In this paper, we set out how the British Council’s work in testing and assessment has operationalised and contributed to the organisation’s cultural relations agenda. We support this with evidence from case studies from the organisation’s activities in the area in recent decades.
In order to strengthen any such claim, we then propose a more robust, integrated approach. In this approach, we outline three distinct phases of evidence gathering: monitoring, independent evaluations, and research and analysis. While the evidence presented in this paper can be seen as being appropriate to the first of these, the fact that the relevant areas were not identified a priori weakens the argument that they represent a strong claim for cultural relations impact. We would therefore argue that while the framework identified in the case study tables may offer an appropriate approach, unless the evaluator sets out to complete them before the project begins in earnest, they cannot serve as the basis for a convincing argument.
We argue that cultural relations should not be seen as a short-term outcome of a specific project or program. Therefore, it appears clear to us that the challenge to the British Council, and to other organisations engaged in cultural relations activities, is to identify the extent and range of evidence required and the impact of this on the strength of the associated claim of a positive impact.