Cultural Measurement on Whose Terms? Critical Friends as an Experiment in Participant-Led Evaluation

  • Sophie Hope
Part of the New Directions in Cultural Policy Research book series (NDCPR)


This chapter explores an alternative approach to evaluating participatory public art projects involving the people that such projects seek to empower. It explains the concept of ‘critical friends’, the Critical Friends project and reflects on the findings of research carried out on two art commissions in North Greenwich, London, in the United Kingdom from 2008 to 2011. In the process of establishing a group of Critical Friends, participants became interviewers, researchers and evaluators, acting as ‘productive parasites’ to a process of socially-engaged, public art. Developed as an alternative approach to evaluation, the group sought to understand the qualitative experiences of other participants and to interrogate the motives, targets and politics of the commissions. Underpinning this inquiry are questions about the commissioning of participatory forms of art. Following an introduction to the context in which the Critical Friends project took place, the chapter goes on to focus on how the group reflected on the repeated or reluctant experiences of participation; their challenges to co-authorship; the uncertain relationship between the commissions and local democracy; and the shared, or not, sense of the absurd in the projects.


Local Issue Democratic Citizen Cultural Measurement Local Collaboration Critical Friend 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Sophie Hope 2015

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  • Sophie Hope

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