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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday September 22, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Nicole McNeilly

Nicole McNeilly

Impact Advisor , Europeana Foundation

Highlights from a year of working on impact for cultural heritage

Embedding impact at the heart of Europeana’s work on capacity building for digital transformation has been a major focus of our activities over the past year. We share highlights from our work and tools to support your own impact practice! 

Colourful patterns which show new bone growth under a microscope
New bone growth within a bioceramic bone substitute
Karin Hing
Wellcome Collection
United Kingdom

How can cultural heritage institutions measure the impact of their work on audiences, stakeholders and the wider public? How can they evaluate their events to improve them? What tools can they use to understand the effect of their services and products, particularly as they move online? 

Europeana has been helping cultural heritage institutions to answer these questions by developing resources, holding events and convening a community around impact in the heritage sector. We want to standardise an approach to impact that we - and others - can adopt, to better understand the impact of digital cultural heritage. Read on to find out more about what we have been doing over the last year to reach these goals!

Developing the Europeana Impact Framework

The Europeana Impact Framework defines how we apply and embed impact assessment within the Europeana Foundation and the wider Initiative. Over the past year, we have been refining its different elements, including the Europeana Impact Playbook, a phased, step-by-step approach to help cultural heritage professionals design, measure and narrate their impact. We recently published Phase three of the Playbook, which guides professionals through the narration of impact, from building a narrative to visualising data and publishing the findings in different ways for different audiences. This year we were also delighted to share the Europeana standardised question bank, a new resource that accompanies Phase two of the Playbook. The question bank aims to support cultural heritage institutions and our partners in their data collection and impact assessment practices, particularly surveying stakeholders. 

In addition, we have created a central impact evidence base on Europeana Pro to bring together all our impact assessments for others to refer to and learn from, and we have refreshed and updated our online Impact Toolkit so that you can find all of the resources you need in one place. 

The Europeana Impact Community

We have been delighted to see that in the last year the Europeana Impact Community has almost doubled in size and been active in creating a platform for learnings and discussion around impact practice. A five-part Impact Community webinar series explored the impact of digital cultural heritage in digital transformation, while a successful two-day symposium, ‘Research and digital cultural heritage: new impact horizons’ discussed topics from policy and innovation to participatory practices to digital audiences and new socio-political perspectives. Recordings of all of these events are available to watch on our webinars page

Community members have also been busy working on the Impact Lite Task Force and at Europeana have looked to find relevant opportunities to encourage discussion about Europeana’s approach to impact, such as on the working group of the HERIWELL project.

Impact research 

Our ongoing impact research aims to strengthen our understanding of the impact of convening the sector through our events and Network. This year, we have published impact assessment reports of Europeana’s Digital Programme and 2019 and 2020 conferences, as well as exploring our Portuguese Presidency event in June 2021 and undertaking a survey of Europeana Network Association Members. For anyone looking to replicate our evaluation approach, our new Events Toolkit includes a dedicated section on impact and measuring success for events!

Embedding impact practice in the Europeana Initiative

In parallel with trying to support impact practice across the sector, we are also further embedding an impact approach within the Europeana Initiative. It was great to see that three of the six most recently funded Generic Services projects include impact assessment as a part of the work plan, and we have also established an evaluation template for all of our events, driven by the Impact Playbook. We have adapted the methodology in Phase one of the Impact Playbook to create impact-focussed planning and strategy workshops, including for the Europeana Network Association’s New Professionals Task Force and the Europeana Foundation’s Diversity and Inclusion cross-team

Future plans

We are keeping our eyes firmly on the horizon for more opportunities to explore what our work can tell us about the value of digital transformation for digital heritage practitioners, organisations and audiences, and wider society. In the coming year, we will improve our data collection approaches and continue to build the evidence base. We will work to ensure that our Impact Toolkit is relevant through a revision of Phase two (data collection) and the publication of Phase four (evaluation) so that it meets sector needs in the context of rapid social and environmental change and digital transformation. We’ll hold capacity building activities like training on using the Impact Playbook, and aim to animate the community to increase the currency of the discussion around impact in digital cultural heritage.

To be the first to hear about this work as it progresses and opportunities to get involved, join the Europeana Impact Community - it is free and easy to join today!