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In many ways creativity is performative in nature.  Although there is, of course, a cathartic aspect to creative expression, it is arguably more empowering and effective if the products of our creativity are seen, experienced, or heard by an audience. But the paths that lead to accessing this audience are trod by but a few. For those who never have the opportunity to display and share their creativity, what happens to the potential power it holds?

In many ways creativity is performative in nature.  Although there is, of course, a cathartic aspect to creative expression, it is arguably more empowering and effective if the products of our creativity are seen, experienced, or heard by an audience. But the paths that lead to accessing this audience are trod by but a few. For those who never have the opportunity to display and share their creativity, what happens to the potential power it holds?

As part of the discussion sparked by Adam Lent around the power to create, Anthony Painter explained that we have to unpick the power relations at play when we think of creativity as a concept. Creating the right environment for everyone, not just a privileged elite, to develop his or her creative capacity is doubtless important. However, another layer of power relations exist within this paradigm: there are some who create but go unheard by wider society. For these relatively isolated creators it is possible that without recognition, the power in their creation dissipates.

If we, as a society, only tap into an elitist pool of creativity then we impede our own ability to tackle the myriad of problems we face

Indeed, stifled creativity can be debilitating. I’m relatively new to the RSA and even newer to the world of blogging, but as I’ve often found it easier to express myself in writing than speech, I hoped I’d be a natural blogger. Instead, I’ve written, revised and re-revised three blogs, all of which remain hidden from public view.  Although surely a product of many factors, the overarching reason I’m reluctant to share my ideas with the world is that I don’t feel that have the authority to do so. This is feeling, known as the Impostor Syndrome, likely affects most people at some point in their lives, even if momentarily. But as writer and lawyer Jill Filipovic accurately explains, women experience it disproportionately. This should come as no surprise, think of the threats and abuse Caroline Criardo-Perez experienced last year when she successfully campaigned to get a woman on a bank note. Criardo-Perez’s ordeal exemplifies how women are often told that their opinions aren’t legitimate and how society tries to stuff their creativity into a neat gendered box.

But, I’m under no illusion; I’m speaking from a relatively privileged position. For many people, the barriers to expressing their creative products and then further developing their power to create are much more real than my own. Last week the verdict over the shooting of Mark Duggan reminded us of the race divides that still exist in our society; in some areas black people are 29 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Often black young men and women are known by stereotypes based on the colour of their skin and for black women both skin colour and gender can play a defining role in how they are perceived by those around them. These stereotypes create societal preconceptions, which translate into institutionalised prejudice that limit an individual’s ability to share, implement, and attract the public gaze to their creativity.

Race is but one example of the limiting stereotypes people outside of a privileged elite face when they try to make public their creative endeavours. Consequently, if we are to accept, as Adam Lent proposes, that creativity is necessary for society to move forward, then this should include the full spectrum of creators. By this I don’t mean that those perpetually waiting in the wings of the creative theatre should be forced to conform to the relatively limited parameters of creativity established by those who currently dominate the stage. Rather, it’s about creatively tackling the imbalance. For those who recognise these problems, and have some form of access to the levers of change, it’s time to practice innovative ways of making the creative theatre an inclusive one.

In this image you can see the spread of the Diaspora Changemakers project. It shows 1,518 people who either were nominated or nominated others. Moving clockwise, a blue line means individual A heard about the project from individual B and a red line means individual A nominated individual B.

 

This is the basis for the methodology used for the RSA’s Diaspora Changemakers project. The project itself looked for people in diaspora communities from countries across the African continent, currently living in the UK and interested in social action and leadership. The purpose of this was to create a formalised network of people from these diverse communities, and, through leadership training, to give successful applicants the tools to further develop their ideas.

Opening up creativity needs creative methods so to reach as many people as possible, applicants were asked to nominate up to ten people who they thought were Changemakers, those who did something to directly improve the lives of other people. Using this method just under 1,000 people applied, including individuals who without such creative research may have been overlooked.

Creativity is essential to change our society for the better. But, if we, as a society, only tap into an elitist pool of creativity then we impede our own ability to tackle the myriad of problems we face.  Everyone must be able to access the public platform to share their own creativity because if all the world’s a stage, the performance won’t change without a wealth of players.

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