social settings

Last week, in partnership with Aesop, we launched Active Ingredients – a new report exploring how arts and cultural activities achieve broader outcomes, particularly in relation to health.

Based on the participation of over 120 practitioners and representatives of the arts, culture, health and social care sectors, the report proposes that more can be done to understand and outline the ‘active ingredients’ in arts and cultural projects that lead to short and longer-term outcomes for those taking part.

In a policy and funding environment that is increasingly defined as ‘evidence-based’ (despite an often-narrow definition of evidence), the report acts as a guide to help those designing and delivering arts and health projects to uncover the specific mechanisms by which the interventions create changes at an individual or collective level.

For example, what are the ‘active ingredients’ in a group drumming session seeking to improve social co-operation? Is it engaging in a new form of abstract expression, or the social interaction? Is it encountering something ‘other’, or, most likely, a combination of these aspects? This short discussion paper provides an opportunity to consider the combination of these different ‘ingredients’ to support better understanding of how project design is linked to different effects or outcomes.

This ‘active ingredients’ approach helps arts and health practitioners define their work in a way that clearly articulates its value, and for commissioners and funders to discuss this work using shared concepts and language.

It is hoped this will lead to stronger partnerships and clearer communication across sectors as the complex processes at play in creative activities are better recognised by all those involved. We welcome any further thoughts and feedback as people test it out and refine how it can be used in the future.

Full report here.

- Douglas Lonie, Senior Consultant

Image credit: Helen Murray