For the majority of council staff working to provide cultural services to their communities, the link between culture and the wider local and central government objectives is clear. They see that sport can support community cohesion, that libraries have a clear role to play in improving attainment at school, and that the arts can be used to improve an individual's mental health. Increasingly other services are beginning to see the contribution that culture can make in improving their outcomes. Cultural services have become a great example of reducing the traditional service provision ‘silos'.
Over a period of two years, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have worked with the 12 pathfinder projects. They examined not only the ways in which cultural projects meet shared priorities, but also to identify the opportunities and barriers they face along the way. The projects were then evaluated to identify the outcomes and the evidence demonstrating how culture can improve the quality of life for individuals and communities.
The pathfinder programme was developed with a number of key aims:
- Showcase the work of local government in demonstrating the role culture plays in contributing to other thematic agenda, for example, health and wellbeing, community safety, social cohesion.
- Underpin the second generation local public service agreements (LPSAs) and local area agreements (LAAs).
- Provide a focus for innovation and experimentation.
- Provide a focus for freedoms and flexibilities.
- Test ideas at a local level with the view to understanding the potential for transferability or inspiring good practice elsewhere.
- Highlight barriers to implementation and improvement, and suggest how these might be addressed.
- Emphasise the need for joined-up delivery.
The Cultural Pathfinder programme evaluation report, prepared by De Montfort University, presents findings and encompasses the outcomes, lessons learned and key messages. The authors have identified not only the successes but also barriers to success and the strategies used to overcome them. The report includes many examples of good practice, both in terms of delivery and measurement.
Evaluation of the Cultural Pathfinder Programme: Summary and Full Report – on the National Archives website
2 October 2014