Creative Dundee

Ripple Effects Report: Creativity and Climate Justice

Illustrations by Chloe Gardiner

We’re pleased to share Ripple Effects: Reflections and Learning from CULTIVATE, a collaborative report with learning partner tialt to reflect and share more about CULTIVATE’s approaches, processes and impacts.

As an organisation that has evolved and grown in response to the challenges and opportunities facing creative communities, we know that these same communities are often leading the way on fairness and social justice.

When COVID-19 hit, we all saw how much it accelerated the detrimental challenges facing communities, highlighting fractures in our current ways of living and working. System change is often talked about as the thing that’s needed in our world right now – for us it felt critical to take practical action that could show how creativity holds space for collective change.

Back in 2020, Creative Dundee had grown roots from starting as a blog to becoming an organisation that ran events, peer leadership and skills exchange projects; this shift gave us confidence in our capability to take and support this practical action, and also build on our own internal practices.

When a funding call for participatory arts projects shaped by local communities alongside artists and creative organisations was launched, we jumped at the chance to submit an application. Our intention was to design a programme which resourced creative practitioners and engaged local communities through creativity in social and climate justice issues. It was key for us to ensure that those most likely to face the negative impacts of the climate emergency had agency alongside the creative practitioners.

Cultivating CULTIVATE

Over three years since launching the project in 2021, we’ve been designing and leading CULTIVATE: a pilot project which brought together creative practitioners and communities to explore climate justice in practical and meaningful ways across the Tay region. CULTIVATE was launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued through the recovery period, funded by Creative Scotland’s Culture Collective.

Over this time Creative Dundee has shared blog posts and public events that invited people to learn more about the project – and to ensure that broader learning could be captured, collated and shared widely, we commissioned tialt // there is an alternative as a learning partner for the second and final phase of CULTIVATE.

tialt used creative methods – such as experience mapping, active listening activities, relational objects and more – to develop human-centred insights into the wide ranging impacts CULTIVATE had.

The final report, Ripple Effects, explores key learning and aims to provide insights into six of the commissioned projects, by focusing on the artists and communities who undertook them. It features a set of recommendations including boundary setting and addressing the emotional weight of working in social engaged art practices.

Key learnings and themes

The key learnings emphasise the importance of time for trust-building, respect in artist communities, evolving plans, safe(r) space creation, fair artist compensation, and advocacy power. Key themes that emerged across the commissions were: 

You can read more about each theme in the report, including: how power dynamics, inequalities and intersectionality shape individuals’ experiences and interactions with climate justice; the importance of creative thinking in envisioning and working towards a more just world; and how artists create spaces for connection and conversation, produce artworks that reflect the experiences of participants, and contribute to the envisioning of better futures.

We believe this learning is valuable for continued advocacy and to inform future policy decisions, emphasising the vital role of artists and creative practitioners in shaping a better future.

Across the Tay region, CULTIVATE:

The work continues

Creative Dundee continues to take an active role in climate and social justice projects which root creativity as core, including being a partner of Dundee’s Changemakers Hub which offers support, events, workshops and micro-grants to connect and amplify collective community action.

As part of the Hub we also piloted Press Change, a youth community journalism project which supported a small cohort of young people to develop their skills, confidence and agency. Over 10 days, five young people and five creative practitioners came together to explore local issues and opportunities for greater social and climate justice across Dundee.

“I was like something is going on in there and I poked my head in… I just felt super at home here… I found my safe space… it’s a place I can just be comfortable being myself, that’s what it is for me… finding this place I can just come in and be me… I don’t need to hide who I am around anybody.”

Young Participant

“I have learned to be patient… and to put trust in other people… she [the artist] never loses her patience… she handles situations with so much coolness… I have started to let go of so many pressures [as a result]…”

Community Organiser

Creative Dundee’s ambition for CULTIVATE was to pioneer a model which resourced creative practitioners and communities across the Tay region to navigate climate justice through creativity and community connection. CULTIVATE was designed and led by Creative Dundee, enabled by Culture Collective, over 2021–2023.

Creative Dundee extends deep thanks to everyone who has been involved in pioneering CULTIVATE: creative practitioners, communities, and partners across the Tay region.

Ripple Effects acknowledgements:

CULTIVATE identity: Tommy Perman
Report illustrations: Chloe Gardiner
Report photography: Hamish Grady, Holly Quinn and Lu Kemp
Report learning partner and design: tialt // there is an alternative 
CULTIVATE enabled by: Creative Scotland, Culture Collective, Dundee City Council and Perth & Kinross Council

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