What are the intermediate social impacts?

Light festivals and events can have several positive impacts on the community. These benefits to the community can include:

  • Changes in community involvement and accessibility to different people in the host community
  • Increased participation of local communities in certain activities
  • Improved elements of residents’ lives, including both short term and long term outcomes – ie its developmental outcomes

Resident participation assessment needs to include both the light event/festival itself and associated activities, and be both short-term and longitudinal; that is impact on the participating residents during and after the event. For example, it might be that as a result of the event, local residents are more likely to volunteer in the future or become more active in other community activities.

Event Audience

The measurement of local resident participation in the event can be captured within the approach already provided in the economic impacts section.

Associated Activities and Programmes

Simple measurements of community participation in associated event activities can also be relatively easily captured.

Some events may include “social intervention” programmes for local residents, such as work with schools. The agencies delivering such programmes should be able to supply details of the participants involved.

  • In Eindhoven, a significant number of volunteers took part in the running of Lichtjesroute, a light event organised mainly by volunteers. 80 volunteers provided support and 40 residents were involved in the organising of the event. The view of the event management team is that the community benefits of Lichtjesroute are important although there has been no specific research undertaken in this field. Organisers have commented how the community came together to support the event after some event equipment was stolen, demonstrating community participation and involvement. GLOW, also hosted by Eindhoven, similarly involves local volunteers and residents to support the event organisers.

Community Satisfaction

Determining how many residents were involved as an audience or in planning of activities will help the event’s evaluation, but it tells us very little about their actual experience of the event or activity.

As such, any evaluation of the involvement of local community should also try to capture their views and their experience of the event. Methods for assessing this in a quantitative way are outlined in measuring satisfaction in the Cultural Impacts section.

These elements must be tailored appropriately and more qualitative methods can be employed. These might include:

  • Online comment tools or blogs; and “free text” comment sections in questionnaires
  • Getting residents to submit their photos of the event, with comments, or use of “tagged” photos in websites
  • Qualitative interviews and focus groups

Accessibility and Inclusion

It is important to capture which residents were involved (e.g. in volunteering or planning) and how, particularly if one of the event objectives is to improve community cohesion or break down barriers between social groups.

Techniques to achieve this include analysis of demographics of local residents participating in activity and mapping & analysing areas from which they have come.

It was suggested by cities that participated in LUCI research that any robust impact figures on community benefits are difficult to come by because events take place over a short period of time (days or weeks), whereas any changes in social impacts tend to occur over a far longer period of time (several years). All this makes it very difficult to develop any detailed logic chains between, say, any changes in recorded fear of crime figures and the event activity.

Some cities have collected anecdotal evidence from visitors, residents, event organisations and other relevant stakeholders on possible (positive) community benefit impacts of their event.

Community benefits reported include:

  • Improvements in infrastructure and physical appearance of cities also benefiting the local community (Medellin).
  • Some areas of a city that were not frequented anymore by residents were rediscovered and utilised again. In Geneva, the festival Arbres et Lumieres is a six weeks events show-casing 12 installations. Event organisers noticed that “Le Jardin Anglais”, an area that had become less frequented by residents because of safety concerns, was utilised again during the festival.
  • Sense of pride in their city felt by local residents. Glasgow Radiance had a definite ‘feel good’ factor and is still used as an example of a positive event for the Merchant City area of the city centre where the festival took place. Anecdotal evidence from the comments books and website in Glasgow suggest that people felt safer in the festival area due to the family friendly atmosphere. The police had indicated that there was a reduction in crime. There was no vandalism of any of the artworks and no trouble within the festival area during the event (Glasgow).
  • Organisers of the Festival Arbres et Lumieres in Geneva mentioned the photo competition that allowed residents and visitors to interact and leave comments on the festival website, as well as educational trips organised by local schools as elements that contribute to positive social outcomes for the city. Interaction and communications around the event are the basis for building social links amongst residents, even when some of the comments are negative, such as the debates about the environment encouraged by a water installation.
  • Medellin Christmas Lighting Celebration has demonstrated over the years how a light event can build capacity and promote community integration. Medellin Light Festival in Colombia provides temporary work for close to 1,000 workless residents, through its social entrepreneurial activity. Local residents are recruited for up to six months to build festival displays and work on construction, assembly and supervision of lighting structures. The City encourages local residents to form neighbourhood organisations to partner with the organisers, and help to solve any issues around negative impacts of the event. Representatives from local communities participate in the City Government and Lighting Department’s annual meeting to discuss how to reduce negative impacts such as noise or light pollution, community safety and other impacts.

The Volunteer Experience & Intent to Volunteer Again

The key area of measurement on skills and volunteering is participants’ views on the quality and level of skills development or volunteer experience. Event organisers can capture the views of volunteers and those that participated in training via post-event surveys or social media (blogs and other online tools).

Measuring experience of volunteers is essentially a measure of satisfaction, which will be covered in detail in the Cultural impacts section. However, as well as capturing satisfaction of the volunteers, surveys should capture the extent of which their skills or confidences were developed by the experience and whether the volunteer experience might impact on intent to volunteer in future.

Converting volunteering and training hours into an economic equivalent value provides a useful measure for event organisers in understanding the importance of volunteering impact and the associated need to manage and develop volunteers.

Data relating to hours contributed may be collected and multiplied by the average hourly wage to provide the notional value of the labour utilised in delivering the event.

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Advanced Social Impacts