Creative Change

September 8, 2009 2 Comments

Last weekend I was honored to facilitate “Creative Change 2009“, a retreat convening for the Opportunity Agenda in Telluride Colorado.  I was awe struck by the beauty of the Rockies as well as by the way retreat participants demonstrated a willingness to grapple with questions at the intersection of arts, media and social change.  The Opportunity Agenda team did a phenomenal job of bringing the right people into the space while also planning an agenda that lent itself to generative thought, rejuvenation and relationship building.

I was particularly appreciative of the resistance and reaction to any wording that forced a separation between artist and activist.  Now let me be clear, some of the conversations that we had would not have made as much progress if we had made no effort to sift through the differences – while most artists present also considered themselves activists, not every activist is ready to consider herself an artist.  However, even when the distinction was practical, many participants reacted negatively to having to make that choice.  It is my opinion that this bodes well for movement.

There are powerful technical fixes, there are lessons we have learned about how to influence positive social change that we should continue to apply and replicate.  If there is a clear set of steps that we know how to take in order to pursue a winnable policy initiative, then we should take those steps!  But there are also many places where we are stuck, many needed changes that don’t seem to want to happen – popular uprisings against health care reform are just one example, the state of urban schools and violence in our urban neighborhoods are other important examples of complex and seemingly intractable problems.

These are the problems that can only be addressed at the intersection of fields, in nonlinear, iterative ways that refuse to conform to strategic planning formats.  These problems demand all of our creativity, as much as they demand our technical skills and heart commitment.  The intersections I’m talking about call forth the artist in each one of us, because the artist steps into creative power and does so in the form of inquiry as much as in the form of answer.  In the words of one of the participants “you can’t legislate a change in culture, you have to create that change.”

2 Comments

  • Linda says:

    I love this Gibràn. Am reminded also of a very powerful session at the convening on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace – where people talked about the importance of art in social justice and peace work – that in many global contexts where it is dangerous to say things, art (including song) starts to make the shift.

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