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Colin Mercer: Expanding the knowledge base for cultural policies

Colin Mercer, one of the leading strategic research and development experts for the creative sector worldwide, passed away in July, 2013. Honouring his broad experience gained during over 30 years work as a professor, researcher and advisor in fields such as cultural mapping and planning, indicator development and creative industries policies, the Compendium editors selected him in 2012 as a Special Advisor to the Expert Group on Cultural Participation Issues.

In June 2012, at the Compendium/CultureWatchEurope event in Helsinki, Colin gave one of his last public presentations.

Since this contribution could indeed be interpreted as his legacy for researchers and other cultural policy experts, we feature it again.

Here are the central propositions of Colin's lecture:

  • Need to enhance the quantitative baseline (cultural statistics and other data) and the qualitative baseline (evidence on 'social impacts', the relationship between culture and quality of life, social cohesion and inclusion);
  • Need to move along and up the 'knowledge value chain' from data (statistics) to information (indicators) to knowledge (benchmarks) to wisdom (policy);
  • Need for a research and knowledge-development culture which is stakeholder-based involving both 'top-down' research expertise and 'bottom-up' local knowledge, expertise and ownership;
  • Need to position indicators, governance and the strategic place of culture in public policy within a unified conceptual horizon within which an enlarged and enriched concept and ambition of citizenship is the central landmark and stake;
  • Need a strategic positioning of 'culture' like 'the environment'.