Understanding Cultural Engagement with the Cambridgeshire Culture Card

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The Cambridgeshire Culture Card is a new, ambitious project initiated by the My Cambridge Local Cultural Education Partnership.  The scheme aims to use contemporary technologies and linked data to:

  • Increase children and young people’s engagement in arts and culture
  • Recognise and acknowledge children and young people’s engagement in art, creativity and culture
  • Provide robust, relevant and visible evidence of the impact of cultural engagement on children and young people on a range of outcomes including education

The My Cambridge Local Cultural Education Partnership is comprised of local arts and cultural leaders, schools alliances and local authorities and the project is undertaking a six month feasibility and options appraisal process.


Why is understanding cultural engagement important?

There is a growing body of international evidence of the positive impact of engaging in arts and culture for young people, for example that increased participation leads to improved educational attainment, increased cognitive skills, employability is higher and disadvantaged children are three times more likely to gain a degree (CLA).  The recently released Social Mobility Index has revealed a ‘new geography of disadvantage’, evidencing that children and young people growing up in Cambridgeshire are in the lowest 20% of all local authorities in the county in terms of their chances of doing well at school, going on to higher education or getting a job. 

What approaches are we using?

Engagement data for the cultural sector as a whole has fallen behind other sectors that are not only actively collecting data, but using it to drive decision making, sharing and combining it with other datasets to demonstrate new insights, and also making this data openly available.  The commercial sector have been developing engagement mechanisms, both real world and virtual, to incentivise engagement with specific schemes or products for over thirty years, using cutting-edge data analysis software and segmented marketing techniques in the challenge to measure changes in behaviour and to better understand our preferences and needs.


The Cambridgeshire Culture Card scheme draws on both the principles of big data, and the approaches used by successful commercial sector led loyalty schemes and examples of culture related schemes both in the UK and overseas.  The system we would like to develop for Cambridgeshire will be highly replicable, using technologies and linking to data assets already in place across the country.

How will it work?

The scheme will be delivered using available technological solutions and drawing upon on the free universal access to the Cambridgeshire Libraries Library Card; as a way to record and track other cultural activities.  On its own, the Library Card will build a database of real time longitudinal cultural engagement data at a population scale: there are over 37,000 children and young people actively using library cards in Cambridgeshire.  


Our intention is to link this cultural engagement data with other existing datasets, primarily owned by Cambridgeshire County Council. These could include young people’s educational attainment, library engagement, demographic data (for example IMD, the indices of multiple deprivation), and more.  Bringing datasets together will, for example, make it possible to track the impact of cultural engagement on educational attainment, with the ability to take into consideration a wide range of factors such as Pupil Premium and free school meal status. 


What difference will it make?

It will deliver benefits to end users, cultural providers and policy makers and researchers.  For children and young people it will offer individualised benefits and additional incentives for children from low-income families. 

For cultural providers it will provide them with the ability to target benefits and incentives to different groups, and to track the impact of their cultural engagement on a range of different outcomes, including education.  For policy makers and researchers they can assess the impact of policy interventions in real time with access to a large scale, robust dataset.


The scale and operational nature of the data will mean that relationships that have been previously difficult to see, such as the different impacts of specific kinds of cultural engagement on educational attainment, will be much more visible. This will be correlation not causation, but will provide a much more effective base for in depth qualitative research.


It will also open up the opportunity for highly targeted incentives, enabling local authorities and arts and cultural organisations to focus resources very clearly.  It will support more effective strategy, planning and evaluation.  The framework for data collection will also be compatible with the Taking Part survey, enabling the link between the national statistic and operational level data


What’s next?

The feasibility and options appraisal process is taking place between January and July 2017 to work up detailed implementation plans. We are actively looking for partners who share our desire to see this ambitious opportunity realised from the academic, technology and cultural sectors.


For more information, or to discuss any proposals for co-working; please contact Michelle Lord, Arts Development Officer, Cambridge City Council by emailing michelle.lord@cambridge.gov.uk or check oput the My cambridge pages at https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/my-cambridge