Ruth Wolstenholme, Sniffer’s Managing Director, reflects on Sniffer’s role in the CreaTures project and the exciting outputs from it.

I was struck by a quote I heard last week: “If you don’t want to remember a moment, take a photograph of it’. How true this is. If we really want to be influenced by something, to be changed, then a quick snapshot may not do the trick. Instead, committing something to memory evokes a sense of imagination, it allows for emotional types of processing. Valuing an experience can fuel change.

As changemakers, Sniffer works in many ways to equip leaders at all levels in society to take brave and informed decisions. We build on the evidence of a changing climate, we understand the economic rationale for being prepared. We create spaces where communities, organisations and businesses can learn together.

We also recognise that presenting evidence and facts alone is not enough. If it were, then society would be much more resilient and sustainable than it is. We know the need to address power imbalances if we are to create the flourishing and fairer future to which we aspire.

So it was with a long held view that creative practice can be a powerful way of bringing about the transformation we need that we took part in in CreaTures - Creative Practices for Transformational Futures. This was an EU Horizon funded three-year action research project. Between January 2020 and December 2022, CreaTures developed ways to investigate transformative potential creative practices. Led by Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Sniffer was involved in a partnership with the universities of Sussex, Utrecht, and RMIT, as well as a number of  creative organisations.

The project involved a laboratory of creative practice, an observatory and an evaluation role. A central plank of the laboratory was twenty experimental productions that were selected to counter the notion that creative practice packages science in a more engaging format – or the often quoted ‘lipstick on the guerilla’ view. Instead, the productions focused on diverse ways of knowing and being in ways that are interactive, caring, socially engaged. They included live action role plays, experiential journeys, installations, interpersonal practices, and co-creative lab experiments.  The evaluation element resulted in a framework of nine dimensions of transformative change that happen through creative practice: changing meanings (embodying, learning, imagining); changing connections (caring, organizing, inspiring); and changing power (co-creating, empowering, subverting).

‍The Nine Dimensions tool was used to investigate all twenty CreaTures experimental productions. Some concluding insights in relation to creative practices are:

·        the transformative value of combining learning and imagining based in deep, situated embodiment.

·        the importance of care and caring in bringing about change

·        the benefits of co-creative approaches

·       the notion that creative practice can have a role in empowering and subverting, with the important question of who is empowering, or subverting, who?

A paper on the Nine Dimensions has recently been published and can be read here

I’m excited that the outputs are already in wide use. Whether you are a funder, a researcher, a creative practitioner, a sustainability policy maker or an intermediary such as Sniffer – there is much food for thought, and change, to be found.

More information about the project can be found on its website here and there is more about the CreaTures Framework here