Reflecting on experience as academic lead for the Warwick Commission for the Future of Cultural Value, Dr Eleonora Belfiore explores the possibilities and challenges that developing a collaborative approach to generating fresh policy thinking entails.
The context for this talk is offered by one of the defining debates in cultural policy studies, namely the one around the tension between a desire to be useful to those who administer the arts and culture and the aspiration to preserve the cultural policy scholar's critical distance from the object of analysis, intellectual autonomy and the freedom to critique. Whilst this tension is especially noticeable within a small and emerging field such as cultural policy research, it is not by any means only found there. Taking developments in the UK as the geographical focus of analysis, it is clear that increasing expectations that research, especially when publicly funded, should have 'impact' bring with them similar kind of tensions. Expectation that research ought to deliver 'impact', which is often understood as a contribution to policy development, have been hotly contested and resisted, yet an important set of questions still remain open:
- What is the ultimate purpose of critical cultural policy research? Or in other words, what comes after critique?
- Is critique for critique's sake a satisfactory goal for cultural policy analysis or can we envisage a constructive engagement between critical research and policy debates that is not subservient to the needs of policy advocacy?