This is the sixth in our ‘Thinking about environmental sustainability’ blog series and focuses on collaboration and place-based working.
Although there is no specific question about collaboration and place-based working in Creative Scotland’s Multi-Year Funding or other funding programme application processes, these ways of working are essential to strong action on climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are the product of complex systems and ways of being that individuals and single organisations cannot fully change on their own – collaborative work is required.
Strong communities are a central plank of climate change adaptation policies around the world, including those of the Scottish Government, and cultural and creative organisations and practitioners can help build and maintain these strong communities through place-based working. This blog will provide some examples of existing work and routes to new areas of work for cultural organisations and practitioners.
Read blog #1 – introduction to the series.
Read blog #2 – on mitigation.
Read blog #3 – on adaptation.
Read blog #4 – on climate change and arts programming.
Read blog #5 – on climate justice.
In this blog:
- The strategic background
- Place-based working
- Local assemblies and 20-minute neighbourhoods
The strategic background
Creative Scotland’s Climate Emergency & Sustainability Plan recognises the importance of collaborative working. As well as internally focused actions for Creative Scotland itself, the sub-action 16.3 on page 19 reads as follows:
‘16.3 Build a roster of culture and creative organisations working on climate change, EDI or other potentially relevant topics with whom partnership working might be appropriate or beneficial.’
And the broader description of the plan focuses (page 12) on the contribution that culture and creative organisations and practitioners can make:
‘Collaboration is a core skill in many cultural fields. Artists can facilitate difficult conversations and can elicit emotions, which are often squeezed out of more technical debates. Cultural organisations reach enormous and diverse audiences and can provide buildings and spaces for events, conversation and communal, collective thinking and learning. The declaration from the 2021 meeting of Culture Ministers from the G20¹ recognised the importance of culture in addressing climate change, whilst the UN’s Race to Resilience project includes culture as one of its official elements, demonstrating interest from the climate change side.
‘Climate impacts are felt differently across Scotland and strong communities are proven to be more resilient to the challenges that climate change is bringing. This aligns with our own collaborative and partnership work on Place and the community-building effect that strong cultural organisations have in villages, towns, regions and cities.
‘We will strengthen the role of culture and creativity and their role in addressing the climate emergency by actively seeking and supporting partnerships with people and organisations in other sectors who are working on climate change.’
Place-based working is nothing new to many of Scotland’s cultural organisations. Creative Carbon Scotland produced a report describing the thread from David Harding’s work as Town Artist for Glenrothes New Town in the 1970s through to organisations such as The Stove, North Edinburgh Arts, the Beacon in Greenock and others today. Culture Collective provides a raft of examples of community-focused and -led arts work during the pandemic.
Creative Scotland’s Climate Emergency and Sustainability Plan highlights the need for transformational change throughout society in order to meet the net-zero target and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Within the cultural sector, consideration of what place-based working might mean for an organisation may provide a route to successful transformational thinking about not only how it does what it currently does more efficiently, but what it does to achieve its artistic, environmental, financial and social aims. This will clearly mean different things to different organisations: an urban concert hall or large gallery in the central belt will have a different concept of place and relationships with a wider set of communities than a community-focused arts centre in rural Scotland.
There is also an intersection with EDI: Which are the marginalised communities in your area, and how will they be affected by climate change impacts and mitigation efforts – for good or ill? Is there an opportunity to extend your organisation’s relationships with communities that you don’t currently work with, building audiences and your usefulness to your local authority, with the support that goes along with that?
Local assemblies and 20-minute neighbourhoods
Creative Carbon Scotland’s Climate Beacons project and SPRINGBOARD local assemblies for creative climate action are ways in which we facilitate collaboration at a local level, bringing cultural, climate change, community and public organisations together to ensure that culture is included in the local climate discussion. If you want to join an existing group or host an assembly, get in touch.
We believe that culture has a valuable contribution to make to the development of 20-minute neighbourhoods. The Place Standard tool now has a climate lens and may be a useful resource for your organisation to use when collaborating with your community. The Place Standard says: ‘Good place-making is essential for designing a robust local response to the climate emergency, such as taking local action to cut emissions and to increase resilience to local climate change impacts. The climate lens can help you to consider how the impacts and influence of climate change will play out in a local area.’
Collaboration at a different level is at the heart of Creative Carbon Scotland’s culture/SHIFT work. We have worked with agencies and public bodies from the resilience charity Sniffer to NatureScot and Climate Ready Clyde – a consortium of eight local authorities, two universities and others. We embed artists in these climate change projects, usually employing freelancers but sometimes acting ourselves as the embedded artist as well as bringing arts organisations and practitioners into the project. The artists here are not employed to make art – this is not a residency, which organisations other than Creative Carbon Scotland are much better equipped to facilitate – but to bring their skills, knowledge, ways of working, contacts and creativity to the table alongside the engineers, economists, project managers and others who are typically here.
Our organisational plan includes an aim to make this sort of working normal, not just something that we do ourselves – building awareness within the climate change world of culture’s potential contribution, and at the same time building capacity and capabilities within the cultural sector to fulfil a growing demand. No-one really knows how to reach net zero or how to adapt to the impacts of climate change and these projects need culture’s help.
For more examples of this work, see our current projects Transforming Audience Travel Through Art and Creative Climate Futures. Note that this sort of project is nearly always funded not from limited culture funds but from the larger budgets of public bodies and climate change generally. Creative Ireland’s €3m Creative Climate Action fund was joint funded by the Irish government’s climate change and cultural departments (not the Irish Arts Council) and was extended to €5m owing to the success of a first round and the ambition and imagination of the climate/cultural partnerships that applied. Let’s make the case for an equivalent programme in Scotland!
(Top image ID: Wavy lines in varying shades of green with the text ‘BLOG SERIES: Thinking about environmental sustainability #6’.)
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