The Cultural Citizens programme was a commitment in the Government’s 2016 Culture White Paper. The focus was on raising young people’s awareness and knowledge of arts and culture, as well as developing their confidence to continue to engage with arts and culture in the future.

Funded by the Arts Council England, the Cultural Citizens programme worked with 200 11 to 14 year olds, who had low levels of participation in arts and culture, living in three areas – Barking and Dagenham, Birmingham and the North West (Liverpool and Blackpool).

The evaluation project

Renaisi was commissioned to evaluate the Cultural Citizens pilot programme with two main aims:

  1. To learn about how the Cultural Citizens Programme was being delivered in each pilot area and develop recommendations for its future rollout
  2. To understand the short-term outcomes and impact of the programme on young people and the organisations involved.

Evaluation methodology and practice

The evaluation had to capture a range of information over a short timeframe while working closely with the delivery partners (A.N.D; Studio 3Arts; Creative Barking and Dagenham; Kids in Museums and Curious Minds). We wanted to explore who was participating, what they did, what changed for young people, and the strengths and challenges of the programme delivery.

The evaluation involved common elements across all sites – a survey with young people at the start and end of the project; and face-to-face engagement with young people, delivery partners, staff, arts and cultural organisations and other partners. We observed club activities and attended events, using these as opportunities to initiate informal conversations or fill in evaluation sheets; ran evaluation workshops; and provided opportunities for staff to reflect on their work at regular points.

Louisa Thomson, Renaisi’s Head of Impact and Evaluation

We also worked with a video ethnographer (Close-up Research) in one of the Liverpool schools, which involved accompanying the club on a visit, returning later to show young people the footage, and encourage them to reflect on their Cultural Citizens experience.

“Renaisi struck a wonderful balance between thorough and informal, which was perfect for this particular project. They put in lots of effort to really understand the subtleties of the work, both the project management decisions we made and the unexpected outcomes, which arose from the participants. The evaluation is a very accurate reflection of what happened and we’re really pleased with it.”

Kelly Allen, Head of Innovation and Inclusion, Curious Minds (delivery partner for the North West pilot)
Cultural Citizens Studio Arts Visit
Cultural Citizens: Studio Arts Visit

Evaluation findings

In response to the evaluation report, Arts Council England said:

“The report highlights the positive impact that engagement with arts and culture can have on the development of children and young people, including those who have previously had limited access and exposure to arts and culture. There are a number of lessons for the Arts Council and our work with children and young people; particularly around the importance of giving children and young people greater ownership over the cultural offer available to them. There are many exciting conclusions to be drawn from this evaluation and much to reflect upon.”

Our evaluation demonstrated that the main aims of the Cultural Citizens programme were met:

  • 774 young people took part, and 642 remained engaged to the end.
  • 105 arts and cultural organisations were involved
  • 544 young people achieved an Arts Award.
  • 60% of young people said they would visit more arts and cultural venues in their spare time.

Our findings highlighted the enjoyment that young people got from their Cultural Citizens experience – many had the opportunity to take part in arts and culture outside of a school context for the first time. 97% rated the programme either ‘very good’ or ‘good’.

The ways that young people developed their knowledge and awareness of arts and culture through being supported to go to new places, review and reflect on their likes and dislikes, and be immersed in the details ‘behind the scenes’.

67% of young people said they developed teamwork skills, 65% said their confidence increased, and 55% improved their communication skills.