Creativity and Social Movements

Social movements and creativity

Social Movements and Creativity

by Janette Searle of The Playground


I emerged from my bubble of self involvement in my own life because I thought it was about time I really had a good look at what was happening around the world.  To tell the truth my first instinct was to go straight back into my my bubble.  Had the world gone mad while I was busy with my self involvement?  Had I been that self involved for that long that I didn't notice it happening.


This is what I discovered in the first ten minutes of emerging from the bubble:  weapons of mass destruction of one country put on display for the population of another; radiation from broken nuclear power plants spreading across the norther hemisphere at alarming speed, a father throwing his child off a bridge to get 'even' with her mother, prisoners with hi def television and roast meals whilst our elders go hungry and die from cold because they can't afford the huge increases in power and food, that 60% of the workforce occupy their time with jobs they hate, not just dislike but hate, and the list goes on.  Enough to put anyone into a state of panic and depression.  


Then what struck me on the 11th minute was the dire need for a major social movement, reclaiming the core values of a humanity that actually cared.   In the 12th minute I realised what potential creativity has in this massive social movement and reflected on some of the efforts toward this that I knew about already.


Stories of our own, a yet to be released documentary by film maker Serena Stevenson documents the efforts of two people from the North East of India who use a music festival to provide a point of connection for the youth in an attempt to provide them with something outside the curfews and conflict that control their lives.


Drift, a social movement focused on mental health and wellbeing that believes that we all have mental health just like we have physical health and sometimes we have issues with it.  Sometimes they're a life long and require medical intervention, and sometimes they are a blip on the radar of life.  Through connection, expression and creativity we have an opportunity to share experience and support each other, improve our mental wellbeing, and connect with each other and our purpose which go a long way toward flourishing.


The power of creativity is huge.  Through creativity we tap into our full selves and the result can be healing, transforming on a personal, social and global level.   But creativity is not just about the arts, its about a way of thinking and being.  Its about not accepting the status quo, asking and creating questions that often don't have answers, and then finding a number of different answers for those.  That type of thinking requires practice and to be able to practice it requires acceptance. 


I'm a great admirer of Sir Ken Robinson who speaks about the need for our education systems to start treating creativity with the same level of importance as numeracy and literacy.  That we educate our young out of their creativity through the archaic education system we currently employ which was set up for the Industrial revolution, which we've now moved past.   As a mother of four boys I appreciate his topic hugely.  One of my boys is hugely creative and the 'system' insists that he has ADHD and want to treat him out of his creativity.   I suspect my youngest will experience the same from the 'system'.  When in fact boys like them, or rather people like them, simply need an education system that allows them to learn and express that learning in a way that works for them. 


It's not just the education system that requires a transformation.  Moving on to business practice, the standard systems we operate, the mass marketed what I like to call 'MacDonald's' approach to business, is a methodology that is rapidly becoming suitable for a very small niche of the economy.  While we are still in the middle of a perspective that product and money are 'all', some businesses are rapidly discovering that it is actually people that make their business, even if its a factory making razor blades (not only do you have the workers, but you have those who are buying the product, even razor blades are all about the people.) 

In order to do exceptionally well we need to look after our people, engage with them mentally physically and emotionally, provide a full experience.  Branding experts have been on to this for some time, but its taking a while for it to sink in to those that run businesses.  Kevin Roberts from Saatchi and Saatchi has been talking about 'love marks' for years.  It would appear that the advertising, branding and marketing world have caught on, but that also needs to be understood by the business owners in relation to their own internal business not just their customer.  


Where does creativity come in to business practice.  Its about thinking creatively about how we engage in our business and connect with everyone involved in it.  Look at everything and find a way to make it better or different so that it connects in a way that has a more positive effect on the people involved. 

For example,  Lightgeist have recently presented to the NZ Institute of Architect members about the effect of light on the health and wellbeing of people.  That the natural light of morning, day, evening and night have an effect on our circadian rhythms which affects our wellbeing.   The lighting of a home and work space have the ability to affect our circadian rhythms and so our health and well being.  So businesses have an ability to improve their workers health, wellbeing, attitude and potentially productivity through the right lighting. 


Another example is working hours and places.  With the development of technology and communications we have the ability to provide flexiblity in how and when we work.  The Playground Creative Project Managements works specifically with the creative sector and understands the need for flexibility to ensure clients needs are met at a time and place that works best for them.  They run a remote office which allows them to work where ever and when ever they want and need to.   The systems used allow for a working day that isn't often nine to five, the equipment used allows for flexibilty, and most importantly the attitude that work is a part of our life, not all of our life, means that everyone that works for the Playground has the flexibility required to allow for their lives to run in the most satisfying way for them.


Those are just two examples, and there are a million more.  the point is that through an openess to be creative we can find a tailored approach that works for us.  As the wise folk at Diversityworks are professing, that while each of us may share common experiences we also have unique experiences, and that is a great thing.  Accept and allow for that and the world could potentially be a better place to be.



Then I came across this book which I'm now dying to read:

Play, Creativity, and Social Movements

If I Can't Dance, It’s Not My Revolution

By Benjamin Shepard

Published 31st March 2011 by Routledge – 320 pages

"As we play, we step away from stark reality to conjure up new possibilities for the present and our common future. Today, a new cohort of social activists are using it to create social change and reinvent democratic social relations. In contrast to work or routine, play must be free. To the extent that it is, it infuses a high-octane burst of innovation into any number of organizational practices and contexts, and invites social actors to participate in a low-threshold, highly democratic process of collaboration, based on pleasure and convivial social relations. Despite the contention that such activities are counterproductive, movements continue to put the right to party on the table as a part of a larger process of social change, as humor and pleasure disrupt monotony, while disarming systems of power."

Posted: Wednesday 30 March 2011


And because we like to play and muck around - check these out - just a bit of fun!