Using the Arts to consult a community about their health and wellbeing needs

Authors: Crossen-White, H., Norton, E. and Hemingway, A.

Conference: Culture Health and Wellbeing International Conference

Dates: 19-21 June 2017


Local commissioners of services require information to make decisions about what needs a community has and how these can best be met with limited funds. Traditionally decisions have been made based upon available written data such as population information and other records of service take-up. An innovative project sought to find a new way of establishing local needs. The project was developed through a partnership between local commissioners, charities and the arts and evaluated by researchers from Bournemouth University. The Partnership decided to focus the arts intervention on the young people of the community and the project supported a group of young people to make a film that explored their community’s views of health and wellbeing. The evaluation sought the experiences of both members of the partnership and the young people who produced the short film. Various data collection methods were used to complete the evaluation and these included participant observation and semi-structured interviews.

The findings provided insight into both the process of devising an arts intervention of this nature and the experience of those young people who engaged with the project including what value they placed on the opportunity. In terms of the Partnership’s experiences the research highlighted a number of practical issues that need careful consideration to ensure an effective and successful outcome for this type of consultation. Knowledge of the study findings would be beneficial to others considering adopting a more innovative arts-based approach to establishing local needs assessment and decision-making about service delivery.

The findings that relate to the experience of the young people and their community are very powerful in illustrating the impact that such an innovative approach can have upon a community. The making of the short film was a vehicle that enabled the young people to grow in confidence while gaining practical, transferrable skills and thus had a strong impact upon the personal wellbeing of the young people who participated. There was also evidence that the young people became more engaged with their community and through their involvement gained a sense of identity and pride in their community. The film for the wider community was a catalyst to help them express their concerns about their own health and wellbeing as well as for others they cared about. The members of the Partnership found the experience of the community speaking so openly at times uncomfortable but also a very powerful means of understanding the needs of the community and the services which would be of greatest benefit to the area.

Source: Manual