People United is a creative laboratory and arts charity. In this report they explore how the arts can inspire kindness, community and social change. The report brings together 10 years of research around our work to show that the arts can play a practical and imaginative role in building a kinder and more caring society.
This report outlines People United’s niche position within an exciting and emerging research landscape that links the arts with psychology and civil society research on wellbeing, resilience, social cohesion and active citizenship. People United’s work has always been underpinned by research, and in our 2012 Arts & Kindness paper,1 we presented a theoretical model of how the arts can grow kindness by influencing learning, emotions, connections and values. This report provides evidence of the theory in practice.
People United’s mixed method approach to research, demonstrated through illustrative case studies which sit at the heart of this paper, verifies how arts participation can result in increased empathy, willingness to help others and self-efficacy. The case studies evidence what difference has taken place, whilst an in-depth analysis and contemplation of why this change has happened identifies key themes and characteristics which have emerged from a decade of participatory arts practice. These specific insights suggest that with the right ingredients in place, arts interventions can have a transformative effect for people and communities.
There is no simple formula for creating change, and the processes that lead to personal and community development are complex. But the data we present here, alongside in-depth analysis, strongly make the case that the arts can and do change lives for the better.
Image: Hugbag, 2016, Thor McIntyre-Bernie, Kati Frances and Chloe Osborne