Persistent Encounter: social capital and Creative People and Places
Drawing on a range of discussions this think piece explores the language, relationship and potential impact of Creative People and Places (CPP) in achieving and measuring developed social capital and social change. Written by Karen Smith.
Drawing on a range of discussions this think piece explores the language, relationship and potential impact of Creative People and Places (CPP) in achieving and measuring developed social capital and social change. Written for an audience of those working directly in and with the CPP network, this think piece is also for the broader cultural sector and those interested in the notion of social capital.
Inequality has had a significant impact on the ability of people to influence what art is funded, where art takes place and what that art might look, sound or feel like. This think piece argues that Creative People and Places through its practice is having positive impact on social capital. However, CPP must now seriously consider what political and social influence it has on social change and arts practice for the long term, and whether social capital is an appropriate term to use to measure that influence. Social capital may be an awkward fit to some CPP places vision.
As human beings, the effects of inequality extend to major swathes of the population. CPP’s sustained, committed arts-based relationships with people and places, builds expertise, trust and reciprocity. The relationships generate impact in a myriad of some well documented and some yet to be imagined ways. Building persistent connection can take immense amounts of time.
Measuring social capital is challenging. It is called ‘capital’ and yet is intangible. Any action arising from social capital cannot be assumed to be either positive or negative. This think piece suggests that with 21 different projects, CPP places have evolved separate identities. Consequently, the picture shifts dependent on which lens or lenses are used to visualise and explore ‘social capital’. The term itself remains practically and politically unresolved, and its usage needs clarity for each CPP place’s individual circumstances.
Most CPP places did not set out to build social capital as an aim, and it most often forms an intangible and incidental effect of the work taking place. Social capital is not ‘given’ by any funded scheme and is built by the connections and collaborations of everyone willing to share their time, skills, connections and passions. For CPP places, the deliberate investment, time and resources has begun to make a difference which is not insignificant yet is currently fragile. Building social capital can take many years, and the longer term impact is unknown.
There are complex connections between discourse, power, dominance and social inequality. How these connections interweave with CPP places will impact on how social capital is perceived and how it could be measured. Inequality has deep and powerful effects on people’s wellbeing. Ownership of art is contested, conflicted, and messy. CPP places’ facilitative role in managing and building something creative and often beautiful out of the mess together is creating potential to consider how art could develop in a far more expansive terrain.
To achieve a positive development of social capital, and a fairer and more sustainable future for the arts, it is also argued that wider systemic change and institutional shifts of perspective and practice still need to take place.
Creative People and Places is an Arts Council England funding programme which focuses on parts of the country where involvement in creativity and culture is significantly below the national average. More.