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September 15 2017

SACO | Online Economic Impact Calculator launched for SA Festivals

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Within the sector, among those who are its ardent devotees, arts and culture are often spoken about in terms of their intrinsic value, or ‘art for art’s sake.’ While arts and cultural practitioners, artists or managers may be adept at creating an enjoyable or rewarding experience, they may not necessarily be trained in reporting back to their funders or partners to show the economic impact of their event. For this reason, the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) has developed the South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC) which is available to be used for free online. On Tuesday the 5th of September 2017, Marie-Louise Rouget (Content and Data Manager, Arterial Network) attended a workshop at the Iziko Bo Kaap Museum in Cape Town to learn more about this new resource. The event was also attended by participants representing the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the Western Cape Government, Afrikaburn, the West Coast Youth Orchestra, shnit International Shortfilmfestival, the Cape Town Carnival, and the Market Theatre Foundation among others.

The calculator has been developed for event and festival organisers to determine the economic impact of their events, both big and small. By calculating the economic impact, organisers should be able to determine what the loss of economic activity to the specific impact area would have been if their event had not taken place. Through determining its economic impact, the event or festival is shown to be a driver for extraordinary economic activity within the impact area, such as festival attendance, visitor spending (accommodation and non-accommodation, such as food, souvenirs and other purchases) and organiser spending. These numbers are important for the monitoring and evaluation process, for internal planning for the next event, to be used in reports for funders, sponsors or other important stakeholders, and as motivation for future supporters.

During the workshop, Professor Jen Snowball (SACO Chief Research Analyst) and Professor Geoff Antrobus (Department of Economics, Rhodes University) elaborated on certain best practices when using the calculator in order to achieve the best possible results. They both emphasised the fact that the accuracy of the data used will determine the credibility of the resultant report generated by the calculator, and in most cases it is necessary to include an appendix to clarify where the data has been drawn from. Social surveys during the course of the event are essential to clarify certain aspects of the data that might be received through online ticket sales, social media ‘check-ins,’ transport and accommodation statistics received from local authorities and other sources. For example, festival or event organisers might want to clarify how many tickets individual attendees bought, if one ticket does not grant ‘all access’ to the event (as in the case of the National Arts Fest). They may also want to determine additional spending caused by the event by asking festival goers how much they spend on food and accommodation a day (individually) and how many days they intend to stay in the area. Although it was acknowledged that local data capture rates during festivals is never 100% accurate, social surveys are able to provide useful insights if run consistently across the event.

The feedback from participants during the workshop was positive as each acknowledged the effectiveness of the calculator in relation to their ongoing projects. Although this tool only relates to the economic impact of events in South Africa, taking into account local statistics and economic indicators, the calculator could be adapted to suit other contexts across Africa in future.

To access the calculator, please click here.

Should you wish to get in touch with the South African Cultural Observatory, please click here.

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