Skip to content


Culture Counts: new approaches to evidence-based cultural policymaking in World Cities
Leadership exchange on the theme of cultural mapping

​For the first nine months of 2021, officers in the fields of culture, economic development and urban planning from ten world cities – Amsterdam, Austin, Barcelona, Chengdu, Moscow, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Montreal and Stockholm – met regularly to share experiences on different approaches to producing evidence for policy making. This was made possible through the World Cities Culture Forum Leadership Exchange Programme, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Google Arts & Culture, with online sessions supplemented by insights from expert guest speakers.

The outcome of this programme is Culture Counts, a case guide produced with the participating cities. It aims to distil the learnings and share the studies that were discussed over the course of the exchange with a wider audience. All of the examples in this document are presented as ‘use cases’ of cultural data in which policy issues are better understood, and decisions made, through the effective collection and application of data.

Recent decades have seen a burgeoning in the generation of cultural statistics, economic impact assessments and mapping studies, along with huge advances in measurement and research techniques. At the national and city government level, this has boosted awareness of the sector and resulted in an increase in cultural investment across the world. But beyond advocacy, the practice of using data in cultural planning is less rich and building the evidence-base can be challenging. On a day-to-day basis, the data required to inform key questions are often more granular and detailed than what is typically captured in the main measurement systems.

This report provides a much-needed overview of how cities are starting to address this. Whether it is understanding spatial inequalities, mapping cultural infrastructure, promoting access and engagement or assessing economic impacts, there is tremendous innovation taking place at the city level. Through digital technologies, trialling research methodologies, unlocking data sources and building new research partnerships, city governments are undertaking pioneering work to underpin policy development, strategic planning and spending decisions. In showcasing such work with in-depth use cases from the participating cities, the report hopes to more widely promote their uptake and support effective cultural leadership around the world.

Read the Culture Counts case guide here. To watch the WCCF webinar on Culture Counts please click here (for Spanish version please click here).

Image credit: Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture