This is especially true of Participatory Art. Participatory Art offers people the opportunity to explore their own personal and creative journeys. To explore who they are through creativity, to understand and share the story of themselves. It doesn't prescribe an outcome in advance. It doesn't say, "you must have a job at the end of this programme". It doesn't say, "you must achieve a 15% improvement on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale". These things may well happen, but only if they're right for the people concerned, only if they're part of the journey that people have decided for themselves.
Much of the social policy world (which is where these conversations about wellbeing mostly happen) has become victim to Outcomes-Based Performance Management (OBPM), which in its purest form exists as Payment by Results. This discourse tells people what they must achieve in advance (a job, a 15% improvement…) and anyone who fails to achieve this gets punished.
It doesn’t matter if having to take the first awful job that comes along is actually harmful for that person. It doesn’t matter if declining scores on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale actually represent an improvement in people’s wellbeing because they now have a more realistic appraisal of their own lives (this is a relatively common story from participants on arts and mental health projects); unless you achieve pre-defined targets, you will be punished. The organisation which failed to deliver this target doesn’t get paid. The worker who has failed to make their client achieve gets fired. The service user who fails to make the grade gets their support withdrawn. (Work Programme clients who are judged less likely to get a job receive significantly less support).