Failure seems to be the hardest word to say
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Jancovich, L. & Stevenson, D. (2021) Failure seems to be the hardest word to say. International Journal of Cultural Policy (In Press).
Policy interventions, to increase participation, have long been informed by data demonstrating inequity in the subsidised cultural sector. However, it is less clear how evidence is employed to judge success or failure of initiatives to create greater equity. Indeed, quantitative surveys suggest a failure to change patterns of cultural participation. Despite this a large body of evaluation reports celebrate the ‘success’ of participatory projects. This article presents findings from UK research that explores how cultural participation policies might be improved by better acknowledgment of failures. The research involved interviews, questionnaires, workshops, observations and documentary analysis involving over 200 policymakers, cultural practitioners, and participants. It identified a cultural policy landscape that is not conducive to honesty or critical reflection and argues that without this it will persistently fail to learn or to deliver the scale of change required to create the equity it professes to desire.