It is always good for those delivering arts and health projects to clearly understand what the project costs and how this might compare to the cost of delivering similar work. However, as well as demonstrating outcomes, project providers sometimes feel they need to show that they can deliver specific economic benefits for commissioners and other stakeholders. If this is the case for your project, it will be important to develop a collaborative relationship with the commissioner to ensure that you both understand what is required.
The ‘value’ of an arts and health project may be measured in various ways. Formal approaches such as ‘cost benefit analysis’ value outcomes of a project in monetary terms but may not easily capture many important more subjective aspects of an arts project. Economic evaluation that seems better suited to the context might seek to assess the benefits of an intervention in terms of Quality of Life Years or QALYs. Another commonly-used tool in arts and health is ‘Social Return on Investment’ (SROI). SROI seeks to establish what the cost and impact to society would have been if an intervention had not taken place.
Economic evaluation of any kind requires significant skills and resources to conduct. Results will only be reliable if a project has first established a clear understanding of why the work it does has the effect it does – a theory of change. Further information about a variety of approaches to measuring value can be found by downloading Economic Evaluation.