About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Evidence review: The social and economic impact of innovation in the arts

A review of the evidence available about how the arts sector is achieving social and economic impact, written by ERS Research and Consultancy

A review of the evidence available about how the arts sector is achieving social and economic impact.

Key findings

  • There is substantial evidence across Wales and the UK indicating that the diversity of arts audiences remains limited and that both physical and societal factors continue to act as barriers to engagement with the arts.
  • There are numerous reported examples of where digital technology has been applied successfully to overcome these barriers.
  • Arts activities impact on tackling poverty and disadvantage in many ways on a granular level, often through similar general socio-economic processes. Detailed analyses of these impacts is currently lacking, particularly within the Welsh context.
  • Economic data for the arts sector in Wales shows strong growth in income and output at higher rates than the rest of the economy. However, this growth is not universal and it is likely that many organisations in Wales are contracting or drawing on reserves.

For researchers, there are notable gaps in intelligence generally in the sector, with particular gaps in terms of an understanding of demand for training and demand for finance.

We asked ERS Research and Consultancy to bring together an evidence base for arts organisations to inform their plans to achieve social and economic impact.

The report is a detailed guide to freely available source material and provides a quick reference point for arts organisations who are seeking to:

  • Achieve greater audience diversity.
  • Develop arts-based interventions to tackle poverty and disadvantage.
  • Understand the economic context of the arts sector, for business planning purposes.

The report includes resources that can be used to support strategic planning as well as to help design arts projects and assess their impact.

We hope that by bringing together the evidence in this way, we can help to support advocacy and fundraising by arts organisations, and to promote an informed debate around the value of the arts sector to our society and economy.

The report also highlights key gaps in the evidence base. We hope that by doing so we can encourage arts organisations, policy makers, researchers, funders and others to consider how these gaps in the evidence can be addressed.


Rob Ashelford

Rob Ashelford

Rob Ashelford

Pennaeth Nesta Cymru / Head of Nesta Cymru

Rob is Head of Nesta Cymru - responsible for the delivery of Nesta's strategy in Wales.

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Ian Danby

Ian Danby

Ian Danby

Programme Manager

Ian was the Programme Manager for the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales, our joint programme with Arts Council of Wales.

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