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14 Jun 2024

Measuring the Immeasurable

So much of the impact and understanding of what happens in our creative community spaces is felt and lived rather than specifically articulated.

But, it can be helpful for us to find ways to share those stories of impact to help shine a light on what happens through the public good of accessible creativity in our communities. This new report is part of that story.

Creative Waikato have again teamed up with social impact measurement experts, Huber Social, to understand the impact of creativity in our communities. 

We know that communities with a strong arts, culture and creativity sector are more likely to have a greater sense of place, stronger identity, and higher overall wellbeing. Engagement also leads to individuals who are more in touch with themselves, their land and their cultures, as well as helping to build strong, vibrant and diverse communities. Now, we have research that shows that investing in creatives working in community boosts community wellbeing. 

Throughout 2023, the Whiria te Tāngata programme supported ten Waikato creatives to deliver projects in their community.  It was funded by Manatū Taonga: The Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and delivered by Creative Waikato. It was shaped by our 2023 findings around How to Support Our Creative Professionals, which identified that our creatives experience less access to essential resources than the wider population. This includes things like access to affordable housing, local employment opportunities and sustainable income. In addition, the research identified three key areas of need across all creative professionals in the Waikato:

  • Access to essential resources
  • Mental wellness and social connection
  • Connection to culture

Whiria te Tāngata was developed as a way to show what might be possible if we reimagine our models of arts funding in Aotearoa, and invest in the people who make good things happen in our communities. The Whiria te Tāngata programme provided support for ten local artists to develop community-centred projects: Benny Marama, Emiko Sheehan, Fay Purdie-Nicholls, Ifat Vayner-Itzkovitch, Isaiah McIver, Margaret Feeney, Matt Sephton, Melanie Allison, Oriwa Morgan Ward, Sasha McGaughran. Over the year, each artist received a part-time wage supporting 20hrs mahi a week dedicated to the kaupapa, was connected to an industry mentor, and had the support of Creative Waikato, including waananga with one another, guest speakers, and the dedicated support and guidance of project Lead, Leafā Wilson. 

Creative Waikato worked with Huber Social to undertake original research into the impact of Whiria te Tāngata for the communities engaged with the programme. Working with the expert team at Huber Social allows us to gather robust and holistic findings which are focused around wellbeing. We undertook research which welcomed all participants, and included four deep-dives, focused around: connection to culture through storytelling for migrant and cross-cultural communities, connection within geographically-isolated communities, connection to culture and child-rearing for māmā, and connection to Māori and Pasifika culture for Moana Pasifika youth. 

Thanks to the support and sharing of our artists, mentors, and communities, we are now able to share a report into the social impact of the Whiria te Tangata Project. The full report weaves together stories and written feedback, with facts and figures. The findings are really exciting, and we want to provide you with some tasters here: 

Some other details and insights:

  • Throughout 2023, approximately 808 participants engaged with the programme, and, of these, 105 participants contributed to impact measurement. 29% identify as Māori or Pasifika.
  • WTT effectively delivered on its impact goals, building more connected, cohesive and culturally-rich communities. WTT effectively wove people together with largest post-programme shifts anchored on connection to self, community, place and culture. 
  • WTT supported mental wellness outside the mental health system. Qualitative data offered resounding evidence of the way engaging in arts and creativity through WTT was an effective tool to process emotions and support community participants’ mental wellness, with trends in mental wellness factors bolstering this. 
  • WTT respondents reported more positive satisfaction with life. 85% of community participants reported feeling somewhat to strongly satisfied with their current life conditions. This was higher than both regional-wide (78%), and nation-wide (81%) results.³ Positive trends for overall average wellbeing were seen across resident artists, and some deep-dive groups. 
  • Change occurring where it mattered most for artists’ wellbeing. Artists reported positive change across factor areas most predictive of increased overall wellbeing, where artists identified a strengthened sense of belonging within the sector, connection to place, and reduced loneliness; as well as improvements across previously-identified challenge areas⁴ for creative professionals. 

The full report is free to air, and ready for you to check out. 

If you want to talk more about it, kōrero mai, please get in touch. 

aimee@creativewaikato.co.nz