Between 2018 and 2022, the Foundation supported the Local Trust in the development of the Creative Civic Change partnership programme (CCC), which supports community-led social, economic and environmental change in local areas harnessing the power of the arts and creativity. The Foundation contributed with a grant of £600,000, with further funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund.
Created partly in response to the Foundation’s Inquiry into the Civic Role of the Arts, CCC has aimed to explore the role that arts, artists and art organisations play in community life. CCC is interested in the dynamic between artists and arts organisations and communities when local people take the lead. The programme challenges top-down modes of engagement and pushing artists and arts organisations to work in a new way with communities in which power is shared and everyone’s expertise is highly valued.
Modelled on the Big Local programme, CCC offered flexible, long-term funding, in-area mentoring and a substantial peer learning programme to 15 communities across England. Using flexible, long-term funds of £200,000, community leaders in each area were given the time, support and resources to realise their vision for transforming their community using arts and creativity. Residents were in the lead every step of the way.
It has been a flagship project of our Civic Role of Arts Organisations programme, which encourages publicly-funded arts organisations to work with and for their local communities, using the transformational power of art for individual and societal change.
The project began with a six-month development phase to listen to and understand residents’ needs and ensure that community leaders were empowered and equipped to oversee the work. The projects promoted high quality creative and artistic output throughout, while helping communities develop by providing creative skills training and nurturing new connections between residents, artists, and community leaders.
As a unique but replicable model, CCC demonstrates how arts and communities are intertwined and mutually beneficial. It has proven that communities can shape, lead and commission their own arts and creative interventions for positive social change.
CCC has proven that handing over power and investing in community leadership can deliver results. The project has produced a number of Learning Reports which have been invaluable for the Gulbenkian Foundation, other funders and the cultural sector interested in the benefits of co-designed models.
Creative Civic Change tree
The CCC tree is a summary of the evaluation findings from the programme. It draws on both quantitative and qualitative data, to identify the project’s biggest impacts, the conditions which made changes possible, the challenges faced, and recommendations as a result of the programme.
Key takeaways from the tree are:
- Trusting communities not only with money, but also to make their own decisions on what is needed, as they collaborated with and commissioned artists and creative organisations
- Enabling many local people with creative skills to see themselves as creatives, artists and leaders – collaborating, commissioning and creating for themselves – which has really changed how many communities look, feel and think.
- Artists, in-turn, becoming more integrated in their communities, adapting and learning as part of the process.
- Funders who have responded flexibly in the way they measure success, monitor and manage the funding, liberating projects to do what is needed locally and not be led by funding priorities.
- The CCC approach, with its emphasis on care, support and peer learning, has provided a safe environment to share experiences, looking honestly at what has and hasn’t worked while celebrating success.
- ‘Growing conditions’ to make a project like this successful include having the right resources, shared principles and a support system. Trust and care are the taproots.