By NOW's Florence Scialom
Climate change is a huge challenge which has the potential to impact every area of our lives and our societies. Yet it is also a huge opportunity; to change our societies for the better, to focus more on the things that genuinely bring us happiness, to get creative in solutions to the challenges we face. It was in this spirit that the Creative Factory has been running at Place to B in Paris during the COP21 climate change negotiations. The approach used at the Creative Factory can offer helpful ideas and tools to those seeking to tackle climate change and build a better world.
The Creative Factory Approach
Those involved in running the Creative Factory intended for it to, “provide a hotspot of fresh thinking and new idea generation. A creative space and meeting place where people can gather and collaborate with a Makers ethos: the right to experiment and fail, to copy and modify, all the while having fun and sharing with others”.
The Creative Factory is a collaboration between Place to B and Forever Swarm, and I participated in sessions on ‘Dismantling the Buying Imperative’ and ‘The Balm of Nature’. These were just a few of the many topics covered, which also included ‘Invoking the Spirit of Change’, ‘Empathy in Action’, ‘A Children’s World’ and ‘Life Renewed’.
With each topic, a group of around 20-30 participants came together for two days of focused collaboration. The first day focused on ideas sharing, then the second day was about putting ideas into action; coming up with new concepts for communications tools, campaign ideas and cultural outputs (such as posters, cartoons, songs, etc.) The process was simultaneously quick – enabling participants to condense complex ideas into one output – and intensive – allowing for a sense of collaborative community to build up over two full days spent with the same group of people.
Consumption and identity
The first Creative Factory topic I attended was ‘Dismantling the Buying Imperative’, and this was based on helping people challenge the economic notion that buying more is a good thing to do, and finding new ways to celebrate the status of those people who reject the high carbon life style.
I presented NOW’s recent work on Buy Nothing Day and Sharing Our World, pointing to examples such as James Wallman’s experientialism and the Story of Stuff's Louis Fox's views on meeting needs beyond consumerism.
Discussion and presentations paved the way for a variety of creative ideas for potential future outputs. These included:
- Project Mum: Providing resources to help new mums build a more sustainable future for their child.
- Nothing Beats Wasteful Presents: Challenging the idea of excessive material gift giving, and encouraging people to share what they prefer doing instead of shopping.
- Where Do Things Come From? An interactive app, enabling people to click on products sold in their local area, and see a creative performance showing the products supply chain.
All ideas and material will be freely available following the Creative Factory, so these initial ideas can be further developed and used in future.
(Re-) Connecting with Nature
As David Attenborough once said "no-one will protect what they have not first experienced". Much of the discussion at the second Creative Factory I attended – ‘The Balm of Nature’ – was based on the need to re-connect with the natural world, to realise that humans are in fact a part of nature.
We heard inspiring presentations from a beekeeper, an agroforestry expert and an author from the Solarpunk movement; a new literary and arts genre that focuses on positive future fiction. I also presented some of the links between health, wellbeing and climate change, outlining some of the clear health risks which could result from not addressing climate change, but also the opportunities we have to build more healthy societies more connected to nature.
Again, presentations were used to inspire group work and a range of innovative projects resulted:
- Wild: A card game inviting young people to connect their experiences to natural settings through memory, storytelling and performance. (We tested this out in the Creative Factory, and it is very fun to play!)
- Urban Nature Speaks: Seeking to encourage people to pay attention to everyday nature in urban environments, this project imagined what plants on the streets of Paris would be saying to us if they could speak. This project could be reproduced in any urban environment to draw attention to the natural world.
- Stories from Nature: The third group shared a video of a creative spoken word performance, sharing memories of powerful connections to nature.
It was great to share presentations of ideas at the end of the two days together in the Creative Factory, and there was lots of enthusiasm to take ideas forward!
The Creative Factory is a dynamic and multi-disciplinary experiment, co-built by all participants, which welcomed people from all over the world to be a part of building fresh approaches to communicating climate change. New narratives and tools could help us broaden support for the priority action on climate change, and the Creative Factory provided a great space to participate in building and contributing to a fresh approach. This is an ongoing process, that will not finish after COP21, so look out on the Forever Swarm and Place to B websites for resources on how to take new ideas and narratives forward.
Huge thanks to all of the folks at Forever Swarm, Place to B and all of the amazing participants for making the Creative Factory such an inspiring experience!
This post forms part of our Sharing Our World series, exploring the links between wellbeing, environment and consumption. For more posts in this series click here.
Images used in this post were either taken by Florence or taken from the Creative Factory Flickr album.