References to the societal impacts of arts are frequently made in many policy framework documents of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media as well as the Arts Council. Making Great Art Work: Leading the Development of the Arts in Ireland – Arts Council Strategy (2016–2025) for example states that “The arts shape and challenge us, give us pleasure, help us to know who we are and where we are going: their distinctive, creative power is an essential feature of our consciousness and conversation.”
Research has been conducted related to participation and engagement in the arts as well as attitudes to the arts, such as the Arts Council commissioned The Arts in Everyday Life (2015) or the Public and the Arts (1994, 2006, 2018.) However, the societal impacts of the arts lack evidence-based research to underpin policy claims of social impact. The Arts Council as well as local government acknowledge that while they have many anecdotal accounts of the transformative effect the arts have had on different communities and localities, they do not have a systemic way of gathering this information to tell the story of true impact. For this reason, in 2020 the Council has trialed a new system to assist in assessing the social impact of investment in the arts at local level. Using the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) model, the Council is currently piloting this approach with projects in three local authorities in the counties Carlow, Leitrim and Limerick. The results have not been shared as yet.