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New report concludes Culture Commons made significant policy impact during Covid-19 pandemic

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

A new report on the Pandemic and Beyond (P&B) outlines Culture Commons' impacts on a large research programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) involving 77 research teams from across the UK during the COVID‐19 crisis.


Independent consultants reviewing the 2 year programme found:

The input of Culture Commons was transformative for the P&B project, as the consultants were able to let projects within the portfolio that had no pre-existing policy contacts and who were geographically beyond the reach of policy makers in Westminster and devolved governments access ready-made networks, which the consultants expanded to create new connections with the right decision-makers. - Pandemic and Beyond project report, Dec 2022

Culture Commons supported each of the P&B research projects to communicate emerging research to policy stakeholders in a timely and relevant manner. This involved both building researcher capacity (eg. via training, 1:1 support), and advising on the creation of policy-relevant resources (eg. policy briefs and a dedicated policy portal). We also conducted extensive stakeholder mapping and brokered connections with targeted policy stakeholders for whom P&B research would be of high, and timely, relevance.

In addition, Culture Commons organised four focused briefing and roundtable events that brought together well over 100 senior civil servants, government officials, UK Government Ministers, MPs and other elected representatives, public sector decision makers and third sector leaders.

The report makes several observations about our work:

Impact area 1: Increasing capacity for policy engagement in the Arts and Humanities Disciplines

The act of policy engagement the Arts and Humanities is arguably a significant development in and of itself. We observe this in two ways in particular: 1) engagement with parliamentary scrutiny processes; and 2) contribution to the parliamentary and government evidence synthesis processes.

Impact area 2: P&B research used for research-based critical evidence synthesis for policy stakeholders

We see evidence that P&B research has been included as part of evidence synthesis (e.g. by parliamentary researchers) and has been delivered via briefings to policy stakeholders. These briefings were directly supported by the Culture Commons teams, as was the brokerage of engagements with stakeholders.

Impact area 3: P&B research has stimulated, informed and contributed to debate

We see multiple instances where P&B projects have stimulated, informed and contributed to policy debates (e.g. through the organisation of relevant events by the Culture Commons team, as well as the creation of briefings shared with Members of Parliament and the inclusion of research evidence in enquiries).

Impact area 4: P&B research has influences the work of policy intermediary and practitioner organisations

We have note instances where P&B projects have informed the campaigns, communication or advocacy activities undertaken by NGOs, charities or other organisations. These engagements have notably benefited from the refinement of policy outputs, with the support of Culture Commons.

Trevor MacFarlane FRSA, Director of Culture Commons and lead on the Pandemic and Beyond policy engagement said:

We're delighted to see that Culture Commons' work with the Pandemic and Beyond team has resulted in such tangible and robust policy outcomes. By connecting researchers from universities with policy makers right across the UK - from the local to the national - we've been able support decision making in real time during one of the most turbulent periods in modern times. We look forward to building on the findings that have surfaced from the 77 research teams we've been working with.

Professor Pascale Aebischer, Pandemic and Beyond lead and a Professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, said:

It is clear from the Pandemic and Beyond research projects that arts and humanities had a significant and positive role to play during the COVID‐19 pandemic, and should be considered central to any government response to future crises alongside medical and economic policies. In fact, arts and humanities professionals can help improve the medical and economic response by informing and shaping the real world impact of policy decisions on people and communities.

Lucy Hackett, AHRC Head of Health, Environmental and Urban Humanities, said:

It is so exciting to see the publication of The Pandemic and Beyond report. It highlights the important contributions of the arts and humanities towards COVID-19 research and recovery, offering an important and valuable perspective that will provide long lasting benefits to communities and shape policymaking long into the future. Arts and humanities research has a critical role to play in national crises such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and indeed as is shown by this research, multidisciplinary approaches which include arts and humanities can have huge benefits for society. I want to thank the Pandemic and Beyond team and all of the research projects across the UK for their contributions and recommendations which will influence the way we work in future.

You can read the full evaluation report here:

Download PDF • 2.99MB


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