The series cumulated in an exhibition of the participants work.
The series cumulated in an exhibition of the participants work.
I visited the inspiring non-profit, non-institutional fine art school, Arte Moris in Dili in Jan 2010. Set in the crumbling ruins of an old Indonesian museum, around 15 artists live and create there in all manner of eclectically decorated studios and labyrinthine rooms. They run series of art classes for local youth and children - providing a rare chance for young people to learn creative techniques.
The school accepts photographers and artists to work with the local artists, so I ran several workshops in photography and digital imagining for the artists, and donated some cameras so they could introduce more photography into their work.
Arte Moris website
The live-in artists
This research project formed part of the transformational learning subject in my Social Ecology masters. It explores my interest in people's own view of their ability to make positive social change. To do this I wrote and disseminated a brief online survey to approximately 30 (largely) self-identified social change agents.
- Their collated anonymous full responses can be found here.
- I analysed these responses and wrote a research paper that can be found here.
- If you would like to take the survey itself, or know a friend who might, the survey is still current and the link is here.
- Brief question: How do you currently 'create positive change' in the world?
- Brief question: What 'world(s)' do you create this change in?
- Brief question: What does 'positive change' mean for you personally in these context(s)?
- In the context of your replies above, how would you currently describe your own agency - your capacity to change the world for the better?
- Describe one or two specific key transformational experience(s) in your life that changed your perception of your own ability to make positive change? How did these changes occur?
- How much of an factor were group or social interactions compared with your own individual growth in these experiences? Please explain.
- Please reflect on your experience of completing this survey. How did the process of articulating your experiences and self-perceptions makes you feel? Does it reinforce or weaken particular self-beliefs?
The iMap community mapping project was created to record and reveal the varied layers of experience that people have in a place, in this case, Melbourne CBD. iMap was unique and innovative in the way that it worked to simultaneously foster community whilst creating and facilitating experimental art forms.
The use of a large-scale map of the Central Business District to collect stories and anecdotes of peoples’ experiences in the city created both a multilayered installation art piece and an innovative forum for the collection and decimation of community experiences and oral history. In addition the projects combined use of voice recordings, workshops and audience participation extended both the creative boundaries of the project and its’ ability to involve and engage the community.
Through the telling of stories, the revelation of secrets, and the creation of the map itself the project worked to celebrate the many various stories and experiences that take place in the city on a daily basis. In order to expand the project and celebrate the diversity of culture present in the city, the collective ran a series of weekend workshops in the gallery space. Each of these workshops focused on a different artistic medium; sound, creative writing, crafting and photography. Each of these workshops explored the many and varied notions of mapping and place making, celebrating the creative outputs of individual participants and their relationships to the city of Melbourne.
See the iMap blog
Friends of Kolkata is a volunteer run Melbourne based organisation that arranges fundraising, educational and volunteer exchange activities on behalf of the Institute of Social Work (ISW), a non-government organisation in Kolkata, India.
Five friends - Chris Turton, Yoriko Otomo, Christian Clark, Lara Thurlow, and myself, volunteered for approximately a month at two Kolkata-based NGOs - the Centre for Communication and Development and The Institute of Social Work in 2004. We managed to have a positive impact on the children in our time there despite our inexperience, and were encouraged by the Indian organisations to take our enthusiasm further on our return to Australia.
So after returning to Melbourne we set up Friends of Kolkata, incorporating and organisating the first event - a fundraising exhibition in August 2005 at Irene Community Arts Warehouse Brunswick. It featured both my own photographs, and some of the images of the Indian children who I had been teaching photography. In 2007 I led a volunteer trip back to Kolkata which resulted in another, larger photographic exhibition at Melbourne University that shared the stories and experiences of the children.
Friends of Kolkata continues to work with ISW today. The latter organisation seeks to protect children’s and women’s rights by providing communities with access to education, vocational training, microcredit and health services, and by assisting women and children affected by family violence.
Friends of Kolkata
The Institute of Social Work
The Centre for Communication and Development
We are surrounded by the words and concepts of sustainability. We know we should be green. We know our city should be green. But what would it look like? How could it be imagined? Should we just wait for the experts to give us the blueprint?
The OurMelbourne2050 map project provided a blank cartographic slate for people’s imagination. It recognised that everyone can dream, and hence everyone can be involved in building the future.
Participants take pen, pencil, brush or glue to an map of present day Melbourne, inscribing their individual visions for a truly sustainable city. The ideas gathered and cross-polinated, creating a rich collective tapestry that reimagined and reinvented our city.
Now we just have to make it happen!
I worked with International Humanity Foundation (IHF) at its Medan centre for a month in early 2009.
IHF was founded in 1983 by Carol Sasaki. Today, it is comprised of seven locations in Thailand , Kenya, Indonesia & the United States caring for more than 3,000 children worldwide. IHF is a unique organization in that all those involved at any level consider themselves to be members of the IHF family. It is also unique in that overseas volunteers participate in much of the daily running of the organisation through their coordinated online work. In this way the volunteering costs are far reduced as there is less need for paid staff.
Whilst I was there, I initiated a variety of different small projects, shown in the images below. Amongst these were photography workshops to encourage the young people visiting the centre to express themselves through images.
The project recommendation report goes into more detail.
FutureLab was an innovative two day workshop that engaged youth in the ‘FutureMelbourne’ planning process for the City of Melbourne.
In 2007 I joined a group that my friend Jack Fuller started, called ‘Project for a 1000 year plan’. This aims of the group formed around running a series of informal seminars around extremely long term planning. Topics ranged widely, from space travel, terraforming, energy flows and supply, geological time, to spirituality, future visions, planetary awakening, conflict and cooperation. The conversations emerging from these seminars were incredibly stimulating and frequently shook all of us out of our existing positions and views, while tempting us with new ones.
Aside from just discussing future planning, we wanted to influence it! An opportunity came around when we made links with the local government who were doing public consultation on its 10 year plan, ‘FutureMelbourne’. Myself and some other group members took the opportunity to organise a two-day interactive forum for youth to get input into the plan. We lead the participants around the city in small groups and asked them to re-imagine their urban environment. They then were given piles of art materials and industrial offcuts to shape their ideas for the city in free form, whilst redrawing city maps. In the second day we supported them to hone their ideas and turn them into projects and proposals that could be pitched to the government and other organisations.
The workshop was a great success with 75 delegates, alongside scores of volunteers facilitators and Council staff. Over 90% of participants rated the event as ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’.
The Council learned that:
- Younger peoples’ aspirations align well with the Future Melbourne vision, but emphasise that the City’s livability should be retained and enhanced whilst pursuing sustainability (rather than losing sight of one for the other); and
- Specific suggestions, such as the desire for a more radical approach to greening the city and need for greater emphasis on the possible synergies and conflicts between goals (e.g. addressing how a 24hour city will also be a safe city, as well as actively supporting environmental education as a part of ensuring prosperity).
More info on the Council's website
View FutureLab report
This project provided a mechanism for participants to make pledges around specific, do-able actions to have impact on climate change. It was initiated as a response to a) the Copenhagen climate discussions failing to produce a meaningful actions and by extension the collective lack of political leadership around climate change b) the over-aching emphasis on personal (as opposed to community level or political) responses to the climate situation.
Because of these factors, I choose to focus the actions on social and political influence, as reflected in the concept of expanding one's 'cultural footprint', in contrast with personal actions, which are designed to reduce one's 'ecological footprint'. Both are necessary and support each other.
The project was very successful with hundreds of participants contributing pledges, of which they kept a carbon copy as a reminder to actually do the pledge.
For more details see The Pledge Project