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61. University of York’s UKCRF StreetLife Evaluation

StreetLife has created innovative and immersive experiences to revitalise the historic Coney Street in the city of York. It is led by the University of York in collaboration with strategic partners across the city and funded by UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF) and the University of York. StreetLife’s heritage, music and print activities have successfully sparked curiosity, nostalgia and emotions whilst engaging with members of the public. The physical presence on Coney Street, in a formerly empty retail unit, has provided a space to ask questions about Coney Street’s future and for the public to enjoy high-quality creative and heritage activities.

Kada Research were commissioned to evaluate StreetLife by the University of York in line with UKCRF guidelines. The evaluation assessed the impact of the project through qualitative and quantitative analysis, a robust impact evaluation which assessed the performance and a value for money assessment. Kada qualitatively investigated StreetLife’s delivery model, strengths and weaknesses, lessons learnt and successes. We produced an interim report in July 2022 and then a full evaluation in January 2023 and throughout this process we have enjoyed working closely with the client team at the University of York. As part of the evaluation, the Kada team attended the StreetLife launch event to immerse themselves in the experience and were able to attend the Coney Street Hub in December 2022 to see how the project had developed over its eight-month delivery period.

The evaluation found StreetLife had clearly tapped into a public need for creative and heritage activities on the high street, as they exceeded several of their targets for engaging with people, businesses and organisations. Kada’s economic impact analysis demonstrated the total net economic and social benefits amount to £1.39m, with ‘Preserving heritage’ providing the most substantial economic and social value at £1.26m. The analysis found that StreetLife generates £2.20 for every £1 spent which represents high value for money.

The consultation with a wide range of stakeholders highlighted the power of collaborations and interdisciplinary working. This strengthened the delivery of StreetLife and created more immersive and innovative activities which had the ability to transform people’s understanding of the environment around them. The value of the Coney Street Hub and the University having a physical presence on the high street was also universally recognised by stakeholders.

Kada’s research concluded with the creation of a series of impactful and evidence-based recommendations for the University of York and partners to consider which aimed to build on the clear successes of StreetLife.

“StreetLife is an innovative and ambitious pilot and has demonstrated how Universities can play a role in the high street. The mixture of creative and heritage activities has sparked public interest within York and highlighted how impactful these are on an economic, social and personal level.”

Sophie Negus, Study Director.

“The Economic Development Team at the University of York appointed Kada Research in March 2022 to evaluate their Community Renewal Funded StreetLife project. The team at Kada were supportive and flexible, adapting to the changing fund deadlines including delivering a second report to cover a project extension. The reports provided some interesting findings and recommendations including the projects net economic and social benefits amounting to £1.39m, with ‘Preserving heritage’ providing the most value at £1.26m. In addition the reports allowed the project team to easily and succinctly summarise and communicate these findings to project partners and to wider audiences at conferences. StreetLife continues to occupy a presence on the high street with the University supporting the development of spin out projects such as York Centre for Print and The Common Room.”

Vicky Wren, Programme Manager, Economic Development Team at the University of York.