Impacts 08 – European Capital of Culture (ECoC) Research Programme

Submitting Institution

University of Liverpool

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

Download original


Summary of the impact

The `Impacts 08' research programme was inherently, in and of itself, designed to impact upon policy-makers and practitioners by documenting the process of hosting major cultural events and providing robust evidence of their social, economic and cultural impact. Between 2006 and 2010 regular and easily accessible research based reports were shared with stakeholders and the public. The impact of the work is evidenced in the development of local, UK and EU policy on cultural regeneration and events. These policy developments have addressed approaches to funding, promoting and assessing the value of cultural events.

Underpinning research

The Impacts 08 research programme was conducted over five years and resulted in a wide range of publications and specialised reports. The value of this programme was £800,000, and it leveraged an additional £392,000 grant funding (see Section 3). The research involved the establishment of the most comprehensive research framework for simultaneous "event impact assessment" ever funded in the UK.

The most original contributions to cultural evaluation of this Liverpool Model included:

  1. A comprehensive framework for simultaneous (as opposed to post hoc) impact assessment, covering six related themes: cultural access and participation; economy and tourism; cultural vibrancy; image and perceptions; physical infrastructure and sustainability; governance and delivery process. For each theme, a set of core indicators and appropriate methods to capture them were implemented
  2. A longitudinal research programme involving repeated triangulation of results across different disciplines
  3. Introducing new methodologies to define and capture `cultural impact' as distinct from social and economic impacts, where a key innovation was longitudinal media content analysis

This Liverpool Model is now a reference point for both academics and policy makers with regard to cultural impact research and assessment (see section 4).

The co-designed research took place between December 2005 and March 2010. Outputs designed for and with stakeholders underwent thorough review by an expert practitioner and policy panel including senior representatives from the City Council (Director of Regeneration Department; Head of Culture; Head of Tourism); Arts Council England (Director ACE North West); and leading cultural organisations (Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium). In order to maximise engagement, publication of reports was complemented with regular public speaking, online updates (via newsletters) and interviews with UK and foreign journalists. Within the UK alone, the latter resulted in references within at least 29 British press articles between 2003 and 2010 including: Daily Post (13 articles), Liverpool Echo (9), Belfast Telegraph (3), The Times (2), The Guardian (1) and The News of the World (1).

The Impacts 08 programme was a major research enterprise involving collaborations across the University and with other regional HEIs:

  • Dr Beatriz Garcia, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, was Director of the programme. Dr Garcia led the discussion on alternative forms of `cultural impact' assessment and attracted additional funding from the AHRC and ESRC. She also led the European Commission funded international knowledge exchange aspects of the programme.
  • Peter Campbell, Ruth Melville and Tamsin Cox worked as researchers on the programme and developed its economic and social impact methodologies.
  • Over 25 research collaborators contributed to the work, both academics and specialised consultants. Within the University of Liverpool, collaborating researchers included three senior staff from the Management School, as well as two staff and seven PhD students based in the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology and the Management School. Additional research collaboration was provided via joint seminars and workshops with academics from the Departments of Music, History, Architecture, Civic Design, Politics, Communication and Media Studies and Institute of Psychology, Health and Society.

Building on the knowledge and capacities gained during the programme, the University along with regional partners established the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC). The ICC supports cross- disciplinary and sector projects and has been commissioned to examine the Cultural Olympiad (for the Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG) and Arts Council England), the Liverpool World Heritage Site (with English Heritage) and the European City of Culture programme (for the EU Parliament).

References to the research


Bergsgard, N.A., Jøsendal, K. & Garcia, B. (2010) A cultural mega event's impact on innovative capabilities in art production: the results of Stavanger being the European capital of culture in 2008', International Journal of Innovation and Regional Development, (vol 2, n 4) (pp 353-371)


Campbell, P. (2011) `You say `creative', and I say `creative'', Journal of Policy Research in Tourism Leisure and Events, vol. 3:1 pp. 18-30


Campbell, P. (2011) `Creative Industries in a European Capital of Culture, International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 17:5 pp. 510-522


Cox,T. & O'Brien, D. (2012)" The "scouse wedding" and other myths: reflections on the evolution of a "Liverpool model" for culture-led urban regeneration'', Cultural Trends, vol 21: 2 pp. 93-101


Garcia, B. (2012) The Olympic Games and Cultural Policy. Routledge


Research grants:

Dr Beatriz Garcia, PI, Impact Fellowship, funded by the AHRC and ESRC (held by Dr. Tomke Lask) for three years (£242,000). It extended the academic framework of Impacts 08 by providing space for additional theoretical and methodological interrogation of the key principles explored via this programme. The Final report for this research was considered `Outstanding' by the AHRC review panel.

Dr Beatriz Garcia, PI: The European Commission provided additional funding towards an `International Cultural Policy network' (£150,000) which led to additional public reporting.

Details of the impact

The Liverpool Model programme of action research developed during Impacts 08, was intended to feed directly into cultural policy work for all Liverpool and national partners and the EU.

Impact of the core research themes

The three key elements of the research that have influenced stakeholders are:

i) Advancement of the stakeholder discourse of what is meant by `impact' and how impact can be evidenced. The development of an evidence based approach to cultural impact shaped guidelines for special event applications and subsequent monitoring.

  • The European Commission (2010) used Impacts 08 to shape their improved approach to evaluating the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) programme (p9).
  • The UK Government made use of the work to support its tourism policy framework (DCMS 2011 p12-13) and frame the UK City of Culture bidding guidelines (DCMS 2010-11, see Broader impacts section).
  • The research was used to inform and strengthen practitioner claims around the value of the arts, and to shape their approach to lobbying for support. For example Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium used this as part of presentations to the House of Commons 30 Apr 2011. The programme was also mentioned at the House of Lords (Lords debate: role of culture in the UK, 17 Mar 2010) and to inform the Hansard Debates at the House of Commons (3 June 2010); The London 2012 Creative Programmers network (2008-2012) also justified the value of their activity through reference to Impacts 08 (see broader impacts section).

ii) Utilisation of specific or combined methodologies. This has influenced the UK's and the EU's approach to evaluating major cultural programmes. Key examples being: LOCOG, DCMS, ACE: Cultural Olympiad evaluation framework and implementation (2011-13, see below); DCMS: London 2012 Meta-Evaluation (2010-13); English Heritage: value of the Liverpool World Heritage site (2012-13); DCMS: UK City of Culture evaluation framework (2010-11); European Parliament framework for overall ECoC programme assessment (2012-13).

iii) Use of the Impacts 08 thematic framework to shape policy as well as to set up new organisations. This has included the development of Liverpool First's "Liverpool Cultural Strategy" (2008-2013) and the joint development by University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University of a cultural policy and knowledge exchange research centre - the Institute of Cultural Capital.

Broader impact on policy and practice
The broader impact of the research fits into four areas:
1] Cultural: informed the political debate around the value of culture and events;
2] Economic: encouraged a change in approach to resource management in major events (ECoC and the UK City of Culture bidding processes);
3] Practitioners: Influenced professional standards and guidelines on cultural impact and encouraged the use of research findings by professional bodies;
4] Policy: Stimulated and informed policy debate around the value of major events. The evidence for these impacts can be noted in policy documentation and actions by a variety of stakeholders:

In Liverpool

  • Impacts 08 provided the evidence base that allowed Liverpool City Council to make the political decision to protect and prioritise continued and major investment in cultural activity throughout the period of austerity from 2010 to the 2013. This included continued investment in the Culture Liverpool team, the Liverpool Plan (events and marketing strategy) and continued grant support to the city's cultural institutions (ACIP & CLIP).
  • LARC built on Impacts 08 to articulate their `Civic Leadership Role' as well as prove the economic impact of their activities in Liverpool and beyond.
  • Liverpool First: The Liverpool Cultural Strategy selected its main themes on the basis of the Impacts 08 thematic framework.

In the UK

  • DCMS: Reference to Impacts 08 within policy documents and research framework documents to inform assessment of cultural policy impacts (specific examples below)
  • DCMS/Olympic 2012 evaluation framework: The Impacts 08 programme influenced the approach to defining the London 2012 Olympic meta-evaluation, which includes an appendix dedicated to Impacts 08. Dr Beatriz Garcia was asked to act as advisor towards this meta-evaluation programme as well as being invited to DCMS Olympic Board meetings. (E.g. Report 2 includes 35 citations to Impacts 08)
  • The evidence base from Impacts 08 underpinned the DCMS UK City of Culture initiative and the Liverpool Model is referred to as an exemplar for research and evaluation. For example: DCMS: Supporting Vibrant and Sustainable Arts and Culture Policy and UK City of Culture blog.
  • London 2012 Creative Programmers Network: This group built on the Impacts 08 evidence base and Dr Garcia's expertise in the Olympic cultural programme to enhance the profile and better document the benefits of hosting a Cultural Olympiad. This informed the 2011 commissioning of a national Cultural Olympiad evaluation programme by LOCOG, for example the North West Evaluation Framework refers to Impacts 08 over 12 pages.
  • Arts Council England, London Organising Committee Games: Impacts 08 informed the 2011 commissioning of a national Cultural Olympiad evaluation programme p9.

In the EU and Europe

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. CEO, World Capital of Culture (former CEO Culture Company, Liverpool 08 European Capital of Culture), has provided a statement to verify how the Impacts 08 programme and the Liverpool model helped advance stakeholder discourse of what is meant by impact and how it can be evidenced.
  2. The Regeneration Policy Officer, Office of the Chief Executive, Liverpool City Council, has provided a statement to verify the impact of this research on the decisions made in the city around cultural investment and the impact of the research in Europe. The author delivered the International Cultural Policy Network findings in Brussels.
  3. Head of Culture, Culture Liverpool/Liverpool Vision (former Creative Producer for the Culture Company), has provided a statement that corroborates use of the Impacts 08 thematic framework to shape policy (e.g. Liverpool Cultural Strategy).
  4. The International Relations and Protocol Coordinator, Marseille-Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture, can be contacted to corroborate that Impacts 08 provided the basis to develop a combined methodology framework to evaluate other European events (European Capital of Culture in France).
  5. The Economic Adviser, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, can be contacted to verify the utilisation of combined methodologies to evaluate other major cultural events (London 2012 Cultural Olympiad/London 2012 Meta-Evaluation).
  6. The DCMS/Olympic 2012 evaluation framework drew upon the Impacts 08 programme in defining the London 2012 Olympic meta-evaluation, this includes an appendix dedicated to Impacts 08.
  7. The explicit requirement for evaluation based on Impacts 08 can be found in: Guide for cities applying for the title of European Capital of Culture p18).
  8. Evidence of the contribution to Liverpool Cultural Regeneration strategies can be found in: LARC built on Impacts 08 to articulate their `Civic Leadership Role'; The Liverpool Cultural Strategy