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Arts-based engagement: a guide for community groups, artists and researchers

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Artists, researchers and communities are increasingly using creative methods to inform, inspire and involve people with research. Their work draws on the arts – from theatre and film to dance and photography – to engage audiences with research that matters to them.

Though these creative projects are happening in lots of different areas, but there is a lack of systematic and consolidated learning about how the approaches work in practice.

To bridge this knowledge gap, THIS Institute has produced a guide that explores how arts-based approaches can be effectively used to help engage people with research.

The guide is for community groups, artists, researchers and anyone interested in using the arts for public engagement, and uses practical case studies to highlight evidence from arts-based projects.

The guide covers six key areas

  • What is public engagement and why do it?
  • Why use an arts-based approach to engagement?
  • Choosing the right approach
  • What affects success or failure
  • Evaluating your project
  • What’s the evidence?

Increasing the success of an arts-based research engagement project

The guide highlights four practical tips:

  1. How you run an activity matters – the resources, governance and infrastructure that support your project are important.
  2. Good relationships and collaboration, built on trust, are essential – but this can take time.
  3. Understand and use the skills and experience of everyone involved in the research.
  4. Make sure you plan ahead in order to have the impact you’re looking for – through robust evaluation, follow up and opportunities to build sustainability and legacy into your project.

This useful guide draws on original research conducted by RAND Europe and commissioned by THIS Institute, complemented by additional interviews. It was developed in collaboration with a group of artists, patients and carers, public engagement professionals and researchers.

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