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Measuring social impact

Information on resources available to help you measure your social impact.


Museums make an incredible contribution to society. They help to tackle inequalities in education and well being, and help people explore and express local identity. This is part of the 'social value' of your organisation: the contribution your museum makes to everyday life within your community.

While economic impact is relatively easy to quantify, the effect of museum programming on society is harder to measure. The evidence base for the social impact of museums is still in an early stage of development: while some areas have been explored, much of the evidence around the value of museums is circumstantial, anecdotal, or hasn’t been quantified.

Research in a range of academic fields, including museology, psychology, education, and preventative health, has uncovered strong evidence for specific areas of demonstrable social impact for museums. Using this information, we have developed an initial approach that will support you to gather and share information in these areas.

Articulating the social impact of your organisation can help you to advocate with a range of stakeholders and potential supporters, including policy makers and funders. Many elements of museum programming tie directly into the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework.

How our approach works

We have identified three headline statements (Measures) regarding the social impact of museums. These three statements are supported by robust research, and relate to work that we know that many of our museums are already doing. These Measures offer a way for museums to effectively communicate the direct impact of their work to society.

  1. Dementia programming in museums has been shown to improve relationships between those living with dementia and their carers
  1. Object handlingStudents who interact with museums objects as part of their learning, show improvements in their exam marks
  1. Older visitorsPeople over the age of 50 who visit museums regularly show a lower risk of dementia

By indicating how the work you do ties into these headline areas, you’ll be able to demonstrate clearly and effectively how your programming contributes to aspects of society including education, preventative health, and well-being.

This approach:

-is less labour-intensive than case studies;

-can be used at a national, regional, and local levels; and

-generates short, effective statements usable within introductory advocacy material.

This approach can be used for individual museums, as well as to advocate for groups of museums, including local authority areas, geographic forums, or specialist/regional networks.