2015 is going to be an exciting and challenging year.

In 2015 I want to find out if we can establish a diverse network of people that support each other. It might not sound that difficult, but I know we’re going to face lots of challenges.
It’s going to be a year full of problems and questions:

We’re going to face the creativity problem:      Cultural exclusion affects us all. We are all born creative but without access to our creativity none of us can realise the creative potential that is our own unique contribution to society. What’s more, when any one person’s creativity is stifled our shared society suffers.
    We’ll be asking: How can everyone become empowered by art?

We’re going to face the collaboration problem:   None of us can know what is best for any other person. In the long run we cannot create change by doing things to, for, or without each other. We can only create change together.
  We’ll be asking: How can we create collaborative community projects?

We’re going to face the capability problem:      To build social justice we need to create communities where everyone has the capability to fulfil our potential. Since, we all fulfil our own potential by building our capabilities.  We need to find ways to build capability together.
  We’ll be asking: How can we build social justice?

We’re going to face the context problem:          art has the power to transform our lives and our communities but there is only so much any of us can do. It’s only when everything we do is in the context of a long-term that we can say every little helps.
    We’ll be asking: How can we create sustainable social change?

It will be a challenge because we’ll need to recognise that we can all contribute, that we all have something to offer.
It will be a challenge to find ways for us all to engage in equal creative collaborations where we explore who we are and who we can become, together.
Perhaps above all, it will be a challenge for us to accept that we can all be open to our own creativity, and engage with our own vulnerability and weakness – that none of us have all the answers.
  We’ll be asking: How can we build equal, diverse and inclusive networks that recognise the creative contributions of each every one of us?

We’ll be doing this through a series of problem posing forums and network events at which we’ll explore these questions and learn how we can support each other to fulfil our creative potential – as individuals and as communities.

I hope you’ll be able to join us.

 

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Tool Shops – The sustainable way to create social change

Britain faces a crisis of opportunity. Too many people do not have the capability to fulfil their potential. Too much talent and potential is going to waste as too many people find themselves trapped in a deepening cycle of low expectations, minimal opportunities and increasing dependency. This is a difficult and complex problem, but one that we can all help solve.

However, one thing is certain. We will never create sustainable social change if we continue to act as if there were two different kinds of people: those that know what is best for others and those that can be treated as problems to be solved. Building sustainable social change relies on accepting both that we are all different and that we share a common nature.

Diversity is the core strength of any community. We cannot possibly know what is best for each other because each and every one of us has a unique set of experiences and capabilities. However, we do share a common nature and we can, and must, learn from each other. Trying to change without each other is as useless as trying to change others. We can only change together.

The key to unlocking human potential is creativity. If we want to fulfil our potential as individuals, organisations or communities then we must all be prepared to explore our own creativity, to embrace our vulnerabilities and engage with our own potential. We cannot create social change unless we are prepared to change ourselves.

art does indeed have the power to transform both our lives and our communities but there is only so much any of us can do by ourselves. Just as the real value of learning is becoming aware of how much more you don’t know, so with social action, the more you do, the more you realise how much more needs doing. Tough problems like dependence and social exclusion require a broader, more concerted commitment than any one individual or organisation can provide.

We need a long-term approach. Short-term projects often raise expectations that they can’t fulfil and throw light on problems they cannot resolve but the real problem with projects is their lack of context – that they are isolated activities. However, when what we do takes place in the context of our long-term development then every little helps because real development is a long-term (and incremental) process.

It is this long-term context that is missing from our isolated attempts to create broader social change. We need a sustainability service that can provide that context for each other. Then every little thing we do can help towards our long-term development as communities as well as individuals.

art + power is uniquely placed to fill this gap because it is a not-for-profit society that anyone can join and because it has a long-term strategy to build communities where everybody has the capability to fulfil their potential. It’s a big vision, one that it cannot deliver! This vision can only be realised by the shared and concerted efforts of a wide range of people.

So we networks of people that use the arts for sustainable social change. The true value of the arts is that it fosters sustainable development and social justice. Social justice occurs where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential. The reason that art should never be seen as a luxury for the privileged few but as the birthright of every one of us is because it is by building our creative capabilities that we all fulfil our potential.

Capabilities are the building blocks of all human development. They are the tools that enable us all to live increasingly independent, purposeful and creative lives. Capability building is an equal, open and collaborative process by which we all support each other to fulfil our potential. Every time we do something new we build our own capabilities and we can also provide opportunities for others to build theirs. Every activity can become an opportunity for collaborative capability building.

This is what we hope to achieve with our plans for community tool shops. a range of spaces in the community where people can support each other to fulfil our creative potential. We want to see Tool Shops in lots of different spaces – cafés, galleries, community centres etc – so that everyone – and particularly disabled and socially excluded people – can help build more creative, inclusive and sustainable communities.

If you’d like to explore what a Tool Shop could look like in your community do get in touch – or better still come along to: The Tool Shop.

Tool Shops, like art + power, will be what you make it. We can’t make change for you and we can’t do it without you. Sustainable change is not something you do to others, or without others, it is something we can only create together by striving to become the people we want to be and build the communities we can be proud to live in.

Creativity is essential to the business of living. We are all unfinished business, but creativity, inclusion and sustainable development are the essential principles that underpin all meaningful development. So, please help us start the conversation about Tool Shops in your community – the sustainable way to create social change!

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Why art matters to me

One of the most compelling ways to understand why art matters is to try and imagine a world without art.  When you think about it it’s actually hard to see what life would be like without it.  A few years ago art + power made a film about a world in which art was banned: Condemned to Darkness makes a forceful point about the value of art in our lives and communities with humour and pathos. It is also an excellent example of how art can be more eloquent than mere words.

This film and others like it demonstrate how the arts are central to who we are as people. It is through the arts that we that we make sense of the world around us and define our identity. This is perhaps one of the reasons parents get excited when they see a child’s first painting  as it indicates a stirring of this identity, an early indication of who the child will become.

As well as being deeply personal, art is also a social process.  Art is how we represent ourselves to ourselves and to each other. Just as it is through our creativity that we understand our own uniqueness so it is through our culture that a community represents itself to itself and to the world. This is why cultural exclusion is such a blot on our humanity and our communities. Each and every one of us has a unique creative contribution to make to our collective culture and only when our  our culture truly reflects this enormous diversity  can we be comfortable with ourselves as a community or nation.

Fortunately the arts are more than just an indicator of the health of a nation they are how we build social justice. Creativity is an active process, it is the process of becoming, of creating and shaping who we are and how we choose to live.

When people discover their creativity later in life it can be a completely transformational experience. This is particularly true for people with personal experience of disability or social exclusion whose identity may have been consistently expressed in a negative, who have become accustomed to being described as a problem to be solved rather than an individual with a positive contribution to make to the social and cultural life of the nation.

There are many examples of how discovering our unique creative voice can be the catalyst that enables us to create change in our lives and in our communities. Surely recognising the innate value of every individual and finding ways to release the latent creativity is the key to building build more creative, inclusive and sustainable communities? If so our collective challenge must be to create the conditions by which each and every one of us can fulfil our creative potential.

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A new rule!

I come from a big family. My mother ruled a roost of six children, most of us similar in ages. I can only imagine how much of a handful we must have been! She could not expect much help from my father who was much more comfortable with his books than his children. Occasionally though, when things got particularly rowdy Dad would threaten us with a new rule. It was always an empty threat, we never actually had any rules and Dad was soon back in his study, leaving Mum to sort things out as usual.

Sometimes I wonder what those rules would’ve been – I’d like to think he’d have ensured that no-one spent more than an half an hour in a shoe shop or talked during Dr Who – we don’t really have rules in my house either, I suppose the closest I’ve got is to quote from the Bill and Ted book of philosophy and insist that we ‘be excellent to each other’. Perhaps it’s about time we had a new rule?

Recently, I suggested to the team at art + power that we adopt one rule – that we ‘Be positive’. I was not suggesting we ignore difficult situations but that we examine them carefully and explore ways to make them more positive. Ultimately that is all that our work is about, supporting each to be positive, productive and creative.

Of course it’s not always easy but if we make it our default position to be positive we may be able to avoid unnecessary negativity and if we support each other to stay positive we may help each other identify the small steps that can lead to long-term change.

What would be your new rule?

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A developmental approach to build capability.

Arts in Development supports people to use a developmental approach to build our capabilities as individuals, groups and communities.

We use a range of development approaches but all involve a virtuous cycle that helps us learn from our experience. For example, we provide resources for people to collaborate and then we share what we learn to improve the resources for future collaborations.

The development cycles we use involve balancing three processes: research, delivery and sustainable development. We use this cycle across each period (day, week, month etc) to plan, deliver and sustain our practice.

Here’s how we will use this cycle in the year ahead:

From May 2014 we will set a daily creative challenge related to a specific capability in one of the three development areas. Each challenge will also be the focus of peer-support forums during which people will work through the three development areas over a 12-week cycle to develop and deliver individual and collaborative projects.

Weeks 1 – 4: Reflect.

Initially we research and explore our practice so we can all work out what we are trying to achieve and consider how building our capability can provide opportunities for others.

Weeks 5 – 8: Deliver

Once everyone has an idea of what people are looking for we can design and deliver collaborative projects that build each other’s capability, these projects build social justice through equal creative collaborations where everyone benefits.

Weeks 9 – 12: Sustain

Finally we support each other to maintain and sustain our practice. Our shared focus is on recording and sharing our progress to produce inspiring resources we can use for the next stage of the cycle.

We will repeat this cycle several times so that we can develop a comprehensive creative development programme that people anywhere can adopt and adapt for their individual and collective development.

Of course, people do not need to take the challenges in this order, or use these specific challenges at all. Creative development is a self-directed process that is different for everyone. People can start whenever they like and contribute as much as they choose.
However everything people do share will help create further resources including a ‘guide to creative capability development’ and an inclusive community arts project.

This is how we will build social justice –  by supporting each other to adopt a developmental approach that builds our individual and collective capability. Why not join us?

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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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Help build creative communities.

We are looking for people to join a network for creativity and social justice.

Social justice occurs where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential. Every one of us has a unique and important contribution to make to social justice and everything we do can inspire and support others.

The network will help people support each other to achieve individual and collective goals. Each person will work towards their own long term goals by supporting other people on the network.

Every day for 18 months we will be setting a new creative challenge so we can help each other engage with our creative potential.

Each creative challenge will provide the focus for over 300 forums and network events where people will support each other to develop individual and collaborative projects and build an inclusive arts project to express our shared values.

Everyone is welcome. There will be regular public events and forums as well as weekly forums specifically for disabled and socially excluded artists’ and for arts practitioners, There will also be monthly forums for partners and policy makers.

We will be sharing these challenges – and people’s progress – through newsletters and social media to help people support each other to develop creative projects in their own group and community.

Everything people share will help inspire and support others and contribute towards a growing set of on-line resources including a ‘guide to creative capability development’ that will help people anywhere build creative communities.

To get involved just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re looking to achieve and we’ll send you all the information you need to get started.

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Social Justice is a creative process

It is through the arts that everyone gains the capability to fulfil their potential. We all achieve our potential by acquiring capabilities – by trying new things, by exploring new situations and by working together to remove the barriers that hold people back.

Effective capability development requires us to tackle all the barriers to human progress whether they are social, psychological, physical, political etc. so that no-one lacks the opportunity to achieve their potential. Building social justice is about providing the structures, the inspiration and the resources that make it easier for people to achieve their goals.

Creative development is an inclusive process. We all benefit from increased social justice and every one of us has a unique contribution to make. Creative development cannot be achieved at the expense of other people. On the contrary, social justice emerges from creative collaborations; from the process of sharing, working and creating together.

Creative development is a social process. We can only achieve our potential if we have people around us that believe in us. Fortunately, creative development is not a competitive scramble for limited resources but a collaborative process that can create social value from any activity.

Creative Development is a strategic, sustainable process. It is an ongoing process that enables us to make the best use of all our resources to achieve our goals. Once we recognise that our best resources are each other then building social justice becomes about achieving our goals whilst actively supporting others to achieve theirs.

As the process of creative development is common to us all, we can create a shared language that fosters creative collaborations and design any activity as an opportunity for mutual creative capability development. Since this process is essentially the same at every level we can build social justice by supporting each other to explore our potential, as individuals and as communities.

We plan to build a network of people with a shared interest in creativity and social justice and to use anything that people contribute – time, money, resources, even a problem to be solved – as an opportunity for creative capability development for someone in the network.

We are particularly keen to encourage people to record and share their achievements, so we can see what we are achieving together and so that we can inspire and support others to work with us to increase creative opportunities for all.

We invite everyone to participate, collaborate and share in the process of building social justice together.

What will you do?

How will you collaborate?

What will you share?

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Who are your fellow travellers?

Engaging with your creative potential can be a daunting prospect. The rewards are high but we must be prepared to take the risks. If we want to find out who we are and who we can become then we’ll have to let go of who we have been (and much of what we’ve been taught). We’ll have to explore some uncomfortable ground, spend time with our vulnerability and make friends with our weakness. If this is not hard enough we also have to contend with the prospect of success – not many of us can face the fear of our possibility without some sense of trepidation.

Although each of us face our own obstacles it is helpful to know that others have travelled this land before. Whatever our personal challenges, our journey will be much easier if we can learn to recognise these fellow travellers, to find people that believe in us and give us the confidence to believe in ourselves. When we learn to recognise our fellow travellers, we find more help than we might expect.

When you meet a fellow traveller why not you support each other to identify the next step – your next creative challenge – and agree a time to follow up and check how your each getting on? This simple device helps us keep going and reminds us that our best resources for creative development are each other.

Arts in Development and art + power are networks of fellow travellers that achieve our goals by supporting each other. We support each other to take creative challenges that help us explore our creative potential as individuals, organisations and communities. We’re always keen to meet more fellow travellers, to share and support each other.

Do get in touch if you’d like some support for your creative journey, or just let us know how you’re getting along.

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Why art matters to me

This week’s creative challenge is to consider why art matters to us. Here are a few initial thoughts. Do let me know yours… 

 

One of the most compelling ways to understand why art matters is to try and imagine a world without art.  When you think about it it’s actually hard to see what life would be like without it.  A few years ago art + power made a film about a world in which art was banned: Condemned to Darkness makes a forceful point about the value of art in our lives and communities with humour and pathos. It is also an excellent example of how art can be more eloquent than mere words. 

 

This film and others like it demonstrate how the arts are central to who we are as people. It is through the arts that we that we make sense of the world around us and define our identity. This is perhaps one of the reasons parents get excited when they see a child’s first painting  as it indicates a stirring of this identity, an early indication of who the child will become.  

 

As well as being deeply personal, art is also a social process.  Art is how we represent ourselves to ourselves and to each other. Just as it is through our creativity that we understand our own uniqueness so it is through our culture that a community represents itself to itself and to the world. This is why cultural exclusion is such a blot on our humanity and our communities. Each and every one of us has a unique creative contribution to make to our collective culture and only when our  our culture truly reflects this enormous diversity  can we be comfortable with ourselves as a community or nation. 

 
Fortunately the arts are more than just an indicator of the health of a nation they are how we build social justice. Creativity is an active process, it is the process of becoming, of creating and shaping who we are and how we choose to live. 


When people discover their creativity later in life it can be a completely transformational experience. This is particularly true for people with personal experience of disability or social exclusion whose identity may have been consistently expressed in a negative, who have become accustomed to being described as a problem to be solved rather than an individual with a positive contribution to make to the social and cultural life of the nation.  

 

There are many examples of how discovering our unique creative voice can be the catalyst that enables us to create change in our lives and in our communities. Surely recognising the innate value of every individual and finding ways to release the latent creativity is the key to building build more creative, inclusive and sustainable communities? If so our collective challenge must be to create the conditions by which each and every one of us can fulfil our creative potential.  

Please follow and like us: