Understanding the impact of creativity as a tool for social change

A research project with international ties across the globe to support grassroots change-makers in music, theatre and the arts

The challenge

A man breakdancing in front of a crowd

In Place of War is a global organisation that uses artistic creativity in places of conflict as a tool for positive change. Their work is based upon creating cultural spaces in areas of upheaval and instability, providing education and training in artistic development and enterprise in the Global South, and enabling international artistic collaboration and mobilisation. 

If the success of In Place of War's programmes has been consistently demonstrated across the globe, the nature of project-based work severely hinders their ability to track long-term goals given that funding is usually provided over a fixed time span with limited available human resources. This project aims to demonstrate the ongoing impact of the organisation's work and develop evaluation tools that can be applied to future projects, thus supporting the organisation's ability to build on their strengths and secure sustained financial support. 

The solution 

The Research Team's approach, which focuses on quantitative and qualitative research and software development, will provide the company with:

  • A collection of 6 in-depth case studies on the long-term impact of IPoW’s support on change-makers from 6 selected locations, including South Africa, Colombia, Uganda, Lebanon and Palestine: The social impact of IPoW’s work will be measured through qualitative methods, including personal testimonies and questionnaire responses. Quantitative measures will be included in the questionnaire to record data on employment, income and Gross Value Added (GVA), forming a flexible and straightforward tracking method for long-term data collection and analysis of economic impact.
  • A bespoke analytical tool that can be used to track the impact of current and future programmes, with specific reference to IPoW’s current COVID-19 response projects: The interface, created using R/Shiny, will analyse quantitative data for the aim of conducting a comprehensive Exploratory Data Analysis, and estimating the economic impact of In Place of War's programmes. A tutorial for IPoW staff regarding how to use the above interface tool will be included, as well as a more comprehensive guidebook for future reference.

Research Team 

  • Jack Adler-McKean, PhD Researcher in Performance (Royal Northern College of Music, NWCDTP)
  • Safa Ali, PhD Researcher in Counselling Psychology (University of Manchester, School of Environment, Education and Development)
  • Andreea Avramescu, PhD Researcher in Decision Sciences (University of Manchester, Alliance Manchester Business School)
  • Magaly Duarte Urquhart, PhD Researcher in Development Policy and Management (University of Manchester, School of Environment, Education and Development)
  • Natalie Ilsley, PhD Researcher in Cultural Studies (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, NWCDTP)
  • Reka Polonyi, PhD Researcher in Applied Drama and Anthropology (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, NWCDTP)
  • Marta Riccardi, PhD Researcher in Music (University of Liverpool, School of Arts, NWCDTP)


The project has enabled In Place of War to gain invaluable insights into their work and provided the team with tools that will contribute to the sustainability and development of the organization and its community partners.

Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean / Director of Research and Education, In Place of War.
  • The research team investigated the economic and social impact of In Place of War through a mixed-methods analytical approach.
  • A pilot questionnaire assessed quantitative changes in output, income, and employment after receiving In Place of War’s financial support and training. It measured the social impact of their activities on the respondents themselves, as well as on their communities.
  • A final questionnaire was used to collect socio-economic data from artists in the Global South. The responses were turned into six case studies that provide snapshots of the personal and financial impact of In Place of War’s support in specific, localised contexts.
  • This research offers In Place of War compelling evidence of their impact and complementary data for future funding applications.


This project was completed in 2019-20 as part of the Collaboration Labs programme, created by REALab, with funding from the ESRC, the NWCDTP and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester.