Evaluation of Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice programme

Arts Council England introduced the Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP) programme in 2018 to support the development of independent cultural and creative practitioners. DYCP aims to encourage creativity, research, experimentation and risk taking, to enable practitioners to progress and flourish with their creative practice and career. DYCP provides grants ranging from £2,000 to ­­£10,000 (plus personal access costs) and projects generally run for up to 12 months. Over 11 rounds DYCP received over 18,000 applications, of which 20% were successful, totalling £33m of grants to 3,670 individuals.

In late 2021 SQW was commissioned by Arts Council England to evaluate the DYCP programme. Our evaluation explored the processes involved in DYCP and the outcomes emerging. This involved a systematic review of programme documents and data, in-depth interviews with 38 successful and 9 unsuccessful applicants, two online surveys (receiving responses from 548 unsuccessful and 785 successful applicants), and interviews with senior leads and programme staff from Arts Council England.

The evaluation identified a wide range of positive impacts emerging for those funded by DYCP, and that in many cases, positive outcomes have tended to yield further positive outcomes. Impacts experienced range from self-belief to new skills, new and higher quality work, new relationships, better profile, and securing work opportunities and leadership roles. The most prevalent impacts were increased enthusiasm and confidence, which interviewees indicated were key to driving practice and careers forward and realising additional impacts. An initial boost came from the funding award itself, and the feeling of validation that provided. For some, the challenging nature of the Covid-19 pandemic meant this boost was particularly important and timely.

Grantees surveyed almost universally felt that the quality of their work had improved as a result of DYCP. Grantees reported improved recognition, visibility and reach; both within their sector and with audiences, and felt better equipped to secure opportunities. In many cases there had already been a public benefit due to new works being produced and engagement with audiences, while others expected this in the future. In addition, some grantees talked about teaching (or planning to teach) their acquired skills and knowledge to others.

The full report of evaluating findings has been published by Arts Council England, alongside their response to the evaluation, and can be accessed here

For more information, please contact Lauren Roberts, SQW Director.