IMAGINED stands for Investigating Meaning-making and the cocreation of Guidelines for Evaluation IN participatory Arts for Dementia. It is a 2-year project seeking to explore meaning-making processes in participatory arts for dementia activities, and how to evaluate these meaningful experiences.

The IMAGINED project is led by ECRED in partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, University of Florida, Queen Margaret University, St Columba’s Hospice Care, Music in Hospitals and Care and Scottish Ballet. It is a 2-year project running from November 2023 to November 2025, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

SB imagined

Background to the project

Over the last 20-25 years, there has been a rapid increase in literature exploring the role of participatory arts in dementia care. For example, the role of participatory music and dance activities in supporting health and wellbeing. Yet, there has been very little focus on the role of 'meaning-making' in this context, and how meaningful arts activities may link to social and mental wellbeing. This is important in view of the practical and existential questions that may occur for someone living with dementia, particularly during the diagnostic process.

A further challenge exists in relation to articulating these potentially meaningful arts activities. This is important for artists, arts managers, and others delivering participatory arts for dementia programmes when seeking to communicate the value of their work to a range of stakeholders, such as funders.

Our research questions

Through the IMAGINED project, we are aiming to explore four key research questions:

  1. What are the meaning-making processes of engagement with the arts in community and social care (non-clinical) settings for people living with dementia, and their families and carers, and how do these processes connect to health and wellbeing?
  2. What do arts and charitable organisations delivering arts and dementia programmes to support health and wellbeing for people living with dementia feel are the benefits and challenges of current evaluation processes in relation to ‘capturing’ and articulating meaning-making?
  3. What role do professional artists who are embedded within arts and charitable organisational practices play in cocreating meaningful engagements with people living with dementia?
  4. How can evaluation processes utilised by artists and organisations be improved to incorporate an understanding of ‘meaning-making’ to support with articulating their work to stakeholders, thereby optimising future implementation and delivery of programmes?
MiHC imagined

Our plans

We plan to create a Co-production Group to work with us to co-design and deliver this project, including people living with dementia, carers, and those working in the arts. We will work with the Co-production Group group to finalise our plans. However, at present, we anticipate that the research will include:

  • A mapping of current evaluation practices utilised by organisations delivering arts and dementia programmes in the UK
  • A multi-sited ethnography across key locations where Scottish Ballet and Music in Hospitals and Care deliver their work, including using arts-based methods and tools
  • Interviews and focus groups with key groups involved in participatory arts and dementia programmes (e.g., those with lived experience, health and social care staff, artists, organisational representatives)

Drawing on our empirical data, we will synthesise key insights into a new framework to underpin co-produced, accessible evaluation guidelines to support with future evaluation in this field. We will also deliver a suite of knowledge-exchange events to share our research and disseminate the new framework.



This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).