A global methodology for capturing cultural statistics: Designing the UNESCO Framework (2009)

Submitting Institution

University of Leeds

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

Research by Taylor, Pratt and Burns Owen Partnership formed the basis of a new Framework for Cultural Statistics, published in 2009 by UNESCO. The direct route to impact can be evidenced by the extent to which UNESCO formally adopted the researcher's proposed recommendations and revisions to the 1986 Framework, including a new category "Performance and Celebration". The Framework, which monitors and measures cultural trends at national and international level, provides policy-relevant data for UNESCO and member states to conceptualise, categorise and analyse culture and to assess the impact and relevance of cultural policies and initiatives.

Underpinning research

Research participants:

Academics: Calvin Taylor (Professor in Cultural Economy, University of Leeds), Andy Pratt (City University, London)
Industry partner: Burns Owen Partnership

Dates: 1997-2007

Underpinning research:

In 2005, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, the lead agency in the UN system for global statistics on culture, agreed to update the 1986 Framework for Cultural Statistics. Academics Taylor and Pratt together with Burns Owen Partnership (BOP), a consultancy specialising in cultural statistics, were subsequently commissioned by UNESCO to review the 1986 Framework and the team submitted its `Expert Scoping Study' [1] offering specific recommendations for its revision in 2005.

Taylor was selected by UNESCO for this consultancy project following some ten years of field research conceptualising, categorising and analysing culture and developing and testing indicators of its impact. Between 1997 and 2007, Taylor had devised and completed some 28 field projects, proposing solutions to a number of central research problems in cultural statistics; cultural meta- data and scale scope (from local to global); the classification of cultural activities; data compatibility protocols and refined indicators. Insights had also been gained into operationalisation including data management and usability.

As well as positioning Taylor as an expert in this field, the revision recommendations also drew upon this research, which can be summarised below in three key projects:

(i) Three studies were conducted between 1997 and 2000 for the EU Special Initiative `The Huddersfield Creative Town Initiative' (HCTI), which aimed to produce a comprehensive classification of culture for statistical purposes [2]. The United Nations Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity describes the HCTI as `[t]he most commonly cited example' of urban regeneration through culture' (UNESCO, 2004)

(ii) The Cultural Industries Baseline Study (2000-2002). This project (consisting of 13 field studies) tested the scalar application of the methodology developed in `The Huddersfield Creative Town Initiative' to the whole of the Yorkshire and the Humber region. This project was funded by the European Commission and produced ten key data reports.

(iii) The Creative Yorkshire Project (2002-2005). This field-work (consisting of 5 field studies) re- evaluated evidence-based approaches to regional cultural policy-making in light of the new policy trend towards linking culture with economic development. This project built on the previous two studies by deepening the categorisation of culture and by nuancing the analysis for public policy purposes (e.g. guiding cultural investments). [3]

Taylor's contribution to the UNESCO Framework drew upon these three periods of research with specific reference to the categories used to classify cultural activities and indicators designed to measure impact. The core of the recommendations for the UNESCO Framework consists of three elements: cultural domains, the culture cycle and a suite of indicators. The revision recommendations were that it should be capable of capturing culture in a digital age, to include: small scale cultural activities and practices as well as large-scale international cultural flows; the social diversity of culture irrespective of its specific mode of production; new models of distribution, consumption and participation, and, critically, cultural practices and experiences across both public and private modes of governance/institutionalisation.

References to the research

[1] Pratt, A., Taylor, C. & Burns Owen Partnership (2005) Creating Global Cultural Statistics: Expert Scoping Study, Montreal: UNESCO Institute of Statistics, pp1-61. This item was included in RAE 2008.

[2] Wood, P. & Taylor, C. (2004) Big Ideas for a Small Town: The Huddersfield Creative Town Initiative, Local Economy Vol. 19, No. 4, pp 380-395. DOI: 10.1080/0269094042000286864. Peer Review Status: This item was double-blind peer reviewed and was included in RAE 2008.


[3] Taylor, C. (2006) Beyond Advocacy: Developing an Evidence Base for Regional Creative Industries Strategies. Cultural Trends Vol.15. No.1. pp.3-18. 2006. DOI: 10.1080/09548960600615871. Peer Review Status: Cultural Trends is the leading journal for cultural statistics and its debates. This item was double-blind peer reviewed and was included in RAE 2008.


Details of the impact

UNESCO's Institute for Statistics is the world's only inter-governmental body dedicated to culture, serving 195 member states and 8 associate members, as well as a range of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, research institutes and universities. It is seen as a central tool for providing statistical analysis for policy development and evaluation in such areas as cultural heritage conservation; the monitoring of international cultural trade; cultural labour markets, and the role of culture in social and economic development. The data and analysis forms an important source of evidence for both UNESCO and member state policy-making, offering information that is vital to understanding how culture can contribute to the well-being of individuals and member states.

When UNESCO Institute for Statistics agreed in 2005 that it was imperative to launch a revision of the Framework — its first revision since 1986 — it was critical to establish new methodologies for capturing cultural statistics at international and national level in order to reflect global changes in culture. This involves necessarily complex intellectual and political challenges in developing concepts, definitions and indicators for collecting cultural data as much cultural activity is not readily amenable to being codified and quantified. Moving from the national to the international sphere represents considerable challenge in securing the support and agreement of a wide range of organisations (e.g. national ministries of culture, international multilateral agencies).

Research demanded that any new Framework needed to address the changes in the way people create and consume culture, to include digital technologies and the development of `interrelated notions of "creative" industries' (E/CN.3/2010/21) [A]. The new fit-for-purpose Framework would then provide modern policy-relevant data to members states so they could better measure the impact and relevance of cultural policies and initiatives.

Taylor and collaborators therefore offered a new comparative lens to view culture, through revising the intellectual framework and existing indicators used by member states. The process of developing the recommendations included analytical comparisons of all existing frameworks (approximately twenty); synthesizing and aggregating the findings from the team's own prior research projects, and designing new classifications and indicators and testing their viability against existing sources of cultural data. The Expert Scoping Study [1] summarised the findings from this work in the form of recommendations to UNESCO for the revision of the Global Framework.

Following the submission of the Expert Scoping Study, UNESCO managed an extensive global consultation on the recommendations made with UNESCO Member States, with International organisations including EUROSTAT, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. A total of 203 countries were consulted on the recommendations and 104 responded, with the final draft overseen by a Steering Group which included Professor David Throsby, the world's leading cultural statistician. Where the response rate to the original consultation call was lower, further workshop-based consultation on the recommendations of the Expert Scoping Study occurred in 2008-9 to elicit responses from African, Arab, Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions, testing the report's findings in 14 regional workshops attended by academics, practitioners and policy-makers. No significant changes to the Study's recommendations were made during this consultation process. The contribution of the Expert Scoping Study is acknowledged in the published Framework, ratified in 2009, which makes this relationship clear, naming the authors of the report and describing the Framework as being `based on an initial report' by the team (p.iv) [A]. The Framework is now set to guide the comparisons, assessments and evaluations of globally significant cultural developments for the next two decades should the previous revision timetable be echoed again.

To demonstrate the relevance and application of the Framework, there is clear evidence of its use within the global community of cultural agencies, such as the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies [B] and the data and analysis it produces forms an important source of evidence for both UNESCO and member state policy making. There is also a current programme aimed at integrating the UNESCO Framework into the European statistical standard [C].

Even in its first review in 2011, Usero and Brio identify three `significant contributions' of the new Framework: `which', `how' and `how much': 1) the delimiting of cultural activity (what is and what is not included within a cultural domain) and 2) how to make these definitions and 3) how to measure culture's social and economic impact. (2011: 194). It concludes that the new 2009 Framework makes "a substantial contribution" to the achievement of its goals by clearly delimiting the cultural sector (2011: 197) [D].

Sources to corroborate the impact

[A] United Nations Economic and Social Council (2009) Statistical Commission, Minutes of forty-first session: "United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics" - E/CN.3/2010/21. (This Minute records the adoption of the Framework by UNESCO and explains the extensive and rigorous nature of the reach and significance of the post-drafting consultation before adoption, for example, 104 countries responded to the draft).

[B] International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (2010) Launch of the 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics.


[C] European Statistical System — Culture (2009) Cultural Statistics Work Programme at http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/!PORTAL.wwpob_page.show?_docname=2920315.PDF (Web pages accessed on 14th November 2013. Please copy and paste this URL into your browser to avoid receiving an `error' message).

(This programme of research and developed, launched by the European Commission under the aegis of the European Statistical System aims to integrate the UNESCO Framework into the European statistical standard).

[D] Usero, B. & J.A. del Brio (2011) The 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics. Cultural Trends 20(2), 193-197. (This is the first peer reviewed academic review of the Framework itself).