How the arts can create sustainable social change.

I’m constantly meeting fantastic people and hearing about amazing projects – in the last week alone I’ve had conversations with people tackling violence, increasing access to the arts and exploring identity and mythology in a wide range of settings – none of these projects are currently connected yet they all have a huge amount in common. 

We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We all want to make a difference not just now but in the future. However, there is only so much any of us can do. Ultimately we all have to face the same question – how can we create sustainable social change? What we need is a sustainability service that can connect all these great projects and initiatives.

After all, the problem of sustainability is not the projects themselves – or any individual, organisation or initiative – it is simply a lack of context. When we do things in the context of a strategic plan they are no longer isolated activities but steps towards a long-term goal.

We need an organisation that can provide this context for us and hold that long-term vision on our behalf. This is exactly what art + power is setting out to do – to build communities where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential. It is a big vision but one we cannot realise without your help.

Sustainable social change is something we can only create together. We need to build a network that enables a diverse range of people – disabled and socially excluded people, practitioners and policy makers – to support each other through equal, shared collaborations where everyone contributes and everyone benefits, equally.

Adopting an equal, collaborative approach will be a challenge to us all. Just as some of us will find it hard to break out of dependent relationships and realise that we all have something to contribute, so others will struggle to recognise that we cannot create effective change unless we are also prepared to embrace our own vulnerability and engage with our own creative potential and collaborate on an equal basis.

We would need a lot of support for this, but the more we work together the easier it will be to find people that understand what we’re trying to achieve, that will work alongside us, share our anxieties and help us develop the shared language which is the lifeblood of any successful collaboration.

We are excited about the potential for tools and capabilities to become the language of sustainable collaboration not least because it demonstrates how the best way for any of us to contribute is to do what we do best – by building our capabilities

Capabilities are the building blocks of all human development they support:

  • Personal development by helping us all to both identify our goals and take steps to achieve them.
  • Collaborative development by enabling us to develop equal collaborations in which all parties support each other to build our capabilities.
  • Community development by providing a shared framework that provides the context for all we achieve together.

For example, the shared nature of tools and capabilities can help us make connections between all those fantastic projects people are working on. We could even create an inclusive, collaborative project in which people from diverse and disparate communities support each other to create sustainable change in our lives and communities!

There are lots of ways to get involved…

  • Please share anything that can help people build sustainable change into our lives and communities – maybe something that inspires you, a collaborative project or opportunity or a useful tool. Everything helps.
  • Share your ‘Five Questions’ using this quick survey.
  • Sign up for our newsletter for the latest news and opportunities from the network.
  • Come along to a forum
  • Ask for an art + power membership form (purchase a £1 share) and we’ll add you to our collaborative website where we all share and support each other –

Our shared project will be what you make it – what will you do?

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Sharing tools for change and one to get you started.

A social justice network is a group of people who support each other to be positive, to celebrate our achievements and learn from our experience.  I’m particularly interested in the tools we use to engage with this process. It seems to me that it is important to have some physical record of what we’ve done and of what we plan to do both so that we can maintain our own practice and so that we can collaborate with others.

Developing and sharing these tools will be the key focus of my work over the next couple of years as I put together a ‘guide to creative capability development’ and I would like your help. It would be great if you could let me know what works for you and help develop and test some tools that we can share.

I’m keen to develop tools that can be used by a wide range of people to foster diverse and creative collaborations. The tools will help us adopt a developmental approach to our practice, and support each other to build our mutual capabilities through networks and creative collaborations.

I hope people will use the tools to create some exciting artistic projects and strategic initiatives but my personal emphasis will be on sharing what we learn from the process to inspire further development.

For example, it will help us to feel that we have started this process if we do something physical, so here is a simple tool consisting of just five questions that can help our both our individual and collective development.

What are you hoping to achieve?
What are you working for now?
What can you offer to the network?
What are you looking for from the network?
What will you do next?

You can start this process right now by sharing your answers to these questions.
If you don’t have time to do all five, I suggest you answer the last question – what is your creative challenge?

This doesn’t have to be a big step, I actually think that most meaningful change is both long term and incremental so I would recommend you think of one small action that would make you feel you’ve started the journey.

It can help to tell someone what you’re doing – you can share that here if you like – or better still why not set up your own social justice network and support each other to answer the five questions, or simply take the next small step towards our long-term development?



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Create Your Own Social Justice Network

We can only build social justice if we are willing to engage with our own potential. This can be a daunting prospect but, fortunately, it’s not something that can be done alone. Social justice is something we build together, simply, by supporting each other. One easy way to do this is to find a few friends or peers and support each other – to create your own social justice network.

Social justice networks are people who take an interest in each other’s progress and support each other to stay positive and engaged. You do not need to know what you want to achieve before you start. Over time, participating will help you identify goals and develop projects, but this is a long-term process and, to start with at least, it’s more about keeping positive and moving in the right direction.

Every network is different, some are formal gatherings with regular meetings, other just the occasional catch up in a cafe or pub. One thing I do recommend is that you end with each person saying what they will do next (their creative challenge) and start with sharing how you got on with your last challenge.

You might like to try this approach at your book club or alternatively you might choose one of the following;

  • meet together to visit and discuss exhibitions, performances or talks
  • hold ‘art-crit’ sessions to share your practice and give each other feedback
  • meet to make and create together or share the things that inspire you
  • work on a creative challenge together

Whatever format you choose do let us know how you get on as everything we share can help to inspire and support the rest of the network. We will put together regular newsletters to share the latest creative challenges and news and opportunities from each of the networks. In this way we can build a growing network of people that support each other to fulfil our potential as individuals, groups and communities.

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