A wet Battersea day saw a group of passionate and committed people coming together around a table to discuss the 28 applications received as part of the first round of Co-Creating Change Commissions. Sustained by tea, coffee and fruit and expertly chaired by Hilary Jennings, the panel jumped straight in with a discussion around the applications that had stood out for them and which they wanted to advocate and support. From the onset, what was incredible, given that this was the first round of applications, was the amount of consensus there was around the table and within an hour a number of things began to emerge.
The applications that spoke to the panel shared a number of characteristics. They were authentic and honest, the voices of the people who were the co-creators of the bid resonated and they were ambitious but not over-claiming. Where change was being proposed at both individual and systemic levels and where there was a real need – even an urgency – the application felt strong. Where there was a genuine commitment to reflection and learning and the people proposing the project genuinely ‘owned’ the process of change and wanted to make that change the panel were enthused.
Those that were not as strong, highlighted several challenges that the Network faces. Just to highlight two of these:
- There is an apparent disconnect between what projects are proposing doing and the civic society structures, statutory structures and agencies and the ecology or system within which the project would operate. Projects are operating at a micro level and not affecting the macro level – operating horizontally not vertically. People are thinking about the context and the environment but it is questionable whether we will affect it whilst working in this way. And if that is the case will be be able to generate any policy change? Very few proposed projects connected to other sectors beyond the arts and where they did, they were proposing doing something that should probably be being supported by those other agencies. The challenge here is to find ways to work in partnership with other sectors to maximize existing resources (not replace them) and add value through genuine cross sector working and a shared commitment to change.
- The interpretation of co-creation differs greatly between us all. “Levels” of co-creation differed greatly across the applications – some proposed projects were great engagement programmes – but were not pushing the boundaries to move beyond engagement (working with people) to thinking more about who your co-creators are and what the benefits of the project are to them (a more deep-rooted process).
By the end of the meeting, five very different applications were selected which will hopefully demonstrate different approaches and processes, test ways of working and generate learning that can be shared across the sector. They will hopefully help to start “defining the territory in a more nuanced way” and they will also hopefully lead to change for those involved.
– Susanne Burns, Co-Creating Change project evaluator
The commissioning panel for this round of Co-Creating Change Project Commissions was made up of the following people:
- Hilary Jennings (Happy Musuem) – Chair
- Malik Gull (Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network)
- Carolyn Hassan (Knowle West Media Centre)
- Kirtis Clarke (Arnolfini)
- Chrissie Tiller (Independent)
In attendance: Liz Moreton (Battersea Arts Centre)
Observing: Susanne Burns (Evaluator)