How international connections and creativity can inspire social change

Learn how the Foundation is supporting young people in Portugal and the UK to lead creative projects and transform communities.
Three people sat on stage in front of a presentation
03 may 2024

Inspired by other international models, JAM! in Portugal is a new project that will help young people develop innovative projects drawing on the successes of The Agency. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is supporting both initiatives and working to connect cultural projects internationally to inspire action and create a global network of changemakers.

The Agency is a UK based creative entrepreneurship programme that supports young people (aged 15-25) from underserved areas to make a difference and transform their local area in a way that they think is best.

Taking inspiration from the work of Marcus Faustini, a Brazilian theatre maker working in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the model utilises creativity for social change, giving young people agency to change their own lives. The programme is an example of cross-continental collaboration taking learning from the Global South.

The Foundation is proud to have supported The Agency in the UK from its infancy – providing seed funding for the first pilot of the programme in London at Battersea Arts Centre, and in Manchester at Contact, and supporting the recent ten-year anniversary celebration ‘National Gathering’.

Championing new approaches in the arts

For ten years The Agency has shown the unique ability of creativity to unlock innovation and create change, in a programme inspired by theatre and interpreted and delivered by local artist facilitators. The programme provides resources, support, platforms and a wide network of connections to amplify the important voices of young leaders who already possess ideas and vision.

The Agency has influenced other programmes across the UK cultural sector, sharing resources and truly co-creating with young people who might otherwise be excluded from the cultural amenity of their cities and towns. It has been a champion of citizen-led approaches to art and decision-making, and the Foundation is pleased to be supporting The Agency on its next journey to become an independent organisation run and led by young people who have emerged through the programme.

The value of international change

The Brazilian model continues to inspire others and extend its international reach. Following a Portuguese delegation visit to Battersea Arts Centre in 2023, and inspired by The Agency, the JAM! project was born ‘Juventude + Artes = Mudança’ (Youth + Arts = Change).

Funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation and coordinated by Artemrede, project JAM! will take place in five Portuguese municipalities and will work with young people between the ages of 18 and 25, over three years, to develop creative and innovative projects relevant to the young people’s communities. The programme will include capacity building, mentoring and project development support, drawing on the principles and concept of The Agency.

The Foundation hosted both The Agency and JAM! at the January Isto é PARTIS & Art for Change conference exploring models of participation in culture. Participants from both the UK and Portugal reflected on the importance of international connections, knowledge exchange, sharing, connecting and learning from others beyond borders, to inspire action, new ways of working and to help create a global network of changemakers.

Now more than ever, in a world that feels to be in turmoil and as a society facing rapid change, is it time to elevate the power of international connection and creativity as unique tools to unlock new ideas, ways of working and innovation to prepare for the changes we will face in future?

If artists and arts organisations can do more to share the tools, methods and approaches of creativity across sectors, across networks and beyond borders internationally might we be able to create more positive social change?

The Foundation recognises this need and is working to increase international connections, harness creativity for social change and to support a number of citizen leadership initiatives under its Access to Culture programme.

This article was co-authored by Louisa Hrabowy, UK Lead, Access to Culture, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and Andrew Westle, National Programme Manager, The Agency (UK)

Cookies settings

Cookies Selection

This website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience, security, and its website performance. We may also use cookies to share information on social media and to display messages and advertisements personalised to your interests, both on our website and in others.