The Agency is a social entrepreneurship programme led by Battersea Arts Centre and Contact, empowering young people to be the change they want to see in their local areas.
While the 21 Artists team conducts the yearly evaluation of the programme, they have recently embarked on a longitudinal evaluation to measure the 10 year impact of the progreamme, using a participatory, action research methodology.
The objectives of the research are as follows:
1. Impacts of the programmes on individual agents in terms of improved self-confidence, entrepreneurship skills, networks and understanding of community needs.
2. Impacts on the communities in terms of improvements brought about by the agents’ projects, increased visibility of the territory and arts and cultural programmes as a result of The Agency initiatives, and greater belief in the role of youth as agents of change among community members.
3. Impacts on the organisations implementing The Agency, in terms of expanded partnerships and networks in the city and surrounding communities, improved practices for youth and community participation and engagement, and stronger methodologies using art for social change
The project began in February 2023 and is training young people who have been through the programme before to be action researchers on the project. This involves training them in data collection, analysis. Participatory action research is an approach to learning whereby researchers are the same people who are experiencing the issue or participating in the programme under study. Building on their personal experiences and understanding of the situation in iterative cycles, they actively contribute to shaping the research and evaluation questions and are engaged in continuous cycles of data collection, reflection, and subsequent action, namely acting upon the findings gathered.
They are also taking photos to document outcomes on the programme's Theory of Change using a photovoice methodology. Photovoice employs photography and group dialogue - the fusion of images and words - as an empowerment tool, through which individuals can work together to represent their own lived experiences rather than have their stories told and interpreted by others.
Project results will be published by October 2023.
The Agency has its own website where you can find more information about the specific projects led by young people in London, Manchester and Southampton.