Spirit of 2012 and the Warwick Business School have been thinking about the long term impact of major events, separately and jointly, for some years now. We have a shared belief that events have an integral role to play in both showcasing and creating an inclusive, progressive and confident UK.

For Spirit, 2022 was a defining year. It marked 10 years since the London 2012 Games that sparked our foundation, the chance to invest in and influence our second Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and the second UK City of Culture that we have been one of the principal funders for, in Coventry, drawing to a close. That year also saw a Jubilee, the Queen’s funeral, the UK-wide festival of creativity, Unboxed, and numerous other festivals and events held in communities up and down the length of breadth of the UK. Jonothan and the WBS team were integral to the events that year, working hard to evaluate the impact of both the Coventry 2021 City of Culture, the Birmingham 2022 Festival and Commonwealth Games 2022.

In January 2023 Spirit published our Inquiry into the Power of Events. We made a series of recommendations, based on ten years of evidence, both ours and others, on how the UK could plan, deliver and measure the impact of major events in a more strategic and long-lasting way. The Inquiry’s report also called for the creation of a Data Observatory for events, which would bring together existing evidence across sectors and make it available to event organisers, ensuring they no longer had to reinvent the wheel each time a new event came along, or rely on the good will of previous teams who had already moved on.

We had a concern, separately voiced by the recommendations of the Culture, Media and Sport  Select Committee Report into events, that this multiplicity of events – whilst each was impactful in its own right – could be more than the sum of their parts if we paid more attention to what connected and joined them and how they could leave lasting impacts collectively as well as individually. We, at Spirit, were delighted to award a contract to WBS to explore this further, and to look at the “connective tissue” between events.

The approach that Jonothan and the team have taken is to create a new ecosystem theory of change for events, grounded in what we know works and what we think could be better. The ecosystem model includes a simple five pillar evaluation framework that could be used across both major and local events, to provide consistent measurement of the cumulative impact value of events in the UK over time. The evaluation framework is rooted in a UK vision for major events that: promote excellence, ambition, and pride at local and UK-wide levels; connect new alliances and partnerships necessary for successful delivery and impact value; enable innovation and accelerate progress towards economic, social, cultural, and environmental.

The ecosystem model is based on careful consultation with major stakeholder groups – commissioners and funders, events organisers and local authorities –. As part of the research phase, WBS held roundtables in Coventry and Edinburgh and Liverpool – two cities with long-held reputations as world leaders in delivering large scale events – to learn from the very best, and to ask how we could help fix some of the issues that emerge time and time again. In developing the recommendations, we sought to build on the great work of UK Sport in developing the Gold Framework and some of the devolved Nations – notably Scotland – in having well developed, ambitious national strategies for events – not start with a blank sheet of paper or disregard what is already working well.

Alongside our call for the creation of an Events Observatory, for which a feasibility study carried out by FRY Creative is also being published today,  the adoption of this ecosystem approach could be transformational for the UK in consolidating its position as a world leader in events legacy, in addition to the reputation we already have in event delivery.

But a report is only as good as the recommendations that get adopted, so we are calling on the next UK Government as well as local and regional authorities to adopt the recommendations in the report that will provide:  a unifying strategy;  a common evaluation framework and governance model for the effective delivery of impact value from major events; and the creation of a major events data observatory.

After two bumper years in 2022 and 2023, the major event calendar is looking a little quieter ahead of Euro 2028 (a possible return of the Commonwealth Games notwithstanding) – the perfect time for us to step back and reflect on what a national strategy for this sector looks like if we are to strengthen our status as a world leader in both delivery and legacy. From Eurovision to the Euros, the Coronation to the UK Cities of Culture, events promote and celebrate the UK on the world stage. They can also connect and enable communities across the UK to really feel the benefits of hosting and participating in joyful experiences – experiences that need protecting against the backdrop of increasingly uncertain public funds.

Read Creating The Golden Thread in full in our Insights section

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