Curating Community

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Ctr for Urban and Community Research


Expression of Interest Cultural Value Expert Workshop: Community arts and Participatory Arts
Title: Curating Community? The Relational and Agonistic Value of Participatory Arts in Superdiverse Localities

About the workshop organiser. Dr. Alison Rooke is sociologist whose teaching and research is concerned the dynamics of participation in the city brought about through arts-based urban interventions, urban planning, research and evaluation as well as informal spaces of citizenship and community. She is also CoDirector of the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) an established interdisciplinary research centre within Goldsmiths' Department of Sociology with a distinguished history of collaboration with local communities, activists and cross-sectoral stakeholders. Her work lies at the overlap of visual sociology and experimental methods exploring the philosophical underpinnings of sociological representation, and the ways that understandings of representation inform the epistemology of social research. Along with colleagues in the Sociology Department she shares a concern with concerned with 'The Social Life of Method' (Savage et al 2013) and 'Live Sociology' (Back and Puwar 2012). Alison has been influenced by ideas that challenge the notion that research impacts on society 'as if from the outside'. If research 'works' or is successful, it is by virtue of a variety of social actors contributing to it on an on-going basis, well before the research can be framed as a 'product' or as an 'outcome'. Indeed, much of Alison's evaluative research is co-constructed carried out in tandem with others outside of the academy. Alison continues to be engaged in a wide range of activities that embed this approach in a number of highly practical endeavours. Her work spans: the public sector; the policy community; the business community; international organisations; the community and third sector; the media; and 'publics' of various sorts. Alison's work has been concerned with developing critical and collaborative approaches to research and evaluation. She has an outstanding track record in developing a critical and participative approach to the evaluation of a variety of urban interventions spanning citizenship, community development, urban planning and participatory and socially engaged arts at a local, national and international level.


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Description Recognising the value of aogonism in participatory and social arts practice can be at odds with the demands of delivering and evaluating planned projects with predetermined aims, impacts and outputs. Those working in social practice can find themselves in difficult ethical positions, torn between the desire to 'start from the middle' navigating the labyrinth of the competing demands and desires of communities and their obligation to satisfy funders and commissioners predetermined aims and objectives of project 'delivery'. The ability to juggle these demands, cope with periods of chaos, pull a project together and make sense of it critically is one of the under-recognised skills of the socially engaged artists.
Critical evaluation could open up an opportunity to reflect on the value and significance of failures, differences and disagreements within a project. Generative and integral approaches to project evaluation, which incorporate the principles of 'critical friendship', triangulated peer review and participatory action research, offer ways of unpicking and recognising the cultural value of antagonism and heterogeneity in participatory arts.
Exploitation Route Through ongoing debate and discussion, and the development of the approaches to evaluation set out in the report.
Sectors Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The report provides a valuable resource for professionals in the fields of urban governance and arts and culture. I regularly recieve enquiries in regard to this work and take part in various intersectoral fora discussing the findings.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Advising on good practice - Hothouse, Deptford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I have met with and advised a local arts organisation concerned with developing ACE funded partnerships between arts organisations, a library, artists and local residents develooping good practice in regard to local commissioning and partnership. I continue to work with them in an advisory capacity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
Description Spoke at Greater London Authority London Culture Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The GLA arts and Culture forum and Arts culture and community participation invited me to speak on good practice in engaging communities and commissioning in the London Boroughs. It was attended by Mayors, coucillors and Local Authority arts officers as well as participants networks which are pursuing these aims.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016