2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday July 15, 2021

Updated on Thursday July 15, 2021

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Nicole McNeilly

Impact Advisor , Europeana Foundation

Impact Assessment Report: Europeana 2019

This Impact Assessment Report explores Europeana’s annual conference, Europeana 2019: Connect Communities.

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Europeana 2019 in Lisbon was the first rebranded, reconfigured annual public conference of Europeana Foundation, giving a new dynamic to what had previously been known as the Annual General Meeting (AGM). It is notable for its repositioning of Europeana as a (leading) convener of the wider digital cultural heritage sector as opposed to a convener of its already established network. Though the two overlap, the idea was to reach a broader audience through this approach. 

Methodology

This impact assessment of the event has focussed on two stakeholders - the participants at Europeana 2019 and the local city. A mixed methods approach was taken, combining a post-event questionnaire with short interviews during the conference, in order to get multiple perspectives on the areas of investigation. An environmental impact assessment was also conducted to try to evaluate firstly, the negative carbon footprint of the event, and secondly, the actions Europeana took in advance (including limiting the use of single-use plastics, having a predominantly vegetarian menu and investing in carbon off-setting) to mitigate the environmental impact of the event. 

85 responses were received to the post-event questionnaire, a good response rate of 36%. The questionnaire sample seems broadly representative when compared to the registration data (for example, in terms of Europeana Network Association membership rates and geographic location). Short interviews also gathered views from 12 attendees who had a variety of experience within the Europeana Initiative, ranging from non-ENA members to Members’ Council representatives. It is felt that a balanced sample of those familiar and not familiar with the Europeana ecosystem were reached. The data were analysed after the event and the findings are presented in this report. 

Europeana Foundation uses the Europeana Impact Playbook methodology to better understand the impact of Europeana’s services on core stakeholders, who we understand as the beneficiaries of our activities; and predominantly, cultural heritage institutions (CHIs). Following this, for Europeana 2019, Europeana Foundation colleagues collaboratively designed a Change Pathway that set out the areas in which outcomes were anticipated for event attendees. 

Findings

Europeana 2019 welcomed 238 attendees from 38 countries. 33% of attendees had not been to any other Europeana events and therefore constituted real new-comers to Europeana. 86.4% of the attendees were ENA members. Most attendees are from a heritage background and classify themselves as a member of a Europeana community.

Our findings demonstrate where Europeana 2019 had an effect on participants and/or on wider society, the environment and the economy. The findings are mostly positive, balanced with a view of the negative environmental impact caused by the physical convening of professionals from across Europe and the world. 

Growing attendees’ networks 

  • Network growth emerged as the area of strongest impact for Europeana 2019 attendees. 89% of attendees of past annual conferences said that this was the strongest outcome for them previously. 

  • Participants made a median average of seven new contacts, and anticipate that they may work in future with around three of these people. A network analysis shows us that some participants also made new connections with professionals from their own country.

  • Physical events offer the opportunity to meet peers and project partners face-to-face (where this otherwise may not happen), reported by over 50% of those who attended previous AGMs. 

Gaining and sharing knowledge and skills 

  • 51% of respondents reported gaining skills or knowledge that they can apply in practice. Participants also gained less tangible benefits from the conference, such as new perspectives, empowerment and inspiration. 

  • Looking back at the outcomes experienced by attendees of past AGMs/annual conferences, 74% of respondents suggested that they shared information they had gained with others after past AGMs. 

Inspiring attendees to take action or to change something in their professional practice or organisation

  • Between a fifth and quarter of Europeana attendees are likely to change their activity or take action in some of the ways we expected. For example, 25% of respondents want to change how their organisation uses digital cultural heritage. 

  • Respondents are most likely to take action in relation to education and digital cultural heritage (e.g. use heritage in an educational setting), followed by collaborating with others at the conference, stimulating new projects or to be more involved in projects. 

  • Europeana’s approach to mitigating the negative environmental impact of the conference inspired three participants to take some degree of future action relating to climate change. This was an unexpected outcome.  

Contributing to the feeling of a community around digital cultural heritage 

  • Europeana 2019 enabled 74% of respondents to feel more connected to the work of one or more of the Europeana communities, and 69% of respondents feel like part of a community around digital cultural heritage. ENA community members are 14% more likely to report feeling like part of a community around digital cultural heritage than the general questionnaire sample. 

  • From the small number of respondents who are not yet ENA members, the majority felt encouraged to join the Network as a result of Europeana 2019. 

Environmental impact

  • Europeana 2019 is estimated to have had a negative environmental impact through air travel emissions equal to 100.7 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is equal, for example, to the same energy required to charge over 12,750,000 smartphones. 

  • Attendees at Europeana 2019 reacted positively to actions to offset the negative impact of Europeana 2019 - 34% of respondents said that it was extremely important to work on this issue, and on average, it was rated 7/10 in terms of importance. 

  • The data show that Europeana inspired a small number of attendees to take action regarding climate change. With this in mind, Europeana should consider how to share its lessons learned with others in the cultural sector, noting this is still a very new area of concern for many. 

Economic impact

  • The positive economic impact for Lisbon was calculated by assessing additional ‘tourism’ nights accommodation and additional daily spend, as well as the hotel and daily spend directly associated with the conference. The data show that 39% of guests stayed for additional tourism days. During these days, they also spent more money than usual during the conference. 

  • With a confidence level of 95%, we calculate that between €82,000 and €98,000 was invested into the Lisbon economy as a result of Europeana 2019 conference catering, hotel spend and additional tourism hotel and daily spend. 

Conclusions

The impact assessment of Europeana 2019 considered for the first time the economic and environmental outcomes of the annual conference. From this impact assessment we learn a lot about what happens when you convene the professional heritage community around a discussion of communities in digital cultural heritage. However, a key limitation to this impact assessment is that, at the time of reporting, we were unable to monitor long-term change for Europeana 2019 attendees. Tracking a cohort of attendees at events may be an approach that can be adopted in future to track long-term change, where capacity allows.  

As well as feeling more connected to Europeana’s work with its specialist communities and as part of a community around digital cultural heritage, the benefit of convening a community can be seen to ripple beyond the immediate participants to the wider cultural heritage community. Attendees of past AGMs told us that they shared knowledge with others, and we anticipate that this will be the case for Europeana 2019. We won’t know if this will also be the case with this cohort but Europeana 2019 created the conditions for this to happen. 

This impact assessment acts as a baseline in terms of both learning, networking and environmental outcomes. We see a negative side in terms of the environmental impact. With COVID-19 later putting a stop to all in-person events, digital events had to be explored as mechanisms to bring together the community. It will be important to track to what extent these outcomes can be delivered in all-digital or other hybrid formats in order to balance the environmental cost with the impact for heritage professionals and wider society that Europeana is tasked to deliver. 

Validation and next steps

This report was shared with the Members Council of the Europeana Network Association for validation. It has been published alongside the report of the Europeana 2020 conference.

You can download and read the full report through the link below.

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