A couple of weeks ago we spent a whole week out of the office working with a group of 16 – 25 year olds on the #MakingforChange project – using Craftivism for social justice campaigns. The project was developed by Craftspace a Birmingham based organisation that creates “opportunities to see, make and be curious about exceptional contemporary craft.”
So what is Craftivism? Craftivism is a form of activism that is centered on practices of craft.
It is low level, often non confrontational activism that allows people to participate, slow down and discuss the issues at hand.
The making for change project introduced Craftivism as a way for the young people to talk about the things they cared about, and they had a week develop a campaign and a craft project that they could deliver to an audience. They worked hard to understand what social justice meant, what it means to campaign using craft, and to experiment using different craft techniques before their showcase on the Friday evening
The campaigns they ran included many topics from environmental concerns, with recycling and the declining bee numbers to loneliness and race issues, such as immigration and stop and search.
So where did Podnosh come in?
Well we’re obviously not artists or social justice campaigners in our day jobs, so we concentrated on what we knew best. Data and social media. For any campaign to be successful you need to have the facts and figures to back up your claims, and have a audience to share them with. So that’s what we worked on.
We introduced the idea of data, search and social media early on, before the group had even decided on what campaigns they would like to run, and then stayed around throughout the week to offer one on one support to help them with their specific projects .
In actual fact the one on one support was particularly useful because while we didn’t plan for it to be this way, as the groups and individuals were exploring issues and coming to us for help finding data we were able to help them refine their ideas and their message.
For instance one group Vishal , Rahul , Sanam and Terell, came to us wanting to look at some very broad issues around stereotyping and racism, with a desire to do something that reflected their experiences, but they didn’t know what. They were thinking big, but didn’t know what they wanted to say. It was only by sitting and talking to them about issues they had faced and showing them some available data that they narrowed it down to stop and search – and the disproportionate amount of minority youths that get stopped – something they had first had experience of – and that refining of their message shaped their campaign.
On the other hand another individual, Siandana came to use with a fully established idea – she wanted to to run a campaign about waste, but focusing on how litter can kill wildlife and had already developed a craft project around recycling plastic bottles into bird feeders.
She just wanted help on finding facts and figures to help prove her point and hopefully spread her idea further. We looked at what numbers would help her and we settled on data about the amount of time it takes different types of rubbish to break down, which she displayed on her table and hung off her feeders as discussion starters for whenpeople we busy making.
We also helped her consider using hashtags to share her reuse or recycle for wildlife message if she was to continue with her campaign, and she decided that #GoodRubbish would be a nice play on words – she actively encouraged people through the showcase evening to tweet pictures of their makes using the tag,
Makng bird feeders from littler #GoodRubbish @CraftspaceYouth @Impacthubbrum pic.twitter.com/DXZaScIYLD
— Gemma Latham (@gemmamaylatham) April 8, 2016
These are just 2 examples from the week, in all there were 6 different campaigns we supported, and all of them just as interesting.
Sarah ran a campaign to Save the Bees, Mahnaz on integration in communities and what it means to be British. Heather looked at the stigma around mental health and Jaswant explored issues around isolation and loneliness.
We supported all of them in one way or another and it’s been really pleasing that since the project has finished both Mahnaz and Sarah have been in touch for some extra support as they are both interested in taking their campaigns further – and continuing making for change.