#6.3 Relationships With Community: Change-making

This focuses on how you can be an agent for change in your community, helping people and places become healthy, sustainable and resilient.

Placards are places in a grassy area outside a building that read "Coral not coal", "It's pretty warm out even for summer" and "change not chance"
Soft Touch Arts / Photo: Joe Crofton

Resilience through relationships with communities and audiences

 Some parts of the cultural sector have contributed to harmful, extractive economic growth, whether in active ways such as designing fast fashion, or encouraging flight-based tourism, or more passive ways such as failing to criticise the status quo or offer alternatives to it. Now there are many opportunities for cultural practitioners and organisations to steer a shift from harmful growth to healing abundance in bioregions.

  • Inspire and support transition of communities to more equal, green, healthy and locally sufficient economies. Help the community shift from dependence on high carbon, biodiversity-harming ways of living to a state of resilience. 
  • Promote and practise regenerative design in place-making, and eco-innovation for a circular economy. 
  • Imagining, inventing, designing, promoting and investing in sustainable products and services, mainstreaming a more regenerative economy. 
speakers at a demonstration
“Back the Bill, Protect our Futures” letter being delivered to MPs and spoken by young people from Culture Declares Emergency in September 2020. The letter was written by over 25 young people, from various Letters to the Earth collected 18 months.

TASK:

How can you be a site of activation?

Discuss with colleagues how you might offer space to your community to be a site of activation and imagination.

  • How can we help the community transition from dependence on harmful systems? 
  • What programmes or relationships can we draw on to make this happen? 
  • What would be the barriers?

RESOURCES FOR THIS TASK

Explore the role of culture in making change

  • Culture can play an active role in the transition to greener and more local economies, helping people gain a ‘sense of place’ and feel able to imagine possible futures. Try out some small experiments. Invite eco-social arts practitioners to share their practice in these areas.
  • Connect your normal practice with other kinds of culture: Outdoor arts, intangible heritage, citizen science and social media projects can raise appreciation and stewardship of biodiversity, green space and infrastructure for resilience to extreme weather.

Focus on the needs of people in a place

  • How can you promote and support local self-sufficiency, acknowledging the basic importance of food, water, energy and shelter in people’s education and activism?
  • Can you support regenerative forms of place-making, giving a new meaning to the ‘regeneration’ of localities, forms not about enabling investors and developers to gain wealth?

How political can you be?

  • Get involved in your local council’s work on climate action. Ask them to declare an emergency, and if they have, support their emergency response.
  • Announce your aim to provide cultural services as an alternative to consumerism, while also considering how you might support people in poverty who are unable to enjoy a materialistic lifestyle.

Hold space for public discussion

  • Perhaps bring together different groups such as farmers and teachers, or campaigners and high street shop owners? Plan it so that there is a follow-up action, to implement a practical response.
  • Find out about participatory democracy and organise ways for local citizens to be more involved in decision-making, whether about new developments, housing, equalities, refugee support policies, health, education, culture, green spaces or transport. All these areas can involve decisions that are more planet friendly, or resilient to climate impacts.
  • Happy Museum Project: this has a ten year history of empowering workers in museums and beyond in building relationships with communities for the wellbeing of people, place and planet. 
  • A Just Transition: a model for the economic and social systems for an equitable society. The process of getting there has to repair the harm of living under an exploitative economic system from austerity to enabling oil companies to carry out neo-colonialism. 
  • Doughnut Economics Action Lab: the Doughnut offers a vision of what it means for humanity to thrive in the 21st century, and Doughnut Economics explores the mindset and ways of thinking needed to get us there. The Action Lab offers resources for doughnut thinking to be applied in places. 
  • The Transition Network: this is a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. Most local hubs are called Transition Towns. 
  • Radical Transition Alliance: evidence-based hope for transition, because the climate is changing faster than we are. 
  • Carbon Copy: showcasing low-carbon success stories at a local level. 

Further links

  • The Eden Project is generating geothermal energy to sell to local businesses. This builds on more than 2 decades of creating employment and produce that is educational and ecologically beneficial for Cornwall and other places they partner with. 
  • Eco-museums can be found all over the world. They are community-led museums that aim to sustain and promote particular landscapes and the heritage associated with them, and they sustain themselves by selling crafts, workshops, tours and other things that benefit the place they care about.
  • Fab City aims to collectively build a more sustainable and inhabitable new world,through opening public digital fabrication makerspaces in the hearts of cities, towns and villages. The idea is to be able to provide citizens with all the resources they need without compromising the planet’s ecosystems. 
  • Bioneers: For 30 years, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of game-changing social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. 
  • Centre for Alternative Technology: offers practical solutions and hands-on learning to help create a zero-carbon world. 
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation: promoting and nurturing the circular economy. 
  • Design for Planet: an initiative of the Design Council, including an annual festival. 
  • Flourish: Design Paradigms for our Planetary Emergency: a book by Michael Pawlyn and Sarah Ichioka.

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