How do we know we’ve had an impact?

Author: Julia Fallon

By Emma Verheijke, Managing Partner, Sinzer

Our latest survey helps us make a start towards better understanding the impact of Europeana Research and the Europeana Fashion & Photography collections on the people that use them, and the organizations that contribute data.

Europeana believes making cultural heritage digitally available and accessible is important. But why exactly? What is the value of this? Who benefits from it? What changes does it create? Or in other words: what is the impact of Europeana?

An example of a how one aspect of the impact of Europeana Photography was mapped on the Change Pathway. Europeana, CC BY-SA.

Europeana has certain impact goals, such as contributing to creating a shared European identity. Europeana strongly believes in being specific about the changes you aim to create, and in testing whether you are indeed creating these changes. This is the reason Europeana recently engaged impact consultancy Sinzer and embarked on a journey to assess the impact of Europeana Research, and the curated collections Europeana Fashion & Europeana Photography. Through this, we expect to also learn some things about the impact of Europeana in general.

Several multi-stakeholder workshops were held for Europeana Fashion, Photography & Research, in which their impact was ‘mapped’ by answering questions such as: who experiences change as a result of accessing or providing data? What changes do these groups experience? How can this be influenced by changing the offering or services? Or, to be more concrete: does accessing heritage material through a Europeana service increase people’s knowledge about historic events and different cultures? And does this affect their behaviour towards others or life itself? Does Europeana through Europeana Fashion, Europeana Photography or Europeana Research ‘make life easier’ for researchers and professionals who rely on cultural heritage for their work? And is this important to them?

In the workshops, once we had identified the activities that would ultimately lead to impact, and some of the steps in between, we turned our attention to how we could evidence this. Taking each stakeholder, we look at what changes we thought most important to measure, and identified what we could ask in a survey to gather data for those measurements. After the sessions, the impact ‘mapping’, including these measurements, were translated into several surveys, which are currently being used to collect data from a variety of stakeholders like GLAMs, researchers, designers, professionals, and general users. Results are expected to be ready in September.

While Europeana expects that the insights from the reports will help demonstrate the importance of their collective existence and work, it will also provide tangible management information: what can they do differently in order to create more impact? So this is not seen as a one-off exercise, but rather as the start of an ongoing impact management process that stimulates continuous learning and improvements.

Would you like to help Europeana in this process? Have you visited the thematic collections of Europeana Fashion, Europeana Photography or Europeana Research? Take the 10 minute impact survey.