An invitation to creative collaboration.

We’ve spent the last 15+ years learning about how art empowers. It’s not been an easy journey, we’ve made many mistakes along the way. If we’ve learnt one thing it’s that it is much easier to foster dependence than empowerment. Every time we think we’re getting close we find we have much more to learn. Again and again we’ve seen how short term projects can raise expectations but not sustain the change, we’ve seen projects throw light on long-term problems they can’t resolve. At best it seems that the more we do, the more we find out how much more needs to be done.

This time we really think we’ve cracked it! We’ve worked out why art matters and how art empowers and it’s devastatingly simple: Art matters because it builds social justice (social justice is where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential). It is through art that we all build the capabilities we need to live fulfilling, purposeful, creative lives. art empowers by building capability – and it’s very exciting!

It’s exciting because it means we can stop thinking about art as the privilege of the few but as the birthright of each and every one of us. It is by building our creative capabilities that we all become the people we want to be and build the communities we choose to live in.

It’s exciting because it means an we can now develop short-term projects in the context of a long-term, on-going, lifelong process of growth and development.

It’s exciting because it means we can stop pretending we know what is best for other people and instead design all our activities as opportunities for people to acquire the capabilities that they are looking for. People can decide for themselves if each activity makes it easier, or harder, for them to do the things they value.

It’s exciting because it means we can stop treating people as problems to be solved but as active agents without whose unique experience we cannot fulfil our potential either. Social justice is about valuing and nurturing the unique, creative contribution of each and every individual, because of who we are.

It’s exciting because we don’t have to pretend to be experts anymore, to make out we have all the answers or pretend to be someone we’re not. Social justice is not about what we’ve done but who we want to become, it’s not about what we know but what we want to find out, it’s not about what (we think) others want us to be but about what makes us who we.

It’s exciting because it means we don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. We build social justice by being ourselves and following our own dreams and passions. In fact we can only build social justice if we are prepared to explore, to engage with our own uncertainty, enter into our own unknown potential. We build the best communities by becoming the best people we can be.

It’s exciting because it means we don’t have to compete any more. Social justice is not about competing over limited resources but creating capability. Everyone has something to contribute, and everyone benefits. Social justice is something we can only build together, through equal, creative collaborations.

It’s exciting because anything anyone anywhere does to build social justice helps everyone everywhere become empowered by art, whether they (or we) know it or not. Just as an artist can find inspiration anywhere so we can take every opportunity to build capability for ourselves and each other.

Of course this is really just the start. we know the theory but how will it work in practice?
We know how art empowers but not what you’ll achieve. We’ve lots of ideas but only you can make it work in practice. We can’t do it for you and we can’t do it without you!

We need you to help us find out what social justice will look like for you, for your local café, community centre or gallery? For your organisation, group or institution? For your community? We need you to help us learn: How can art empower everyone? What are the enabling environments that foster creative collaboration? How can art empower communities?

We’ll be exploring these, and many related questions through creative challenges, in newsletters, online and in person at regular forums and events. But we need you, and the people you know, to help us explore the art of creative collaboration We invite you to help us find out how we can all build our capabilities by building capability for each other.

So, how can you get started?

Well, of course, you already have, you wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t already building social justice for yourselves and/or others. So, please, keep doing what you’re doing; think about how what you want to learn can provide opportunities for others; and please share anything you think might help – simply hearing what others are doing can help and inspire us all and reminds us all that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Just don’t wait to get started, building social justice is a journey of discovery and increasing possibility in which everything you do helps you get a better idea of what you want to do next. So, don’t wait until you’re confident, after all you can’t really help others if you’re not prepared to be helped yourself.

So, please, join in on-line, come to a forum or create your own, but, before you do anything, have a look at these five simple questions that can help us all learn the art of creative collaboration…

1. What are you hoping to achieve?
2. What are you working on now?
3. What are you looking for?
4. What can you offer?
5. What will you do next?

Please share, everything people contribute will help build capability in the community – what will you do?

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Imagine a community where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential

Imagine a place where each and every one of us felt able to fully be ourselves. Wouldn’t it be amazing! Can you imagine the collaborations we’d develop? The diversity and scope of creativity would be truly extra-ordinary! It has to be worth considering what we’d need to do to bring this about.

It’s actually remarkably simple. All we’d need to do would be to find a way for each one of us to be positive, active agents with a clear sense of our own narrative and to find a way to support each other.

We could do this by creating communities of capability – places where we all support each other to increase our capabilities.

(I find it helps to think of capabilities as a catch-all term for anything at all that makes it easier for people to achieve their potential. Skills and abilities are important but they are only part of the process, there are plenty of people that are capable of doing extraordinary things but are prevented by a vast range of social, psychological, political, environmental, or technological barriers. So we also need more tools and resources to help us deal with difficult situations, stronger networks of support, a supportive and encouraging environment, easier access, inspiration opportunities and much more).

Focussing on developing capabilities makes us better able to tackle the barriers we face and increases the opportunities and possibilities available to us. Whatever we want to achieve it will be easier if we have more possibilities to choose from.

The beautiful thing about capability is that we can use anything at all as an opportunity for capability development. We can design all our activities as opportunities for each other to build our capabilities – then everything we do will open up new possibilities for each other.

Finally, and crucially, capability development is not something we do to, or for, each other but something we create together. It is an equal and universal process which enables us to build true collaborations that value and nurture the unique contribution that each and every one of us has to offer.

But before we can realise this vision we do indeed need to find a way for everyone to engage with their own creative potential. We all need to find the tools, the capabilities that enable us all to tell our own story and begin to shape our own destiny.

There are already lots of tools out there that can help us do this like, for example, the excellent DIY Development toolkit.  The Guide to Capability Development we’re working on will help people find these and more like them and most importantly help people develop their own tools and capabilities so that each one of us can fulfil our potentials as individuals and communities.

So, do please share, tell us your stories, tell us what works for you and what you think might work for others, or, better still, sign up for our newsletter and join a growing community of people that build our capabilities by supporting each other.

Then maybe one day we will be able to use our whole communities as resources for us all to explore, create and share together.

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A creative approach to social change

Anyone attempting to address social issues or increase public engagement faces a double bind. Attempts to help people can easily end up creating greater dependence and even when you try to listen to people you find they often don’t know what they want. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, after all, how can people know what they want to do if they don’t know what is possible?

I’d like to propose a potential solution to this problem: that we stop trying to help people! Instead of focussing on other people’s problems I suggest we adopt a positive and collaborative approach to ensuring that everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential.

Let’s be honest none of us know exactly what we want to do but we would all like to have more possibilities open to us. So, rather than try and second guess what other people might want to do, let’s all build capability in our communities.

Building capability is about extending opportunity and possibility, it is not just about what people have, or how they feel, but about what they can actually do. It requires us to focus on what helps and hinders our capability to achieve our potential as individuals and communities.

Every time we acquire a new capability it opens up new opportunities for us, a focus on our creative possibility can reverse the vicious cycle of low expectations, poor quality services, and increasing dependency and replace it with a virtuous cycle of self worth, achievement and recognition.

Building capability is a long-term process, it cannot be dependent on a single person, project or place, instead it requires a community wide commitment to increasing possibility and building capability.

But the great thing is that everything we do can build capability, we can design all our activities so that they increase the possibilities open to us, we can all learn from every experience and use every opportunity to create tools that foster further development.

Building community capability means our entire communities can become a creative resource where everyone can explore, create and share together.


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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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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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The case for the arts is made, it’s what we do about it that matters.

It is about time the arts debate moved on from general claims about why art matters to deciding what we do about it. Too much of the debate is about justifying the existing state of affairs rather than realising the full potential of the arts. Personally, I must also admit that  I’m not really interested in the case for the economic contribution of the arts unless that income is converted to social value. So, to help move the debate along I propose a very short contribution:

‘Arts build social justice. Art is how everyone gains the capability to fulfil their potential’. Case closed.

If we accept this, or any similar statement, we can move from the general to the specific. We can stop asking why the arts are important and start examining how effective particular examples of art are in building social justice.

To do this I suggest just three simple questions:

  • How does this particular art (project/event etc) provide opportunities for people to fulfil their potential?
  • What capabilities can people acquire from participating?
  • What opportunities are there for create collaboration and mutual capability development?

When we start answering these questions we discover that, whilst everything can provide an opportunity to build social justice, the arts has a central contribution to make. The challenge is to find the most effective way to enable people to access these opportunities.

Over the next couple of years Arts in Development will be focussing on developing what we call inspiring resources for creative collaboration. I’d like your help in discovering what these resources might look like. Please share anything (practical examples, case studies, news stories, tool kits etc..) that can help maximise the social value of the arts.

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Creativity is the key to social justice.

Social justice occurs where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential. Acquiring capabilities is a creative process that that is best acquired through collaboration. We build social justice when we support each other to build our creative capabilities.

Building social justice – ensuring equality of opportunity – should be the central task of any progressive society. Unfortunately not only is the equality gap widening but many attempted solutions actually increase dependency. This waste of human potential is one of the most depressing and unnecessary features of modern life.

Fortunately, it does not have to be this way, we can all help to tackle this crisis of opportunity, simply by supporting each other to build social justice. We all benefit from increasing social justice and every one of us has a unique and important contribution to make.

art + power’s universal Creative Development Programme (CDP) brings people together to explore how we can help each other to fulfil our creative potential. It is a network of people that build our capabilities by supporting each other. It is a free and open programme for anyone that shares our commitment to creativity and social justice.

To join just participate in your own creative development and support others to do the same. Taking part can be as simple as sharing your progress. Anything you share will be used to create more inspiring resources for personal development and creative collaboration.

My personal project is to produce a new publication: ‘A Guide to Creative Capability Development’ so I’m particularly looking for examples of inspiring projects, that can provide tools, case studies and examples. We will also be producing a wide range of other resources and would love to hear your stories, creative challenges and project opportunities.

Everything we do can build creative capability and social justice – all we need to do is support each other to participate in our long-term creative development. Why not get involved today?

Just reply below or contact me at / @artsdevelopment
I look forward to hearing from you.

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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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Creativity has the capability to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Problems like suicide, poverty and inequality all have at their roots a lack of agency and hope.

Each and every one of us has a unique potential that needs to be nurtured and cherished. Yet all too often this is thwarted by a combination of circumstances and events and without the proper support we can be sucked into increasing dependency and despair.

This waste of human potential is the scandal of our age. It is a problem that affects us all but one we can all help to solve.

Creativity is the key to unlocking creative potential. We can achieve extraordinary things simply by supporting each other to engage with our creativity.

We all know that the vagaries of life are much easier to face if we face them together and that the first step can be the most daunting. Yet we all benefit from more creative, inclusive and sustainable communities. We all need each other to be all we can be.

Let’s take an interest in each other, support each other to deal with what life throws at us and give each other the opportunity to be extraordinary.

Let’s celebrate everything any of us does to build more creative, inclusive and sustainable communities.

Let’s celebrate when each of us takes a single step, accepts their own ‘creative challenge’ and takes the first small, incremental steps towards our long term goals.

Who can you support to take your ‘creative challenge’? Who will support you? Why not create your own group to support each other to take creative challenges?

You don’t need to do this alone. art + power’s Creative Development Programme helps people help each other to find out what we want to do, collaborate on projects and to find ways to keep doing the things that matter to us.

The CDP is is an individual and collective commitment to creativity and social justice.

art + power is a Society for the Benefit of the Community that anyone can join. Everything people contribute is used to build creative capability. 
What can you offer?

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