Cultural heritage impact measurement

As part of its impact strategy Europeana engaged SenseGuide in the impact assessment of the migration campaign. The objective of the impact assessment was to understand the intrinsic values of European citizens in engaging with digital cultural heritage. Europeana’s desire was to bring impact measurement beyond the immediately measurable output of Europeana’s activities. For Europeana this is a novel way of measuring its impact. It therefore approached SenseGuide as of its experience and expertise in using the Cognitive Edge SenseMaker® method for human sensemaking.

Impact areas of cultural participation


Europeana empowers the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation. The Europeana foundation, created by the European Union, develops expertise, tools and policies to embrace digital change and encourage partnerships that foster innovation. Europeana imagines a cultural heritage sector powered by digital and an Europe powered by culture, giving it a resilient, growing economy, increased employment, improved well-being and a sense of European identity.

Members of the Europeana foundations are the presidents and chairs of European associations for cultural heritage and information associations. The Foundation promotes collaboration between museums, archives, audiovisual collections and libraries so that users can have integrated access to their content through Europeana and other services.

The shifting perspective of cultural heritage impact measurement

In spite of the multiplication of successful examples of culture-led local and regional development across Europe and elsewhere, there is a widespread perception that the role and potential of culture in the overall European long-term competitiveness strategy is still seriously under-recognized.

This situation is mainly the consequence of a persisting gap in the conceptualization of the role of culture in an advanced, knowledge based economy, as it is the European one nowadays.

For many decision makers and policy officers operating outside the cultural realm, the cultural sectors are at best a minor, low-productivity branch of the economy, largely living on external subsidies, and which is therefore absorbing economic resources more than actually generating them. Not surprisingly, as a coherent consequence of this wrong conceptualization, cultural activities are one of the first and easiest targets of public funding cuts during phases of economic crisis.

This has encouraged Europeana to look beyond the immediately measurable ‘output’ of its activities towards the demonstrable outcome, which leads to defining the real impact. To demonstrate impact and therefore success, Europeana has to provide evidence of significant change in the lives and life opportunities of our communities.

In order to do this, we must consequently give up a notion of the cultural and creative industries as a specific macro-sector of the economy, and a notion of the demand side as a market-mediated audience. Rather, we have to reason in terms of the structural interdependencies between the cultural and creative sectors and the other economic and social sectors, and we have to reason in terms of the demand side as a partially market mediated pool of practitioners increasingly interested in active cultural participation and access.

The key of the argument lies in moving the focus from the economic outcomes of cultural activity to the behaviors that cause them: In order to understand the effects of culture outside of the cultural realm, we have to consider how cultural participation changes the behavior of individuals and groups. This requires a strongly interdisciplinary framework putting together main dimensions of civic functioning.

Europeana Migration Campaign

Many of us are not consciously aware that we are the product of many cultural influences. Our cultural heritage shows us that Europe is the result of a flow of people and ideas, and that migration is woven through our everyday lives. The change we want to effect is: awareness that personal identity is made up of multiple cultural influences.

Europeana intent was to create an online resource on the topic of migration to, from and within Europe. A thematic collection on migration will present documentary evidence, material culture and personal stories which reflect migration movements in Europe over many centuries, as well as how these have affected the arts and sciences.

Throughout 2018, Europeana build this collection by improving and adding content from cultural heritage institutions across Europe. 2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage: Europeana Migration was a key element of Europeana’s contribution to the year, showing how important a multicultural society is to our shared cultural heritage.

Impact assessment of the Migration Campaign with SenseMaker

Recognizing the gaps and challenges in conducting cultural heritage impact measurement, SenseMaker was used for the impact assessment of the migration campaign. More specifically, the project aimed to examine the feasibility and added value of using SenseMaker® to generate impact data to allow a more nuanced understanding of the intrinsic values of European citizen in engaging with cultural heritage.

The project had two objectives:

  1. Exploring the intrinsic values of participants in engaging in the migration campaign
  2. Gaining experience with SenseMaker as a new and innovative way of impact assessment

The focus of the design process was to create an interdisciplinary framework of areas in which cultural participation can cause significant macro social and economic effects.  For this various papers and studies regarding cultural impact assessment, Europeana’s impact strategy and previous impact assessments were studied and evaluated.

A conceptual framework around the impact areas was created (see image). These impact areas provide a generic interdisciplinary framework for impact assessment of cultural participation on a systemic level. However practical application in impact assessment is lacking. 

 The idea was to formulate research questions that then could be mapped with the impact areas. A stakeholder workshop was held to understand and define the target audience of the migration campaign, the desired outcomes and impact of the event. This workshop was supported following the guidelines of the Europeana Impact Playbook.

Data collection

In total 17 Migration collection events were hosted in 2018. We collected impact data from participants that shared a migration story at the following events:

  • Migration Collection event, Brussels, 15-17 March 2018
  • Migration Collection event, Dublin, 25-26 May 2018
  • Migration Collection event, Utrecht, 23 June 2018
  • Migration Collection event, Belgrade, 19-20 October 2018
  • Migration Collection event, Pisa, 12 October 2018
  • The online contribution, March-December 2018

The SenseMaker survey was presented as an online survey in two versions: one version for physical migration campaign events and one version for online contribution. In the events version after submitting the data the start page automatically appeared for the next participant. In the online version after submitting the impact data the survey was closed. Both versions contained the same questions.

In total 49 participants who shared a migration story at a migration collection event completed the survey. In total 600 participants shared a migration story during the migration campaign in 2018. The sample is relatively small but still it provides enough useful data points to allow patterns to emerge on visual scanning of the triads, scales and stones. See also this review of the campaign.

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