Cultural Observatory

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The Consultative Conference Declaration:

A Cultural Observatory will be established, in collaboration with existing initiatives with the purpose of developing key indicators, working to collect cultural statistics and analysing trends to allow global comparability and to inform future policy and resource allocation decisions. This observatory will also serve as a library for all reports pertaining to the sector

Current Situation

Existing research in the sector is conducted on an ad-hoc basis and commissioned from different tiers of government, statutory institutions (NFVF, NAC and NHC), other government departments and agencies at all tiers (Stats SA, DTI, Tourism, economic development) . As a result the available research is not comparable and there is insufficient, inadequate and unscientific data for many areas in the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector (for policy, evaluation, assessment and impact). There is no intervention to remedy this problem at the moment.

The Cultural Observatory

The Cultural Observatory will develop and support the collection and analysis of evidence, influence policy, share insight and build intellectual capacity across the arts, culture and heritage sector and will do this by working across the breadth of cultural domains, including the arts, heritage, tourism, museums, libraries and archives and creative industries. The cultural observatory will develop a strategic vision and organising principle for the collection of statistics and development of indicators in the sector and creative economy, based on UNESCO’s framework for statistics, and develop indicators appropriate to the South African context and based on need and audience. All future research in the sector will apply this strategic vision and organising principle to ensure the comparability of results.

The Aim of the Cultural Observatory

To provide support to the ACH sector (government and civil society) and creative economy by becoming a holistic repository, collector and developer of  knowledge, information and evidence concerning the content, structure and dynamics of the ACH sector and creative economy in South Africa with a view to contributing to employment, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Specific objectives and planned outcomes include:

  • To Champion Evidence:  To be South Africa’s primary source of cultural statistics and key indicators to assess the value of the sector and track changes over time and make comparisons between different evidence bases and to model evidence in such a way as to yield new insights .
  • To Influence Policy: To analyse trends to inform future policy and resource allocation decisions; measure the performance of South Africa’s arts, culture and heritage sector to allow global comparability; interface with the other spheres of government on cultural statistics policy matters; support the DAC in performance measure indicators of the cultural industries and investigate the impact of existing and potential cultural policies on the development and growth of the country. 
  • To Share Insight: to provide accessible interactive database 'knowledge and information' for users and target groups; to generate trust and social capital so that there is confidence in cultural indicators and acceptance of public statistics; to become a research hub, clearing house for new and innovative research projects for cultural industries in South Africa; to provide critical cultural information on sustaining cultural and social cohesion trends in South Africa; to collaborate with key observatories in Africa and the African diaspora in the Caribbean as well as elsewhere and to stimulate debates and improve knowledge exchange in seminars and conferences.
  • To Build Capacity: To provide technical assistance for strengthening the capacity of ACH practitioners, through networking; to educate through the online observatory utilising the best practice in user-friendly information and educative links for further reading; to provide training and development to all local authorities on the gathering of cultural statistics and information; to provide support for multidisciplinary research in the creative economy and other related issues.


The Cultural Observatory will not duplicate research being conducted by creative industry bodies such as the Print Industries Cluster Council, the NFVF and other agencies. The Cultural Observatory will focus on the five year research agenda adopted by the Cultural Policy Advisory Committee and all ad-hoc requests will be submitted to the committee for prior approval to stay within the mandate provided. The Observatory will not conduct commissioned research for clientele other than government, and will not compete with research agencies and institutions in the private and public domain. The Observatory will focus on long term data collection and collection and not specific research to inform specific projects or programmes.