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Innovation Pilot Theme: Building Social Change

These projects all centre around social challenges, bringing together creative, cultural, and digital skills within communities. From democratic digital participation in theatre-making, to community-led regeneration and social inclusion – the projects in this category have people at their heart.

Democratising Creative Processes in Theatre

Who was involved?

Unfolding Theatre, Teesside University, Durham University, Northumbria University with additional contributions from Manchester International Festival, Young Writers’ City, New Writing North and Queen’s Hall Youth Theatre in Hexham.

What did they do?

This pilot enabled Unfolding Theatre to develop a mechanism to amplify and capture young people’s voices. Inspired by a question asked to pupils at Eton College ‘What are you going to do when you’re in charge?’. Unfolding Theatre believe all young people should be asked this question.

With support from the innovation pilot team and in collaboration with 51 young people, Unfolding Theatre created interactive arcade machines and recording booths, capturing and sharing the ideas of young people. Triggered by motion senses, booths recorded young people’s responses to the question ‘what change would you like to make?’. This generated a printout of their sound wave, and a code to find their recording uploaded onto Instagram (@multiverse_arcade).

‘Coming from a point of having few relationships with North East universities, the Creative Fuse North East Innovation Pilot connected us with amazing academics who inspired and enabled us to build digital tools, which supported us to reach more audiences than ever before!’

Annie Rigby, Artistic Director, Unfolding Theatre

What next?

The pilot has had a transformative impact on the way that Unfolding Theatre use technology to create work. It has helped them to expand their reach and deepen participation through digital engagement in their performance and community projects. It supported the creation if a new post, Multiverse Arcade Production Assistant, which enabled Unfolding Theatre to employ two interns, one of whom has a new permanent job as Associate Artist Digital.

West End Refugee Service Skillsmatch

Who was involved?

West End Refugee Service, Newcastle University, Teesside University

What did they do?

This pilot allowed the West End Refugee Service in Newcastle to create their Skillsmatch programme. The funding was sought to develop an existing Crowdskills model into a website that could match the skills and interests of asylum seekers and refugees with volunteering opportunities out in the community. The innovation pilot allowed for consultation workshops, identifying the needs of asylum seekers and refugees and informing the development and design of a web platform. The platform is currently live and has led to a number of successful volunteer opportunities being filled; WERS continues to engage with a wide variety of local organisations to ensure positions are available on the site.

What next?

The Skillsmatch project is now an integral part of WERS’ Volunteer Project. WERS has just received a six-figure grant from a major funder to enlarge its digital work with refugees and asylum seekers – a huge boost for the organisation’s future and only possible because of Creative Fuse.

Without the Creative Fuse project it is very unlikely that WERS would have been in a position to develop the website, having neither spare funding to pay for it nor the technical skills amongst its staff team. WERS is now in a position to apply to different funding bodies whose grant criteria WERS’ core activities would otherwise not have met.’


The Middlesbrough Settlement

Who was involved?

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) and partner organisations and artists, Teesside University, Northumbria University.

What did they do?

This pilot built upon the existing Middlesbrough Settlement a resident-led programme of artful activity that draws on the heritage of North Ormesby. This project supported forums for sharing and researching plans and prototypes towards understanding what a settlement could be in the 21st century.

This was achieved in three stages, the first a public symposia called “the Housing Day”. It produced conversations, toolkits and workshops to share research and best practice around new approaches to community-led regeneration and artistic approaches to improving the built environment.

The second strand comprised a series of Design Thinking workshops with Teesside and Northumbria University. Design Thinking offered tools for a youth group in North Ormesby and a parent and child group to develop ideas towards a common goal and to visualise processes of development and change.  The third element mapped creative activity in North Ormesby. Through a series of drop in events and consultation with creative groups and residents, artist AJ Garrett is designing and producing a digital map. This will enable the development of future relevant commissions and funding applications, led by an in-depth knowledge of the place.

What next?

The Pilot has produced long lasting working situations using Design Thinking models and digital innovation to encourage communities to think how to develop their cultural offer and current ideas of how they live in the region. The pilot has afforded opportunities for Paul Stewart and Elinor Morgan to collaborate on multiple papers which have been presented at The British Museum, Westminster University, Watershed Bristol and the Creative Fuse conference.

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