How can we tap creativity as a renewable resource to power community transformation?
There are some things most people share, despite our differences. Highest among them is that we all want to live in a healthy, safe and thriving place. However, despite decades of investment across multiple sectors of community development, many communities are struggling today more than ever. Could we do better?
In 2018 we worked with Springboard for the Arts to develop a new framework for understanding how supporting grassroots creative agency helps build strong, healthy, and resilient communities. Drawing on cutting-edge research and practice from creative placemaking, community development and grassroots organizing, Creative People Power is an approach to creativity-driven community development that is both timely and enduring.
Listen to Laura Zabel from Springboard talk about Creative People Power on the radio, or keep reading for more.
For decades, the community development sector focused on addressing issues and problems on a sector-by-sector basis, through expert-led processes and top-down structures. Today, however, we know that that communities are dynamic, interconnected wholes, that can't be separated into isolated parts or problems to be solved. Community change practitioners are beginning to think of communities more like living ecosystems to be cultivated, rather than machines to be managed.
Community developers are beginning to see that even struggling communities aren't just defined by what they lack, but have many existing assets that can be supported for community benefit. Most important among these “natural resources” is the creative ideas and energy of community residents, which can be activated and mobilized towards community building.
Cultivating creative people power is essential to sustained community health because it means people keep improving the places where they live on an ongoing basis, whether or not major top-down investments or plans are being implemented. Creativity--of artists and everyday people--means that these grassroots civic initiatives are more likely to be imaginative and engaging, and get beyond the status quo of conventional solutions.
Creative people power is a latent resource in all communities, but it isn’t always immediately visible or directed towards community change efforts. As with other sources of renewable energy, such as wind or solar, mobilizing creative people power requires two steps: first, recognizing its value, and then creating the systems to channel it towards community impact.
Structurally, harnessing creative people power requires things like:
- Hubs and homes for creative people and ideas to incubate and grow
- Support for creative people to make a living and a life
- Support for the implementation of creative ideas, both big and small
- The presence of artists at civic tables
Curious about how to bring creative people power to your community? Read the report for questions and tips including:
- Assessing where there may be natural hubs and homes for creative civic activity in your community.
- Identifying supportive resources that currently exist for other residents that could be adapted for artists.
- Thinking about how can we provide incentives, or remove barriers, to enable people to quickly and easily put their creative ideas into action.