Diego Escobar on Finding ways to bridge the gap between arts promotion and program evaluation

My name is Diego Escobar and I am Director of Institutional Development at Jalisco’s Ministry of Culture. We recently hosted an event that was part of CLEAR-LA’s Evaluation Week Mexico 2016. We were very excited to be part of the program.

We took the opportunity to ignite discussion and bring together experts from what sometimes appear to be isolated fields, such as arts promotion and public administration and evaluation.

The event produced consensus around the following issues (among others):

  • Cultural programs deal with issues that are specific to the field and pose endemic “evaluation challenges.” For example, grant programs may eventually need to establish and compare the artistic merit of different projects funded in any given year, which will hardly be achieved without debate.
  • Nonetheless, much can be learned from evaluation in other fields and government sectors. For this to happen it is crucial to identify cultural programs with similar interventions to those of programs seeking non-artistic goals (i.e. anything from improving employment to promoting hygiene habits). Translating knowledge is vital.

Lesson Learned: Methodology! In Latin America (and beyond) the arts and the artistic components of community programs have extraordinary powers. This raises the stakes for evaluation. How do we know if there is a relationship between arts engagement in youth and criminal behaviours in adulthood? A report by Giving Evidence and UCL’s Institute of Education explores the relationship between short term and long term outcomes produced by outdoor adventure programs in the UK. The arts sector can use this approach to research and strengthen its claims regarding the relationship between effective programs in the short term and likely outcomes in the long-term.

Hot tip: Arts organizations don’t usually have the budget to send professionals or staff around to evaluation conferences or seminars. Although their participation in said events is growing, it might be a good idea to find ways for people and organizations to engage easily and without travel expenses. Using Facebook’s live streaming, we were able to boost our audience and reach people that made interesting contributions to the discussion.

Rad Resource: If you are in charge of evaluating (or managing!) a program it is useful to see if other organizations have commissioned evaluations for programs similar to the one you are interested in. Although it is often said that there is very little going on regarding arts and evaluation, I’ve found it very useful to check the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies’ publications registry.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Diego Escobar on Finding ways to bridge the gap between arts promotion and program evaluation”

  1. Carlos Echeverria

    Hi Diego! Thank you for this inspiring and encouraging tip. I am studying evaluation and public policy at Claremont Graduate University, in Southern California, and have always been interested in the overlap between evaluation and art programs. I am a firm believer that artistic communities and programs can benefit from evaluation and that more art managers with knowledge of evaluative principles are important for the sector to flourish in our communities. I would be happy to continue the discussion (in English or Spanish) about this and learn more about the programs you are working on. Best regards,

    Carlos Echeverria

    1. Hola Carlos!

      Congratulations on such an exciting degree! I’ll be happy to discuss further through email or phone. My contact information is easily fond on the ministry’s website.


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