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Introduction to the evaluation of the Unlimited International programme

January 29, 2018
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Unlimited is an arts commissioning programme that aims to embed exceptional work by disabled artists within the UK and international cultural sectors, reach new audiences, and shift perceptions of disabled people.

In 2016 an Arts Council England Ambitions of Excellence award, match funded by the British Council, enabled Unlimited to extend global influence principally through co-commissions with non-UK based disabled artists, hosting placements for disabled people working in the cultural sector, and creating resources.

The strategic aims of Unlimited International are:

  • Generating ambition and expectation, within and of disability-led work in the sector;
  • Increasing experience, skills and quality of work;
  • Increasing the number of high quality disabled producers in arts & culture;
  • Generating sustainable relationships and partnerships with venues, festivals and promoters, nationally and internationally;
  • Developing new perspectives and changing assumptions – from audiences and the public – supporting positive perceptions of disabled people as key contributors to cultural life;
  • Changing public perception around disability emphasising the positive contribution that disabled artists and companies creating high quality products led by disabled artists can make;
  • Developing a sustainable legacy for innovative world-class art by disabled artists.

Unlimited International has so far comprised a programme of R&D awards and international Producer placements:

You can read more about Unlimited International here.

Unlimited is very keen to learn from what it does so they have commissioned me to evaluate their Unlimited International programme work so far and report on it through a series of blog posts.

Methodology

To evaluate the Unlimited International programme, I was tasked to find out:

  • What difference the programme had made;
  • What the strengths and weaknesses of the programme were;
  • How well the programme had met its aims.

To do this, I planned a methodology that enabled me to gather the views of as many relevant stakeholders as possible in a flexible way that felt comfortable to all.

I prepared a very broad and largely qualitative web-based questionnaire and emailed a link to this to Unlimited’s key contacts internationally, with a request to cascade it out to anyone and everyone that they felt might be able to comment on the programme or its outputs. This way I hoped to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders rather than limiting the evaluation to the ‘obvious’ award holders and others that we already knew about.

We had a terrific level of response with 45 stakeholders completing the survey.  This included representation from all R&D awards and International Producer Placements, with stakeholders including commissioned artists and producers, other artists or performers, promotors, partners, funders, academics and audience members.  Our expectations were exceeded with regards to the range of stakeholders responding and the amount of information provided by each.

To explore emerging themes in more detail, I then conducted more in depth conversations (by phone, Skype or email according to their preference) with a selection of 12 responding stakeholders.

What did the stakeholders tell me about Unlimited International?

The following series of articles (to be published on this Blog weekly) will discuss the key themes emerging from this evaluation process.

  1. International approaches to disability and disability arts
  2. What difference has the Unlimited International programme made?
  3. What worked well about the Unlimited International programme?
  4. What was unique or unusual about the Unlimited International approach?
  5. The Unlimited International network
  6. Unlimited International case studies
  7. Working with Unlimited International
  8. The future for disability arts internationally
  9. Summary of progress so far: aims, good practice and learning point

 

Image: ‘And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore/UK ‘d’ Monologues’ team, photo Memphis West Pictures

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