Real change happens from below: Supporting social movements


Do you want to see the change? Are you committed to a cause? There are so many battles to be won and so many injustices in our society – and most of us in the arts sector want to have a positive influence on these. How do we get there and what can we learn from movements for change?

Change is driven by passionate people with clear purpose

We can start by supporting existing movements and learning from them to help us bring about our own change – whether in our organisations, our sector, our communities or our wider spheres of influence.

There is no formal definition of what a movement for change is, but here is a definition that works for me: “Social movements are formed and propelled by people who believe that their rights are being violated and who, therefore, are forced to organize around common problems and shared identities to obtain redress. By acting together, people from communities historically excluded from power are more likely to have influence than people acting individually.

Social movements for change are most often born of individuals and groups of individuals who have lived through the experience of injustice. If we start from a more privileged position, we need to think carefully about how we use that privilege to sustain, grow, or birth change.

Clarity of purpose

One thing successful movements have in common is clarity of purpose: they can all clearly communicate the change they want to bring about. The mission of the Women’s March, for example, is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Their call to action is clear: “Join the movement: we are marching. We are mobilizing. We are making history”. Similarly, the TIME’S UP movement against sexual harassment insists on “safe, fair and dignified work for women of all kinds”.

These two groups are also moving from words and debate to positive action.

Developing change from the bottom up

The 2017 Nesta report “We are changing the world” states that “when a social movement grows, it spreads a vision and a set of collective actions to achieve it, as opposed to traditional change programs that encourage adoption of an intervention, product, service or program”. The latter describes how many change programs work in the cultural sector. We see a challenge, create a program to deal with it, and implement that program, often trying to involve “communities” that have had no input into the activity designed to bring about change.

If we want to make real change, we need to find others who share our need – then work together to craft a vision, build a community, and grow a business from scratch. This means a change of approach for many of us and for many of our funders.

Work with your community

Nina Simon, Spacemaker and CEO of the US-based network OF/BY/FOR ALL, worked with colleagues to test ways in which organizations and the people within them can bring about change in their communities and/or support change in the people around them. are trying to do. During her tenure as CEO of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Nina established a global movement dedicated to ensuring that cultural organizations become of, by, and for their communities.

When we work in organizations we can choose how we want to develop our programs, but Nina emphasizes that “you have to be of/by/for all if you are working with marginalized or oppressed communities. Because when you work with communities that have been chronically disempowered, chronically oppressed, if you don’t work for and through them, you are contributing to their oppression.”

OF/BY/FOR ALL is supported by the AMA and we share the work from the movement on AMAculturehive. To get an overview of your organization’s successes and challenges in being of, by, and for your community, you can complete this 7-minute self-assessment.

Learn from success

Organizations I watch with awe include Julie’s Bicycle, which helps the creative community take action on climate change and environmental sustainability. Their vision is a creative community powering action on climate change. Built on a collective vision of the future where “festivals were powered by solar energy, venues were off the grid and covered in flowers, museums were community power providers, artists were united as beacons of change “, they have become in 12 years a positive, impactful force for change.

Their successful partnership work seems to be driven by their clarity of vision. When times are tough, we must resist the temptation to create partnerships that may help us meet short-term challenges but distract us from our long-term vision.

Museum Detox is an impressive network of BAME museum and heritage professionals. They serve as a “catalyst toward recognition, value, and respect for shared cultural agency and the 21st century audiences we all serve.” This network, run entirely by volunteers, has quickly become an influential movement that is bringing about real change. As individuals and as a collective, Museum Detox has raised and advanced critical questions about our industry.

Next steps

So what can we do? We can support, make space and learn from these movements. It is exhilarating and inspiring to see the change that is driven by the many collective movements around us. And what can we learn? Let this change be led by passionate people, who have a clear purpose and see the impact when they build a network around them.

Above all, start now – use your position, time and influence to find your own way to be part of the growth of these movements and make a positive difference.

Cath Hume is CEO of the Arts Marketing Association.

TW: @CathHume | @amadigital

This article, sponsored and contributed by AMAculturehive, is part of a series of online library resource sharing and learning for the sector.


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