Arts Impact Fund - Insights from the first year

Today we’re proud to publish our first year insights paper, which provides an overview of the Arts Impact Fund’s activities and lessons in the 12 months since the team started in June 2015.

Arts Impact Fund: Insights from the first year has been written with a commitment to sharing the learning of this pioneering initiative in mind. The paper is motivated also by our desire to see a transparent social investment sector that fosters knowledge-sharing, trust and understanding.

The Arts Impact Fund is currently just over halfway through its investment period, which is set to end in May 2017. We expect to publish a fuller report on the fund’s activity after this date, followed by subsequent interim reports on the performance of its loan portfolio and impact generated.

Key findings from our first year report include:

  • The Arts Impact Fund has attracted a diverse range of applications in its first year of operation, in terms of business models and art forms – from organisations largely grant-funded by Arts Council England to charities cross-subsidised by commercial activity, from grassroots community-led charities to household names with a national reach.
  • There is a distinct trend towards the development of cross-subsidy models within the sector, in which some commercial activity subsidises organisations’ social and artistic impact – with initiatives such as cinemas, restaurants, and IP licensing businesses featuring as the commercial ventures driving charitable activity, with varying levels of alignment with organisations’ core arts and culture operations.
  • Robust theories of change and logic models around specific social outcomes remain unusual in the arts and culture sector compared with other social sector organisations. However, there are some great examples of best practice in this respect, that the sector should be incentivised to share.
  • There is an opportunity to develop metrics for articulating artistic impact that can fit into existing frameworks for measuring social and financial returns.

We have also provided anonymised information on the nine approved loans in the period in the appendix to the report.

We are delighted to be working on this exciting project and expect the remaining year of investment to continue to generate impact and stimulate not only flows of capital into arts and culture but also powerful debate around impact, resilience, artistic quality and social outcomes.

You can find the report here.

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Seva Phillips

Seva Phillips

Seva Phillips

Head of Arts & Culture Finance

Seva is responsible for Nesta's social impact investment work in the arts, culture and creative industries

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