When to Measure?

No light event should be staged without specific reasons for doing so – and different events will be staged for different reasons.

Light festivals range from niche one day events, through to festivals that illuminate cities’ architecture, arts and culture, to large scale themed events celebrating major calendar events (such as the Christmas period). Some of them have evolved from a single themed festival into a broader celebration of arts and culture, while others have been developed to enhance city image and attract visitors to the city.

There is little point in setting objectives if, in doing so, there is no accompanying commitment to measure those objectives. Objectives must therefore be measurable. Organizers of light festival or events should have a clear sense of:

  • How they would go about evaluating the intended impact of their event
  • What information they would need in order for the evaluation to be made
  • How costly and time-intensive it might be for them, or an outside contractor, to actually carry out that evaluation

Whether cities have large or small-scale ambitions for their event, they should always think carefully to what extent their intended outcomes are actually achievable. This thinking will need to take into account the strategic, political, financial and organisational context within which their event is taking place – in particular:

  • What exactly are the processes by which the hoped outcomes will be produced?
  • Will the situation in which the event is taking place enable these things to happen?
  • Are there any obvious barriers?
  • Does anything need to change?

Any impact evaluation exercise should be underpinned by a statement of the strategic objectives that the organisers of an event intend to achieve or make a contribution towards, plus details of the specific resources being invested in order to deliver those objectives.

The following points are intended to serve as a full checklist of issues that should be taken into account when preparing this statement:

  • What social, cultural, economic and environmental objectives do organisers wish to achieve by hosting this event?
  • What specific resources will be allocated to ‘activating’ the event to ensure the delivery of these objectives?
  • Whose responsibility will it be to deliver these objectives?
  • What mechanisms will be used to bring about the desired objectives?
  • How realistic is it that, on the basis of the first four questions, the desired objectives can in fact be delivered?
  • How will those responsible know if they have been successful?
  • What timescale is required to demonstrate (successful) performance?
  • What evidence, if any, is required to demonstrate (successful) performance?
  • What resources are available to conduct the requisite monitoring and evaluation? Are there additional resources available from other sources (e.g. another department or local body)?
  • Is it actually cost-effective to conduct any monitoring and evaluation around the event?