Developing an Evaluation Toolbox for Cultural Relations

Principal Investigator:
Ian Thomas, CPD Research Fellow 2018-20

The arts have been central to the British Council’s mission for more than 80 years, seeking to find new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through creativity. The British Council plays a major role in strengthening the UK’s global engagement and relationships, supporting the UK government’s ambition for a global Britain

This current research, in partnership with the British Council, will provide a first attempt at looking across the British Council’s arts showcasing portfolio over the past five years, looking at the combined evidence, evaluation approaches, defining the arts within a cultural relations and soft power approach and model, exploring various delivery approaches and their contribution toward developing cultural relations and UK soft power and creating a conceptual model through developing an overarching theory of change model.

Through the use of a mixture of qualitative emerging evaluation approaches, such as the UK’s Open University’s Cultural Value model and the Hertie School of Government’s Civil Society Diamond, exploring the research questions through a cultural relations lens:

  • What is the emerging evidence base that the arts and culture can support developing a two way connecting ground between UK and targeted countries which can support the aspirations and delivery of cultural relations and public diplomacy? Opening conversations concerning the UK, building relationships over the medium to long term in targeted countries and is there an early evidence supporting economic outcomes through using these approaches?
  • Developing a Cultural Relations Evaluation Toolbox - exploring the various evaluation methods / tools, evaluation approaches, framework and testing the strength of the evidence base around using arts programmes to support the delivery cultural relations, public diplomacy and UK soft power outcomes.


The results will help academics and practitioners to better respond to current challenges in the field and develop effective programs and solutions to further advance M&E in PD, cultural relations and soft power such a suitable evaluation frameworks and methods building on the learning  and experience from these programmes.