Cultural commissioning – innovating for better outcomes

lucie-stephensLucie is the Head of Co-production in the Social Policy team at nef (the new economics foundation). Over the last six years Lucie has worked closely with commissioners in a range of services to support them to implement outcomes based commissioning approaches and embed co-production. 

The continuing squeeze on public sector budgets and pressure on services, coupled with major demographic changes, means that the need for local innovation is growing. Commissioners are increasingly clear that business as usual is neither desirable nor affordable. But the challenge is how to achieve this without substantial cost. Some commissioners have found that engaging different local partners from the arts and cultural sector is enabling them to get great outcomes for citizens, improve services and remain cost effective.

The Cultural Commissioning Programme (CCP) aims to increase expertise in this area. It is a three year Arts Council funded programme which will work with the arts and cultural sector and public service commissioners to increase awareness and capacity to commission in this way. The programme is currently mapping the extent of cultural commissioning in the UK and is already identifying some great practice.

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Cultural commissioning in action…

Arts on prescription

Create Gloucestershire is an umbrella organisation of arts and cultural organisations . In 2001 a Gloucestershire GP, Dr Opher developed ‘Artlift’ with Create Gloucestershire members. Artlift gives people access to 10 weeks of arts activity on prescription. Dr Opher originally piloted it in his practice but it is now available in eight surgeries across Gloucestershire (one in each district). Patients are referred for a wide range of reasons including to reduce stress, anxiety or depression, to increase social networks, alleviate symptoms of chronic pain or illness and to improve overall wellbeing. Evaluations demonstrate a significant impact on patient wellbeing and a sustained reduction in medical consultations (27% reduction sustained past six months). This evidence led to NHS Gloucestershire sponsoring the county-wide roll out, at a cost of £190,000. Patients really value the service, reporting that it helps them to meet other people, learn a new skill and find relief from their medical conditions.

Musicians in Residence to improve mental health and wellbeing

Liverpool Philharmonic and Mersey Care NHS Trust have collaborated to provide the Musicians in Residence  service since 2008. The programme provides access to music making and performances for service users and patients using mental health services across Liverpool. The content is personalised in order to support people’s recovery and benefit their emotional health and wellbeing.

The programme’s evaluation found it to be particularly effective in benefiting people who had previously found it hard to engage with mental health support. In 2011 the programme received a special commendation for innovative and outstanding contributions to the field of Arts and Health Practice from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). The RSPH awards committee said they were:

‘…very impressed by the musical excellence of this project in its work with people with enduring mental health needs. Given the scale of mental health needs in the UK today, and the need for new approaches to support recovery, the public health implications of your work are clear and substantial.’

The Cultural Commissioning Programme

Over the next three years the Cultural Commissioning Programme will provide a range of activities and advice to support organisations in the arts, museums, libraries and commissioners to create a greater awareness of the various ways in with the arts and culture can deliver public service outcomes. It is delivered by NCVO in partnership with NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), nef (New Economics Foundation) and Mission, Models, Money.

Between 2014 and 2016 the CCP will be offering a range of practical and online support and resources including:

  • research report identifying current levels of cultural commissioning, evidence of impact of arts and cultural programmes on social outcomes, and opportunities for further development
  • a two year bespoke support programme for commissioners who want to increase their commissioning from arts and cultural organisations
  • learning programmes for arts and cultural organisations to increase their capacity to deliver public service commissions
  • a series of conferences and events across England to highlight current developments, showcase work and encourage dialogue
  • online resources including case studies and an evidence of impact library.

Keep in touch

Visit the CCP website to learn more and sign up for regular e-bulletins to keep up to date with the programme.

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