Societal challenges and the arts

The arts[1] can shed new light on the past, hold up a mirror to contemporary life and initiate new perspectives for the future. They have the power to move us, educate us and question accepted narratives. They can also foster an exchange in which people encounter points of view radically different from their own. In the process, the arts can inspire personal belonging and mutual understanding. They can also foster civic engagement and social change, mobilising a variety of actors around a common agenda. As such, the arts can complement scientific and policy approaches.

While art has value in and of itself, the arts have also engaged directly with societal challenges such as inequalities, migration, climate and environmental change, social justice, conflict and violence. However, there is substantial fragmentation as artists and arts organisations sharing common concerns often do not interact or network across artistic genres or geographic locations. Better multidisciplinary methods for capturing, assessing and harnessing the societal impact of the arts are still needed. In addition, the potential of the arts and of artistic research to generate alternative or unconventional solutions to current and emerging societal challenges remains largely untapped.

[1]For the purpose of this topic the arts include - but are not restricted to – painting, sculpture, photography, literature, poetry, music, dance, theatre, cinematography, digital arts, architecture, design and crafts.


Proposals should identify and study artistic productions that have generated new thinking, engagement and possibly action in relation to contemporary societal challenges as experienced in Europe. In doing so, they should capture and analyse motivations, philosophies, modes of engagement and impact from a comparative, geographically balanced and multidisciplinary perspective. They should identify and analyse projects and actions that have succeeded in mobilising members of our societies for a common cause, including sections of society which might otherwise remain remote from such initiatives, and identify their success factors as a basis for recommendations to policy makers. Particular attention should be paid to artistic productions, including participatory ones, which give voice to marginalised or disengaged groups and individuals. Community penetration and mechanisms of diffusion, including the role of digital technologies for providing access to the arts, should be studied as should barriers to engagement. The relationship between art and democracy and between art and individual or community resilience should be addressed. Proposals should also consider the role of local, regional and national identities and traditions, of global and European intellectual trends, and of social movements in shaping artistic representations. Historical analysis and other relevant approaches from the social sciences and humanities could be used as relevant. Artistic entrepreneurship as well as links to the cultural and creative industries could also be addressed. Where relevant, the impact of EU, national, regional or local policies and funding on the arts could be considered.

Proposals should develop multidisciplinary and comprehensive methods for capturing and assessing the impacts of arts on individuals, communities and policymaking. They should also identify and test solutions to boost the role and reach of the arts as a vehicle for individual, social and political change. This should include guidelines for how artists, organisations and scholars may help to solve societal challenges, for instance through influencing priority setting and through integrating the perspective of the arts in social, political and research agendas. To this end, opportunities for common reflection should be developed to connect actors and stakeholders such as practitioners, curators, researchers, representatives of the civil society and policy makers. Practice-based research and outputs in the form of artistic production (e.g. exhibitions, performances, performing and visual arts, digital media, community arts) are encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

The action will promote innovative approaches to societal challenges that take into account artistic perspectives. It will formulate and test innovative art-based practices aimed at mutual understanding, dialogue and civic participation, thereby enhancing social inclusion. The action will also contribute to the further integration of the arts in the policies and strategic goals of the EU.

Cross-cutting Priorities

Socio-economic science and humanities

Application date
Social sciences