Creative Resilience through Community Imaginings

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

Abstract

How might practices that stress imagination and connection inspire transformational agency and build communities' resilience in the face of environmental challenges and opportunities? The question, which brings together nine researchers from academia and civil society organizations, is the basis of this development proposal to generate a full-scale set of methods and approaches with which to begin to find an answer. It addresses head-on intractable problems that environmental social scientists have been attempting to tackle and which don't readily have a scientific solution, but are inherently context-based and culturally specific. We research the production of a practical method of engagement, informed by theories of performance and aesthetics, to contribute to knowledge on dealing with environmental change in the social, cultural and economic realms.

Evidence suggests that environmental crisis narratives, rather than spur people to take action, prompt feelings of anxiety, helplessness and disempowerment. Ultimately these narratives may serve to foster apathy and denial, discouraging people from considering alternatives or taking control. Behaviour change interventions, also aimed at encouraging environmentally-considerate behaviour, have tended to ignore concerns about status, ethical values and beliefs, identity, quality of life and fun, thereby stripping life of much that people value. This project addresses the need for a step-change in society's notion of everyday life (ie the small achievements and intuitions that provide our compass) to take account of a future with distinctly different environment, opportunities, and states of uncertainty. We will build a programme of work to address the scale and forms of change needed and to co-develop a change process that accounts for the factors that make life manageable and worth living. We take communities rather than individuals as our principal focus for inspiring creative resilience. The particular quality of this resilience is that it will withstand hardships and tensions arising out of the changes expected, but also respond ingeniously to solving the problems such change throws up. In this way, the proposal addresses not the changes needed, but the need for responsiveness to ongoing change and a strong sense that we are all future-making all of the time in all our actions.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?

Since it is a short development project, the principal beneficiaries will be the immediate participants, which includes two community partners at present and will include more as the project is intended to build capacity. If we look at the potential of the wider project, the scope of impact increases substantially....

In the short-term (i.e. during the large project itself) beneficiaries will include the communities and project participants, local authorities, local strategic partnerships, parish and town councils, and third sector organizations involved with environmental and climate change issues.

In the medium-term, beneficiaries will include policy makers at the national level and in relevant government departments (Defra, DECC, DCLG), and in agencies specifically concerned with the impact of environmental change on communities (such as the Sustainable Communities arm of the Homes and Communities Agency).


How will they benefit from this research?

The answer to this question can be divided in two: those who will benefit from the research findings, and those who will benefit from the research process.

Research findings relate to the role of creative- and imagination-based strategies for creating resilience in the face of environmental change. These findings will improve environment-related public policy through analyzing the extent to which practices informed by theories of performance and aesthetics can enhance resilience in communities. Some of these benefits will be almost immediate - i.e. during the lifetime of the project. Community participants, for example, should experience enhanced resilience by the end of the project. Other benefits may take longer to establish - for example those outlined in the medium term category described earlier.

The research process will involve the development of skills that will benefit participants in the medium to long term. Individual researchers brought into the project, such as Research Assistants, will have the opportunity to develop qualitative and quantitative research and teamwork skills that will benefit them in future research-related projects. The central modus operandum of building communities of practice will benefit community participants by engaging and empowering them in the design of resilience practices. University-based researchers and third sector partners will learn how to work more closely together by synergizing their respective expertise.

What will be done to ensure that they benefit from this research?

The community beneficiaries will be engaged throughout the project as actual participants, and the co-production commitment will extend to communication activities themselves. User guides aimed at intended beneficiaries outside the community groups will be produced by the end of the project.

Other beneficiaries in the short-term (and beyond) group will be engaged through the setting up of steering groups. The project website will be a source of communication to all beneficiary groups throughout the life of the project and beyond. The project will end with a workshop to which representatives of the beneficiaries named above will be invited.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This small development grant was awarded to enable a group of academics and community partners to gather, research, extend and refine the ideas set out in their original bid with the purpose of writing a larger one to produce substantive findings. Modelling the way what we work with others, we ran two workshops using participatory and experiential processes to learn about our common vision. This produced a significant amount of new thinking in the group, documented in the many engagement outputs and changes in practice, but the final bid for a bigger pot was unsuccessful.
Exploitation Route The impact of the collective vision on partners was profound, but as yet we have found no way to taking the thinking into a broader domain. This is often a problem with avant garde research and there needs to be further iterations before a good formula for attracting funding is secured.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description We have seen a shift in the confidence and thinking of community partners and academics in this research team, particularly embracing the use of arts and humanities methodology for social scientific, scientific and environmental ends and taking this out to work with their partners and new clients. This tiny project punched above its weight internally but has been unable to scale this impact as it was not funded at the next round.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Connected Communities Catalyst Funding
Amount £3,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 04/2018
 
Description Pilot Funding
Amount £47,400 (GBP)
Organisation Imperial College London 
Department Sustainable Society Network+
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description Small Grants
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation Imperial College London 
Department Sustainable Society Network+
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2014 
End 11/2014
 
Description Be We Do runs Festival of Social Science workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Community partner Be We Do says 'our collaboration also informed a Festival of Social Science event I am co-designing/delivering with University of Sheffield dept of Psychology and the Management School about sustainable consumption and behavior change "Put a better foot forward" (run early November)

Further traction for arts based methods of thinking about climate change
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Be We Do wins contract 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Be We Do, a community partner, says: 'our work together directly informed a training contract I am delivering for Arts Council England, promoting a creative response to environmental sustainability as an integral part of a resilience programme being delivered to over 50 cultural organisations in East London and Birmingham.'

new work for environmental consultancy and spread of creative methodology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Informed Be We Do's new consultancy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Community partner Be We Do says 'The thinking we did together also directly informing the shaping of a new training and consulting partnership I am setting up. We will be launching early in the new year - so any leads in supporting organisations and communities grow within finite limits and develop resilience skills and literacy are much appreciated:
"We use creative processes to engage teams at all levels in designing your organisation for the future. We support your growth within finite

Be We Do has clearer vision of offering and greater motivation to act on it
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Informs academic partner's next bid 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Academic partner has developed AHRC bid called 'Dirty Laundry' - Live Drama, Climate Change and Public Engagement, influenced by our collaboration, who says: 'I'll be putting in a bid to the AHRC, exploring the potential of live drama for engaging 'the public' with issues around climate change.

New interests in academic partner
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Sniffer changed their practice 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Environmental charity Sniffer says: 'I would say that our collaboration has influenced my practice working with community-facing organisations. We are just planning some work with a community in north Glasgow and will, hopefully, be incorporating the activities of the community walking group and the photography group as part of our process.'

Change in methods and engagement with arts practices as a result of exposure to methodology of project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Sniffer volunteer action as result of project engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Environmental charity SNIFFER, a community partner, says engagement in project 'personally, it encouraged me to be part of a local climate challenge funded community project in a voluntary capacity, with the Himalayan Arts Centre in North Edinburgh, and this is taking a creative approach to thinking about place, sustainability and climate'.

new volunteer activity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014