The Methodological guidelines provides a set of reusable and empirically validated guidelines for academics and practitioners willing to replicate the MESOC approach on a different scale, or simply borrow the results of this exercise to inform evidence based policy plans, programmes and initiatives.
The MESOC Handbook aims to provide accessible information, based on the project findings, for researchers, decision-makers, funders, trainers, managers, students and other actors interested in understanding, facilitating and assessing the societal impacts of culture.
These impacts are clustered on the right-hand side of the picture below. The MESOC project posits that societal impacts are driven by the strategic deployment of Cultural Experiences. These can be defined as the generation, emission or reception of information flows that have symbolic content, usually expressed through artistic language, with the explicit and more or less deliberate intention of creating some kind of “resonance” with people in cognitive, emotional or aesthetic dimensions.
When it comes to assessing such impacts, in order to overcome the measurement challenges related to the difficulty of addressing elusive concepts like e.g. improved self-esteem, increased sense of belonging within the community, enhanced use of public space, etc., we propose to focus on the contextual aspects that may affect the desired societal transformation, through cultural experience, in a positive direction. These aspects are named Enabling Factors. The focus of MESOC research has therefore been set on the identifying them, and especially their most relevant features, which can promote the materialization of the societal impacts of cultural projects and programs.
Knowing more about these Enabling Factors and their transformative features is crucial, since they may act as signals or symptoms that anticipate possible change. In our research, we have created a taxonomy of Enabling Factors – 10 of them, listed below – and for each a set of plausible transformative features, named Transition Variables, which have been validated by several international experts using the Delphi method and also by the stakeholder interaction activities done within the City pilots of the MESOC project.
By hovering with the mouse on the above picture, it is possible to get some more information on the following Enabling Factors:
- Recognition of the social value of arts and culture
- Public policy strategy
- Philanthropic strategy
- Territorial dynamism
- Organisational governance and experience
- Collaboration / networking capacity
- Connection to community / users
- Human resources
- Financial resources
- Material resources.
As it is apparent, also from the picture, the six factors in the middle of the left side cycle pertain to the organisation and functioning of a cultural institution willing to implement a change strategy. We classify them as endogenous factor. The four factors on the outer space include aspects of the strategy itself, of the territory in which it is embedded and more generally, the recognition of the social value of arts and culture are exogenous factors.