Evaluating UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) with big data techniques

UNESCO has commissioned the evaluation of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) to ECOPER. UCCN is a city network established by UNESCO with the purpose of promoting the use of culture and creativity in member cities as a driver for sustainable urban development. In many areas of international cooperation, networks are considered a powerful engine for innovation and knowledge production, regeneration, sustainable development, and economic growth. Similarly, UCCN’s role is to support international cooperation among member cities in seven fields of the culture sector. These fields are Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature, and Music. The Network activities consist in sharing experiences and knowledge, facilitating partnerships among cities, initiating research studies, supporting policy development, and building awareness and communication.

The evaluation of a network entails an assessment of the value added by the network to its members in pursuit of the network’s purpose.  Unlike evaluations of well-defined projects run by hierarchical entities, a network evaluation must focus beyond its most visible and formal aspects, such as the activities of network nodes established to support the members networking (e.g. a secretariat). Such assessments must also capture the multiple decentralised connections made by two or more network members and the value that is mutually provided. Experience sharing, replicability of good practices and applicability of models become key aspects of the assessment of  network effectiveness.

ECOPER has addressed these challenges in previous evaluation and research assignments, and it has developed innovative techniques to approach the more decentralised connections of a network. In particular, ECOPER has used big data techniques to draw on Twitter conversations and assess the engagement of a given city in international networks, and the alignment of such engagement with the SDGs.

In the case of UCCN, ECOPER has reconstructed the UCCN Theory of Change (ToC) to make explicit the expected changes from the UCCN work, and has programmed big data algorithms to measure the frequency of key terms of each of the seven UCCN fields in messages and documents released by Creative Cities in Twitter and Internet, along with direct references to the Network. Such references are taken as a proxy to UCCN decentralised effects.

The results of this analysis will be published by the end of 2023.