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What it means to work on your doorstep

What it means to work on your doorstep

This is a quick recap of the second in a series of three workshops hosted in collaboration with PlatformThirty1 as part of our new Creative Agents programme. The session was led by Jodie Cresswell-Waring and held at Somercotes Village Hall on Tuesday 17th June, 2024.

How might we step outside or comfort zones, find the courage to get to know ourselves and our neighbours in new ways, and spark creativity where we live?

Ouuufff that’s a big question right (!?!) feeling a wee bit uncomfortable just thinking about it, but with Jodie as our guide and a few lovely old match boxes we had a lot of fun exploring this together.

We kicked off the session with a quick re-cap from workshop 1, The Journey to Co-Creation. Jodie explained that this session was designed to dive a bit deeper into the “muck and the magic” of co-creation and to zoom in on the unique challenges and possibilities of collaborating with your neighbours in the place you live. Jody shared stories of living and working in her community and invited us to think deeply about the many hats we all wear and the role we might play in sparking and spreading magic within the communities we’re part of.

Every match is made to be lit…

Jodie kicked us off with her “Matchbox Musings”. Using matches and matchboxes to help us to think about people and places.

If every match is made to be lit, and every matchbox contains all that’s needed to create fire. How do we create the spark?

Jodie shared stories and experiences of the warmth, light and power that can be kindled when you’re able to create the right conditions for people “to spark”, and for sparks to spread. She also warned us of the incredibly delicate nature of this process and how often, the imbalance of power and agency of “professionals” working in community space, can undermine the potency of the raw materials (… a bit like dunking your match box in bucket of water!)

We talked about the external and internal narratives that a community exists within. And how disempowering it can be to exist within a box or a story that someone else (no matter how generously) has created for you rather than one you have created for yourself.

Before Striking a Light

To get us thinking a bit more about this and the places, people and the grit needed to create a spark, Jodie invited us to create a mini “match-box community”. Thinking about all the elements that might help bring our community sizzling to life.

What excites you?
What’s gonna motivate people to get involved?
What’s the grit you bring?
What do you want to nurture?
What people are you thinking about?

Each question was connected to an object that we added into our matchboxes including a tiny wee bottle filled with the grit (sparkly sea salt!) we need to bring!

Never Play With Matches!

We had so much fun with the match boxes (I still have mine in my pocket) that we started to run out of time!

Jodie raced us quickly through some thoughts on public art and the act of developing something with the intention of permanence. She highlighted the complexities of developing physical interventions that have a life beyond the original creators. Communities often want to celebrate and mark the physical presence of a space, and she reminded us that this is a very different beast from developing temporary spaces or activities that are built for the pleasure of the moment, and for people involved to enjoy. She touched on how important it is that communities feel ownership of anything that is going to be part of their everyday lives and what a difference it can make to involve as many people as possible in meaningful ways. She shared a few examples of high profile projects that have unsettled, and/or were undervalued or rejected by their communities, even when there was a wholesome intention to gift the community with “high quality” art. She also shared a few of her own bumpy rides with working on mural projects and the dance that had to happen between artistic freedom and authentic heritage. We heard stories about the beauty and brutality of these worlds colliding within the community and how important skilled co-design was to finding a way through. We also got to hear about one of her favourite examples of community driven public art Dream St Helens located on the Sutton Manor Colliery in St Helen’s Merseyside.

Getting out of our (match)boxes!

The last area we touched quickly was boundaries. One of the most challenging and beautiful parts of working on your doorstep! Jodes talked about the paradox of needing to “bring your whole self” but “not putting yourself at the centre”. And shared this beautiful quote to open us up to new ways of thinking about our “fertile edges” rather than our “rigid boundaries”:

“Complex networks of relationships offer very different possibilities for thinking about self and other. The very idea of boundaries changes profoundly. Rather than being a self-protective wall, boundaries become the place of meeting and exchange. We usually think of these edges as the means to define separateness, defining what’s inside and what’s outside. But in living systems, boundaries are something quite different. They are the place where new relationships take form, an important place of exchange and growth as an individual chooses to respond to another. As connections proliferate and the system weaves itself into existence, it becomes difficult to interpret boundaries as defenses, or even as markers of where one individual ends”

The Promise and Paradox of Community in The Community of the Future. Jossey-Bass, 1998 Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers

If you’re curious to find out more you can dive into our Creative Agents Padlet and let us know of any other useful resources that we can add in.

Massive thanks to Jodie for sharing so openly and generously.

Creative Agents

We ended the session with a bit of a Q&A about our new Neighbourhood Creative Agents programme. You can find out more here and apply by sending us a completed version of this form here by 4th July.

We talked through the dates, application process and some of the requirements. A few questions that came up below:

Q: Can I apply with someone else?
A: You’re welcome to apply with someone else, but you would need to be able to make that work within the same budgets. For the peer learning sessions we would ask you to nominate one person to take part, so that there is a consistency of experience for all six Creative Agents.

Q: Do I need to know where I’m going to work?
A:
 Yes. This is a place-based programme working on your doorstep or in a place that feels like home to you.

Q: Do I have to spend all the money?
A:
 No. Each Creative Agent will have up to £5000 to spend, but not everyone will need / want to use that amount. Pots of funding for each Creative Agent will be held on our Open Collective platform. You will be trained up to use the platform and this will allow you to draw down expenses and make payments as needed, rather than managing expenditure through a personal account. Any unspent money will be rolled over to support future Creative Agents.

Next up!

Join us at Riddings Park Community Centre on Thurs 27th June for: Creative Agents- Planning for change and successful outcomes Tickets, Thu 27 Jun 2024 at 10:30 | Eventbrite

We’ll be talking about how to develop project ideas with outcomes and learning in mind. Thinking about how to juggle timelines, budgets, risks and resourcing when ideas are still forming.

ABOUT US

We are Make/Shift. A growing collective of people, groups and organisations who believe in the creative power of communities to make positive change in the places they live.

We are rooted in Amber Valley, Derbyshire with networks reaching out beyond. We believe everyone is creative and want Amber Valley to be a place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters.

A big part of our work is testing new ways of working and learning together, which shift more power and resources to communities to make decisions, take action, and make change together on their doorstep.

Make/Shift is part of Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places programme. Find out more >>> www.wearemakeshift.uk

Platform Thirty1 are a local arts organisation specialising in enabling others to cultivate social change through artistic practice, cultural endeavour and creativity.

We are interested in changing the balance of power and agency through a co-created approach, with partners and participants. There are three core strands to our work:

  • Sector Development: predominately cross-sector work supporting professionals in arts, education, and neighbourhood spaces
  • Community: predominately co-creating with residents and a community-first approach in ex-industrial places in Derbyshire
  • Refuges: predominately women and children who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse

Find out more >>> www.platformthirty1.com

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The Journey To Co-Creation

The Journey To Co-Creation

This is a quick recap of the first in a series of three workshops hosted in collaboration with PlatformThirty1 as part of our new Creative Agents programme. The session was led by Jodie Cresswell-Waring and held at Infinite Wellbeing Community Centre in Heanor on Tuesday 11th June 2024.

What does it take to be a conscious, co-creation Community Facilitator? How can we disrupt the Lead Artist & Project Manager model?
The session was structured to unpack these two pretty epic questions together. Jodie tapped into her vast experience of living and working in her community to help share insights about what it takes to hold space for deep connection and collaboration in the places we call home and how we all have a role to play in shifting how power, resources and ownership flow … and believe it our not it all started with Zebras!

Let’s Dazzle
Did you know that a herd or group of Zebras is called “a dazzle”. What a brilliant word! Like a pod or a gaggle or a swarm but so much cooler! Together, a dazzle of zebras can outwit their predators by combining their unique stripe patterns together into dynamic group patterns that make it almost impossible to separate out individuals from the group.

The workshop got us thinking about what might become possible if we could all be part of a dazzle of neighbours working together in the places we care about. This was defo my favourite fact about Zebras, but there were loads more and Jodie shared her top facilitator facts in a super playful and creative way using each of the zebra facts to get us thinking about what it takes to hold space as a community facilitator.

Then we each took a bit of time to think about what our own unique facilitator stripes might be. Digging into our unique interests, talents, skills, experiences, passions, place, positionality to create our own zebra stripes.

Before forming our own wee momentary dazzle as a group.

Greater Creative
Jodes went on to talk a bit more about her experience working in Blackwell Parish, where she grew up and still lives. Over the past four years, more than 4000 neighbours have been involved in Greater Creative, working together to make Blackwell Parish a community-led, connected, playful and proud parish that celebrates its people and places. You can find out a bit more about this deep, rigorous and inspiring work (and get along to support it) here.

Buzz Words
We spent a bit of time unpacked some of the buzz words that are currently thrown around and used very differently in different sectors. These are the definitions that Jodes uses in relation to her work:

Culture — the way of life of a particular people

“Culture is made by everyone, everyday in loads of different ways”

Co-Creation — Intentionally collaborating together to decide / make / do

“Co-creation shifts power, resources and ownership towards the people the work is intended to benefit, as opposed to the traditional ‘top down’ approach. It encourages every individual to activate their creative potential and realise their own ability to make change”.

Cultural Democracy — everybody’s heritage and cultural expression is worthwhile and deserving of an equitable share of power, resource and voice.

“Cultural Democracy describes an approach to arts and culture that actively engages everyone in deciding what counts as culture, where it happens, who makes it and who experiences it”

Co-Creation — Processes and approaches:
We talked about some of the different approaches and methods that underpin co-creation.

  • takes places with and not to
  • is process driven not product driven
  • has no set outputs but is outcome focused
  • prioritises how not what
  • shifts agency and power and challenges privelge
  • brings partners together on an equal footing
  • is relational not transactional
  • empowers and includes
  • requires transparency, self awareness and honesty
  • the end goal is for community to own and lead / and that you are no longer needed

And about some of ways of doing and being that make this work possible:
# Listening #Responding #Caring #Adapting #Representing

Power
The standout theme from the session was around power and ownership. Getting us to think much more deeply and honestly about this. And sitting with some of the discomfort that this can throw up.

What power have you got? Where did you get it from? How do you use it?

Everyone had a go at using the Agency Scale designed to help people and organisations think about where power and agency sits for different activities and projects they are involved in. The tool was originally developed by Co-Creating Change a network and programme exploring the role artists, cultural organisations and communities can play in co-creating change together. Jodes made it clear that there is no right and wrong but that it can be a really important and humbling part of the process to be open and honest about where you’re at, how long it can take and how much work goes into really getting power, resources and ownership flowing in new ways.

If you’re curious to find out more you can dive into our Creative Agents Padlet and let us know of any other useful resources that we can add in!

Massive thanks to Jodie for sharing so openly and generously!

Creative Agents
We ended the session with a bit of a Q&A about our new Neighbourhood Creative Agents programme. You can find out more here and apply by sending us a completed version of this form here by 4th July.

We talked through the dates, application process and some of the requirements. A few questions that came up below:

Q: What if I live just outside Amber Valley
A: This programme is about working in a place you care about. The place, neighbourhood, street, village, community you choose to work with as a Creative Agent will need to be in Amber Valley. If have a meaningful connection and can tell us why you want to work here, its definitely worth applying.

Q: Can the budget be used to pay for my own time?
A: Yes. If that’s needed and important to making something happen where you live. Each Creative Agents budget / approach / situation will be different so we’re happy to explore what might work best for you in your context.

Q: Will shortlisted applicants be interviewed?
A: We’ll arrange an informal zoom call with all shortlisted Creative Agents in July.

Feedback
Some lovely comments at the end of the session:

“Definitely got the cogs moving on what is possible to be part of for this community”

“I had quite a few “aha” moments”

“Its got my brain whirring!”

“I’m thinking about how I can change what I do already”

Next up!
Join us at Somercotes Village Hall on Monday 17th June for:
What it means to work on your doorstep Tickets, Mon 17 Jun 2024 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

We’ll be diving into what it means to work on your doorstep. Exploring the hats we wear as professionals, & the hearts we have living in a community. Sharing tales & talking through the beauty & brutality of these two worlds meeting in this practice.

ABOUT US
We are Make/Shift. A growing collective of people, groups and organisations who believe in the creative power of communities to make positive change in the places they live.

We are rooted in Amber Valley, Derbyshire with networks reaching out beyond. We believe everyone is creative and want Amber Valley to be a place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters.

A big part of our work is testing new ways of working and learning together, which shift more power and resources to communities to make decisions, take action, and make change together on their doorstep.

Make/Shift is part of Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places programme. Find out more >>> www.wearemakeshift.uk

Platform Thirty1 are a local arts organisation specialising in enabling others to cultivate social change through artistic practice, cultural endeavour and creativity.

We are interested in changing the balance of power and agency through a co-created approach, with partners and participants. There are three core strands to our work:

Sector Development: predominately cross-sector work supporting professionals in arts, education, and neighbourhood spaces
Community: predominately co-creating with residents and a community-first approach in ex-industrial places in Derbyshire
Refuges: predominately women and children who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse
Find out more >>> www.platformthirty1.com

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Join us!

Join Us!- Creative Community Builder

We’re on the look out for a new Creative Community Builder to join the Make/Shift team, helping to set up and lead a new community fund where decisions about what happens are made directly by the community.

Creative Community Builder — Participation & Networks

- 3 days/week
- Fixed term contract until March 2025 (with possibility of extending)
- £30,950 to £34,027 pro-rata

What’s it all about?

As Creative Community Builder you will play an essential convening role as part of the Make/Shift team. Helping to grow a network of movers, shakers and community makers, who have access to the skills, resources and platforms they need to make decisions and take action together in the places they live and to invite their neighbours along to join them.

To thrive in this role you will be:

  • passionate about the creative power of communities
  • committed to strengths based community development and curious about working proactively with communities
  • excited about testing different ways of shifting more power and resources to communities to make decisions for themselves about the cultural and creative experiences they want to grow in the places where they live
  • experienced in creating space for people with different lived, learnt and practiced experience to share, learn, collaborate, make decisions and take action together.

This is a new role in the team. Working alongside our current Creative Community Builder, with a specific focus on embedding participatory practices and growing networks. As the lead on our new Movers, Shakers and Community Makers work strand, we’re particularly keen to hear from people who have experience in facilitating citizen-led decision making, and/or nurturing peer-to-peer networks.

Applications deadline: Tuesday 25 June 2024
Interviews:
10th July
Apply 
here

About Make/Shift

We are Make/Shift. A growing collective of people, groups and organisations who believe in the creative power of communities to make positive change in the places they live. We are rooted in Amber Valley, in the heart of Derbyshire with networks reaching out beyond. Together we want Amber Valley to be a place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters as part of everyday life.

Our mission is to put communities — their strengths, ideas, energy, ambitions & stories — at the heart of making positive change where they live. Collaborating together to nurture the conditions needed for people to unleash their creativity, and power us towards our vision.

Over the next 10 years we will weave together a network of makers, doers & connectors, trying things out together with neighbours in the places that they live. Inspired by thinkers, creators, artists, makers, activists, dreamers, and story tellers from near and far. Supported through access to shared resources and creative platforms that are agile and responsive to needs.

You can find out a bit more about our approach, governance and programme via our slide deck here and on our website www.wearemakeshift.co.uk.

Background

Make/Shift is part of the Creative People and Places programme, initiated and funded by Arts Council England thanks to the National Lottery. Creative People and Places is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in creative and cultural experiences in the places where they live. There are now 39 projects, covering 56 local authorities across England.

We have funding secured until April 2025 with extension funding pending (decision in Sept 2024) until April 2026. As an action research project, Make/Shift is committed to being experimental and innovative in its approach, testing new ideas, tools and participatory practices.

We are supported by a consortium of partners bringing together expertise from across culture, environment, and community. This includes Amber Valley Community Voluntary Services, Belper and District U3A, Derby Museums, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and University of Derby.

We are hosted and employed by the University of Derby as part of their CivicLab.

Apply online

Creative Community Builder (0217–24) — Current vacancies — University of Derby

You can apply by submitting an online application to the University of Derby. Once you have signed in or registered you will be able to begin your application. If you are creating an account for the first time, please ensure you provide an email address that you access regularly as this will be our main means of contacting you regarding your application.

Support

If you require any assistance, including the provision of any documentation in an alternative format, please contact the University Of Derby Recruitment team at recruitment@derby.ac.uk.

Please note all applications must be submitted online by Midnight GMT on the closing

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Stories of Change

Make/Shift evaluator Ruth Melville shares her reflections on how to evaluate a project like Make/Shift and how to talk about approaches, values and outcomes in a holistic and accessible way.

As an action research project, Make/Shift is all about learning, adapting, changing and responding to possibility and need. ‘Success’ isn’t clearly mappable through outcomes alone. The very set up of the project centres ‘how’ something is done over ‘what’ is done — so how do you design evaluation within this approach — and make it work with the programme, rather than being an add on (or hindrance)?

Getting started

I have to admit that when we found out that we had been selected as evaluators for Make/Shift I responded by ringing Rachel and leaving an over-enthusiastic message about how excited I was.

This is because Make/Shift seems to me to be designed to have learnt from the best of the Creative People and Places experience in the past. That is, starting from scratch to really lean into the principle of taking time to get to know the place, building relationships with people, uncovering the assets in the communities and place.

This is what action research looks like.

Not being sure of the right way, trying things out and sometimes getting it wrong but learning from that. Taking time and building relationships can be nerve wracking as you don’t see the outputs immediately. You can’t ‘count’ the people reached (or you can but it isn’t many).

And it can seem even to those with a real commitment to an asset-based approach that they ‘haven’t really done anything’.

It has been a delight to be able to remind Rachel and the team that this is in fact the best way to do things, and that in the long term this will lead to far greater longevity of the value of the work. The scale is different, but it reminds me of the early work of Transported — both the evaluation and the strength of ongoing relationships there show the value of working in this way.

I am also reminded frequently of the learning from the first phase of Creative People and Places. This was drawn out so well within More Than 100 Stories one of the best creative evaluations I’ve ever seen.

Starting With A Story Of Change

We started — as we try and always do — by putting together a Story of Change. This is an approach which has two key purposes:

1. It gets people thinking about where they want to get to — rather than focusing on what they need to do right now.

2. It is a really good way of sharing intentions and co-creating not just the evaluation, but also the overall approach to the work.

Story of Change, as we use it, was developed as part of the Happy Museum project — a fantastic project and resource bank of ideas, it’s well worth a look. There’s a brief video guide to doing your own and many templates to download.

For people who’ve done evaluation before, it is similar to a Logic Model or Theory of Change approach — focusing on the inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts, but kept as simple as possible. We try and use accessible language throughout — so ‘story’ feels more accessible than ‘theory’ for example.

Building A Story Of Change

We like to involve a range of stakeholders in building the Story of Change. So in the case of Make/Shift, the Consortium and all active collaborators were invited — and we ended up with a real range of people. For the future, it would be good to include an even wider group.

Everything is done via a workshop approach — in practice this means big pieces of paper, post-it notes and examples. For Make/Shift, we ended up discussing someone’s ‘Uncle Tony’ as the sort of person who might be interested in one aspect of the work. But there are many approaches — other projects we’ve worked with have thrown themselves into acting elements out to explore things.

So we get to the four key elements of a Story of Change — The Why, The Who, The How and The What.

The Why — what’s the difference we are trying to make?

We start by looking at the ‘Why?’ — which is ‘why are we doing this’ — ‘what’s the difference we are trying to make?’.

Otherwise known as the outcomes and impacts. At a basic level you can combine these, and decide within each what are the short, medium and long term steps on the way.

The Who

Next we consider ‘Who?’ — ‘who matters?’ — ‘who are we trying to make a difference to’. This can be the beneficiaries (in traditional language). But bear in mind it is about difference.

So these people might be:

· Potential ‘blockers’ we want to challenge over their power, or

· Potential funders we might want to notice the quality and value of the work, as well as

· The people involved.

One of the ‘who’ groups I nearly always have to remind people to include are themselves.

In an action research approach, we all change — if we don’t change then we aren’t learning. As action research is about learning, then it is about changing ourselves as well as others. It isn’t ‘self-centred’ to include the delivery team in the Story of Change — it is essential!

The How

Having oriented ourselves in terms of the difference we want to make, we then think about how we get there — the ‘How’ is about what we put in:

· Where are we starting from? The context of the project/place,

· What is on offer? The assets and resources we can draw on — which do include money but also so much else

· What principles, values and approaches do we think really matter in making the change we want to see.

The What

Finally — we go to the ‘What’.

What are the activities which we plan to do to make this difference. We list them in a high level way — bearing in mind that nothing will be fixed at the time.

It’s action research — we test and learn — and then check the logic. Do we think that by doing this activity we’ll achieve this difference with these people?

It is pretty easy to see some issues. If you have a change happening to a group, but nothing you are doing will reach this group, then it is likely that you might not have that effect. Often, we map out communication — to reach funders or others, or explicitly add in time for reflection so we can learn and adapt.

Make It One Page

Finally (but not really finally), I have a (self)discipline of ensuring it can be written up on one page.

This does tend to (over) simplify things, and can be a bit uncomfortable. But it is also a way of checking we are clear on the most important things, the essence of the plan.

Suitably for an action research-focused organisation, we are adapting and trialling new ways of writing these up. Our neurodiverse team realised that we all prefer different approaches to laying information out, so we assume others might too.

As a result, Make/Shift has three versions of its Story of Change:

  1. A visual model (below)
  2. A diagram
  3. A text version

You can click on the links above and choose which you prefer and we’ll adapt them based on feedback.

Incidentally we checked in with a group of Make/Shift stakeholders and the preferences were almost exactly split — with some finding they couldn’t use or read one model, while another was perfect, with others saying the exact opposite — conclusion — you need multiple formats!

So what next

We use the Story of Change to design our evaluation — to decide on all the evaluation questions. These turn into a range of data collection methods including observation and discussions, as well as the unfortunately necessary questionnaires.

We will look at whether, and to what extent, Make/Shift is reaching its ‘Who’s and ‘Why’s, but more importantly how the ‘How’ affects this.

Our evaluation is about finding out what it was about how Make/Shift works that made the difference — we aren’t looking at if there was a difference or what that was.

Through this they can change their approach to make it as effective as possible. And we approach all of this by inviting and supporting the team, collaborators, decision-makers and friends to take part in an ongoing discussion about what matters and what works.

It’s our job to retell this in ‘evaluation language’.

Ever Changing

And finally… a Story of Change isn’t static, it changes.

There will be review and reflection sessions every six months or so — anyone is welcome to get involved in contributing to this and the evolution of the evaluation.

This blog was written Ruth Melville.

Ruth is Director of RMR and an experienced social researcher and evaluator who has advised both UK and international cultural organisations on best practice in evaluation and monitoring. Find out more about Ruth and RMR here

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Understory x Amber Valley

Mapping community action and connections in rural Derbyshire.

Back in April we hosted a workshop with 50 community organisations connected to community action in Amber Valley, Derbyshire. It was part of a collaboration with Understory a new digital mapping tool that allows communities to reveal the hidden connections that bind them together.

Thanks to the workshop and the fifty organisations who contributed, you can now take a tour of the Amber Valley Community Network Map. It features 332 different groups and organisations bound together via a complex tangle of 1672 connections across 20 areas of shared purpose.

For anyone curious about using or being part of the map. Below is a bit more info on how the map was made, some of the conversations and learning that have emerged, and why we think making relationships visible in this way, can play a really important role in enabling community powered change.

What’s It All About?
Understory is a collaboration between two seemingly very different companies: Onion Collective, a group of place based social entrepreneurs and next economists from Somerset, and Free Ice Cream, a design studio dedicated to playful participation in complex systems. It has been designed as a participatory action learning tool, so that power resides with communities, rather than data being extracted. The team are currently working with 30 places from across the UK to map community action and build a macro-level understanding of how social capital and resilience works in different places.

Amber Valley is one of the first 10 places in the UK to collaborate with Understory and try out the new platform.

Why is it important?
We know that the relationships we’re inside of and how we are connected together as individuals, organisations, groups, and places matters. It’s been proven again and again that relationships play a crucial role in our health and happiness at every scale of organising. That who we are able to call on and connect with, in good times and in bad, has a massive impact on what we’re able to achieve and how well we are able to deal with challenges.

We also know that the building of this relational infrastructure, just like any other infrastructure, takes dedicated time, skills, care and investment and that this labour is often taken for granted, devalued, ignored, unrecognised, unsupported and unfunded.

Understory aims to make relationships more visible, so that communities can see more clearly what they’re inside of and work together to explore how they can turn their relationships and connections into mobilised community action.

How does the mapping work?
The Understory process brings together different organisations involved in civic and community action into a single mapping workshop. Everyone from sports clubs to council officers, theatre makers to community gardeners.

Our session was co-hosted with Amber Valley CVS at Greenwich Community Sports Hub in Ripley with some people also able to join us online. During the session, everyone answers a series of questions that begins to create a network node map in real time.

Understory Mapping Workshop in Ripley, April 2023

During the workshop, the fifty organisation who participated, named a further ten people and organisations both within and beyond Amber Valley that were important to their work and achieving their purpose. As the map began to emerge in real time, it was pretty staggering to see the volume and range of different groups and organisations active in the area. A total of 332 organisations were named linked together via a complex tangle of 1672 connections & relationships.


What does it all mean?
A month after the mapping workshop, Georgie, Sally and Sam from the Understory team joined us for a follow-up workshop at Strutts in Belper to talk through how to navigate the map and what the data was revealing about resilience, social capital and relational infrastructure in Amber Valley. It was a really fascinating conversations with around twenty of the organisations originally involved.

The tool is built on the understanding that the people who live in a place already hold all the insights & knowledge of that place, but that this knowledge isn’t collectively visible to those people. During the follow-up session it definitely felt like the map provided a way for people to see their community from a new perspective and start conversations from a different place. Acknowledging that there is always way more going on than any one organisation, sector or service can ever know and that working together across these silos is the only way to achieve meaningful change.

Some people were a bit bamboozled by the complexity and messiness of the map. We’re not used to seeing data contextualised in this way. But making this complex web of relationships more visible felt really powerful. Like spraying water on a spiders web, helping us to see the complex systems and structures that are shaping what is and isn’t possible for us as individuals, organisations and communities.

The map doesn’t provide any answers, and we’re only really scratching the surface in terms of exploring and analysing the data. But what feels clear, is that if we want to take a collective approach to change and we want communities to have some agency over the way that change comes about, this first step of understanding how people are currently connected and what relationships they’re currently inside of, feels essential.


What next?
We want to put communities and their collective creativity at the heart of making positive change in the places that they live. We want communities to feel more confident about leading on change and we want public agencies to learn alongside communities about how to shift more power and resources to a grass roots level.

We’re working with Understory and a small group of grass roots community groups to explore some new ideas about how we might work together to test the mapping process at a more hyper local neighbourhood level.

Watch this space for more details and get in touch if you’d like to chat more.

>> If you’d like to be added to the Amber Valley Community Network Map get in touch with us at hello@wearemakeshift.uk and we’ll share a link.

>> Anyone can take a tour of the Amber Valley Community Network Map so feel free to dive in or share with anyone who might find it useful or interesting.

Everyone who contributes to the map gets access to the full map and the data it contains as well as added features and filters to explore the map. To add yourself to the map get in touch hello@wearemakeshift.uk

Rachel (Make/Shift), Georgie and Sally (Onion Collective), Sam (Free Icecream) at The University of Derby Civic Lab Conference in July 2023.

Make/Shift s a small team collaborating with others to create projects which support communities in Amber Valley to make, do, create, repair, grow, share, care for and connect with what matters to them in the places that they live. Their vision is for Amber Valley to be a place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters as part of everyday life.

Onion Collective is a social enterprise working to tackle social, cultural and environmental injustice in Watchet, while fighting for a brighter, distributed and attached economic future across the UK. They deliver wide-reaching and ambitious regeneration projects that are holistic in nature, benefiting people and planet. Locally, we aim to create purposeful and interesting jobs, build local economic resilience, widen cultural engagement and enhance aspiration. With a macro lens, we are showcasing what is possible when you put belonging, connection and hope at the fore.

Free Ice Cream is a design studio that uses playful design methodologies to make existing structures visible, help people ask better questions of them, and imagine alternatives. To do this they specialise in the participatory mapping and playing of complex systems, and creating the conditions to imagine alternative futures and infrastructures. They also work with activists, campaigners, civil society and academia to influence policy.

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‘Co-designing’ Communications

Can Communications be truly collaborative?

Earlier this year, in an attempt to get fit, I started running. Well, jogging really. Okay, fast walking. Only instead of becoming the streamlined, long -distance runner I’d imagined, I took a nasty fall and tore up my ankle. It was bad. Really bad. Can’t leave the house for a month, bad. Months of pain and physio ensued. In a cab on the way back from my final physio appointment, I relayed this story to the driver. He offered his own anecdote about his Dr telling him that he should go to the gym. He lamented that he worked 12 hour days and the last thing he wanted to do at the end of that was go to the gym. He then told me about the time he owned a takeaway, and his plan to up sticks and leave for sunnier shores in the coming years. He spoke about his dismay that neighbours no longer speak to each other and shared a vivid childhood memory about his father. At the end of the ride we thanked each other for the conversation, each leaving, I think, a touch fuller, feeling a little more connected.

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of stories. I write and perform stories using various mediums, theatre, film, short stories and have worked in communications for over 15 years — mostly internal communications where I have been tasked with sharing the stories of an organisation with and to the people who work there. I have generally kept these two sides of myself separate — the creative and the corporate. Organisations generally do not see the value in creativity and storytelling — however much they like to convince themselves otherwise. Marketing and communications can often just be seen as completing a number of tasks and hoping for the best. Define your audience. Create a newsletter. Build a website. Set up a Twitter page. Evaluate. A to-do-list to be ticked off.

While of course there will be many tried and true communications principles that underpin the work I do, at Make/Shift I am keen to experiment with different ways of working – to shift communications and marketing away from something that is done by rote, using tools and processes that are always used, only because they have always been used rather than because they are truly effective or joyful or needed. My questions are these:

How can we tell the story of the Make/Shift project?

How do we do that effectively in a way that is collaborative and impactful?

How can we make sure that the storytelling is respectful and dignified?

Can we co-design communications?

Can we do this in a way that is iterative?

I plan to blog about the experience of exploring these questions with all of the highs and lows that will inevitably arise. This is the beauty of an action-research project — we get to try, fail, try better.

One of the areas that I am interested in trying a more iterative approach is with the creation of our visual identity. Can we create an identity that is informed by the community, shaped and refined by their explorations with making and creativity, which also develops over time as we continue our work with this community? It’s going to be uncomfortable and slower than the conventional process of creating a visual identity but I think it’s also an opportunity to surprise ourselves by what is created.

I also hope that this is the beginning of my own research and greater understanding of how to work in a way that aligns with the values that underpin the foundations of Make/Shift. It’s a chance to generate learning and explore the possibilities of how we can tell the story of a Creative People and Places project.

In my upcoming blogs, I’ll be delving a bit deeper into our decision to approach the creation of our visual identity by piloting a designer-in-residence model. I’ll also be sharing some of the work of people and organisations who are re-framing storytelling, and positioning organisational and societal narrative as a tool to create change. But before all of that, I’ll be getting back to some outdoor exercise — only at a much gentler pace.

Hayley Davis — Communications and Storytelling, Make/Shift

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What Shall We Make Here?

This is the first in a series of blogs by Rachel Smith, sharing a bit more about the beginnings of Make/Shift and what it’s all about!

Beginnings …
It’s almost eight months since I started in my new role as Creative Producer for Make/Shift. I had high hopes of blogging and sharing about these first months. But alas the weeks have raced by and here we are, already eight months in. It feels like time travels faster through newness. And there’s certainly been a lot of that. New job, new home, new place, new schools, new project, new team, new collaborators, new challenges … a whirlwind of newness that has gobbled up time at a voracious speed.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky to work on lots of new beginnings. Setting up new programmes, projects & teams. I’ve learnt (sometimes the hard way) how important beginnings are. They set the tone and the trajectory for the future. They contain a potent mix of energy, naiveite, possibility and strategic momentum, counterbalanced by a healthy dose of confusion, messiness, uncertainty, and practical challenges.

This combo can feel overwhelming at times, and yet starting out with Make/Shift, I’ve tried really hard to relish and to linger a little longer in these uncomfortable beginnings. These are complex, messy, challenging times. We can’t pretend we don’t know this. Stewarding resources and beginning something new within this context feels like a huge privilege and a massive responsibility. Ploughing forward in a linear way, isn’t helpful right now. So, we’re embracing the messiness, resisting the urge to rush into solutions, remembering that the process matters, that how we’re being and organising matters, that relationships and stories matter and that if we want to shift towards different outcomes, we must start differently too.

So What’s Is All About?
When you start something new, the inevitably question on everyone’s lips is, so what’s it all about then? And with something like Make/Shift, it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. The whole point is that we have to make it together. If we started out with a set idea about what we wanted to do, we wouldn’t be doing our job properly. And yet, it’s so much easier to talk about defined outputs and tantalising things, and so much murkier to talk about how we’re working and what might become possible over time.

In those moments, when you only have a couple of minutes to answer the question, it can feel incredibly frustrating (for everyone!) not to be able to give a simple answer. There feels like such a tangible correlation between not having clear answers and a sense of shame, failure and disappointment. And yet it’s amidst these unknowns that the magical things can start to happen and that the real possibilities start to emerge … so here goes with a bit of an explanation!

Communities and their creativity
Make/Shift’s purpose is to put communities and their collective creativity at the heart of making positive change in the places that they live.

We think that when people have the opportunity to create, make, do and share what they love with their neighbours, connections grow (with self, others & place) and change becomes more possible.

We’re part of a national action research programme called Creative People and Places funded by Arts Council England. The programme is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in creative and cultural experiences in the places where they live.

We’re at the beginning of shaping a 10-year strategy with communities in Amber Valley, and we have funding secured until April 2025 for phase 1 of working together. Testing ideas, learning through doing and building the foundations for a thriving network of makers, doers and connectors to grow. Rooted in Amber Valley and reaching out beyond.
A place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters.

“Every human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives” Joseph Beuys

We start from a belief that we are all creative, that everyone is a maker, and that making together is an elemental part of who we are and how we contribute to shaping, and being shaped by the places we live.

We also recognise that the places we live, work, learn and play are often designed to dim this creativity rather than nourish it, and that many of our daily interactions position us as consumers, users and subjects, rather than as makers, doers and active citizens. In his book “Citizens”, Jon Alexander shares that the average person sees somewhere between 1500–3000 messages a day, telling them they are consumers. What might become possible if we lived in places where we received 3000 messages a day that told us that we are makers, creators, growers, and producers instead? What would it feel like to be part of places designed to nurture our inner maker and fan the flames of our collective creativity? What might become possible, if a vast array of different types of creativity mattered. Both in terms of its value and in terms of its physical manifestation as part of shaping our everyday lives?

Q: What if we could all be part of places where a vast array of creativity matters as part of everyday life?

Rekindling the maker in everyone

“The potency that comes from doing and making things yourself is irresistible, and means that we can face future challenges with originality, daring and joy” — David Gauntlett

Over the next 10 years we want to work with communities to discover, connect, nourish and let loose their creativity. We are all bundles of potential waiting for the right conditions and connections to make magic happen together. Just like a flame, our creativity needs to be tended to, connected with the right elements and kept away from the wrong elements, in order for it to be kindled, glow more brightly and spread it’s warmth!

Much of our focus will be on working alongside communities to make, do, create, repair, grow, share, care for and connect with what matters to them in the places that they live. Learning together about what’s already working, what’s wanted, what the future needs, what’s missing and what’s getting in the way.

Q: How might we work together as neighbours to rekindle the maker in everyone?

Letting creativity loose to shift the direction of where we’re heading

“The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently” ― David Graeber

As makers, doers, creators, producers we can activate our personal and collective agency and begin to craft our own stories and futures. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are can change everything. Absorbing 3000 messages a day from marketing companies, service providers, brands, public agencies, schools, workplaces and more … that position us as users, passive recipients, consumers and needy beneficiaries of their products, services and wisdom is like chucking a massive bucket of water over our inner spark.

The relationships and stories that we’re inside of matter. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are matter. Untangling our creativity from the dominant stories, power dynamics and systems that keep us trapped in solutions that aren’t working, matters.

If we want to shift towards healthier futures, we have to shift away from the delusion of exceptionalism and the idea that there are only a few extraordinary people, organisations, places who have the ideas, answers, solutions & creativity needed, and start telling the story of ordinary people, everywhere, who are capable of extraordinary things together.

Q: How might we let loose the collective creativity of our neighbourhoods to shift us towards healthier futures for people and planet?

Make/Shift Compass:
We know where we need to start (with communities and their creativity) and we know where we want to get to (places full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters) … but there’s a whole load of unknowns to navigate in between.

This is the work!

And this is where being an action research programme comes in.

We don’t have the answers. We’re here to learn together. By doing lots of different things together, taking the time to monitor and understand what changes (or doesn’t!), and then doing more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.


To help guide us along the way, we’ve created the compass above, that brings together the values that we want to lead with, the approaches that we’re committed to taking and the underlying stories that we want to bring to the fore in our work. These will shift and grow as we start to involve more and more people in shaping them together.

We think that focusing deeply on how we’re being and what stories we’re telling is one of the most powerful ways we can create the conditions for change. In many ways, given the complex nature of communities, places and change, these are the only things in our direct control.

So, What Shall We Make Here …?

Well, this is something that we can only figure out together …. and we can’t wait to find out!

If you want to find out more, have a chat or share your ideas, get in touch!

hello@wearemakeshift.uk
@makeshift_av

Vision:
A place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters as part of everyday life.

Mission:
Working with communities to make, do, create, repair, grow, share, care for and connect with what matters to them in the places that they live. Working together as neighbours to unleash the maker in everyone and let the creativity of Amber Valley loose.

Values:
Imagination:
Things can be different than how they are now

Collaboration:
Things are better done with others than individually

Care:
I am because we are. We each owe a duty of care to those around us, as human beings, and to our natural environment

Action:
Our future is in our hands. As makers, doers, creators, producers we can activate our agency and craft our own stories and futures.

Approach:
Starting With Strengths: We will start by making visible the hidden assets of communities and by shining a light on assets that are not yet sufficiently valued. From here we can explore together what might be missing and what might be newly wanted/needed.

How can we start with what we already have?

Moving at the Speed of Trust: We know that relationships matter and that building relationships takes time, patience and relies heavily on trust. To collaborate and make meaningful work together can be hard and throw up lots of challenges and vulnerabilities.

How can we take the time that is needed to get to know people and build safe spaces and high levels of trust?

With Not For: We want to build genuine, reciprocal, equitable collaborations with communities. This means paying close attention to context, power and positionality and making sure that there is a two way exchange of knowledge and resources.

How can power flow differently so that it is shared more diffusely?

Learning From Nature: We know that nature has been organising and growing healthy ecosystems for millions of years. We want to learn from more than human ways of organising, to help untangle ourselves from dominant stories and systems that keep us trapped in solutions that aren’t working.

How can we use nature as a model and mentor to re-imagine how we are being, doing and learning together?

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Join Our Team

We’re on the look out for a couple of fantastic people to join our small friendly team. Helping to shape two brand new roles as part of a dynamic and evolving new programme working with communities in Amber Valley, Derbyshire.

Creative Community Builder

We’re looking for a part time Creative Community Builder.

We want to work with someone who enjoys collaborating with others and is excited by the opportunity to shape a brand new role as part of a dynamic and evolving programme.

As Creative Community Builder you will play an essential convening role as part of the Make/Shift team. Helping to grow a network of makers, doers and connectors who have access to the resources and platforms they need to make things happen together in the places they live and to invite their neighbours along to join them.

To thrive in this role you will be passionate about the power of peer-to-peer networks, committed to strengths based community development and curious about working proactively with communities to self-organise, solicit resources and make decisions for themselves about the cultural and creative experiences they want to grow in the places where they live.

You will be interested in how to create space for colleagues, peers, communities, and neighbours with different lived, learnt and practiced experience to share, learn, collaborate, make decision and take action together.

Part time

£30k-£40k (pro-rata)


Assistant Producer

We’re looking for a full time Assistant Producer.

We want to work with someone who has the ability to juggle multiple priorities and provide practical support across a diverse range of projects and programmes.

As Assistant Producer, you will collaborate closely with the Make/Shift Creative Producer, to activate and bring to life ideas emerging from a dynamic network of relationships with residents, community organisations, creatives, venues and businesses based in Amber Valley and beyond.

To thrive in this role you will be a proactive team player with excellent communication skills, open to learning through doing and comfortable working within an emerging role to develop a brand-new programme from scratch.

Full time
£20k-£25k


Interview date 11th or 12th September.

About the Make/Shift Programme
Over the next ten years we’ll be working with communities from across Amber Valley to unleash the maker in everyone. We plan to do this in cycles — Discovering — Connecting — Nourishing — Letting Loose creativity, connection and new possibilities in homes, streets, neighbourhoods, villages and towns across Amber Valley.

We want to grow a network of makers, doers and connectors who have access to the resources and platforms they need to make things happen together in the places they live and to invite their neighbours to join them. They will be supported and inspired by an evolving network of thinkers, creators, artists, makers, activists, dreamers, and story tellers that we will develop together, branching out of the Amber Valley to connect local makers and communities with local, regional, and international ideas.

We have funding secured until April 2025 to pilot a range of Make/Shift platforms responding to needs. These might include physical spaces, events, festivals, gatherings, hubs, tools, resources, funds, equipment, technology and more that support people to make things happen together and let their creativity loose.

As a new action research project, Make/Shift will be experimental and innovative in its approach, testing new ideas, tools and participatory practices.

Make/Shift is a small team, collaborating with others to create projects which support communities in Amber Valley to make, do, create, repair, grow, share, care for and connect with what matters to them in the places that they live. Our vision is for Amber Valley to be a place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters as part of everyday life.

We are supported by a consortium of partners bringing together expertise from across culture, environment, and community. This includes Amber Valley Community Voluntary Services, Belper and District U3A, Derby Museums, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and University of Derby.

We are hosted and employed by the University of Derby as part of their CivicLab.

About Creative People and Places
Make/Shift is part of the Creative People and Places programme, initiated and funded by Arts Council England thanks to the National Lottery. Creative People and Places is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in creative and cultural experiences in the places where they live. There are now 39 projects, covering 56 local authorities across England.

You can find out a bit more about our approach here and on our website www.wearemakeshift.co.uk.

How to apply
You can apply by submitting an online application. Once you have signed in or registered with us you will be able to begin your application. If you are creating an account for the first time, please ensure you provide an email address that you access regularly as this will be our main means of contacting you regarding your application.

Apply online Apply online
If you require any assistance, including the provision of any documentation in an alternative format, please contact the Recruitment team at recruitment@derby.ac.uk.

Please note all applications must be submitted online by Midnight GMT on the closing

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‘Transported’ to Boston

In December 2022, we bundled into a minivan and took a road trip to Boston in Lincolnshire, to visit fellow Creative People and Places project, Transported. Transported were one of the first Creative People and Places Projects to be set-up back in 2013, so have been up and running for nearly 10 years.

We were joined by colleagues from our Consortium partners, University of Derby, Derby Museums, Amber Valley CVS, and U3A alongside researchers Mark Robinson from Thinking Practice and Victoria Baker from Coventry University.

Dolphin Lane Heritage Mosaic

We wanted to learn more about the 10 year journey that Transported have been on, exchange ideas and glean valuable insights into the successes, pitfalls and challenges that come with being part of the Creative People and Places programme.

We were hosted by the full Transported team and Management Group who shared generously about their different roles and experiences of being part of the project. The project is hosted by the Centre of Culture and Creativity at the University of Lincoln, so there is lots of synergy with our relationship with the University of Derby and the CivicHUB.

The morning session was led by Sukhy Johal, who is the founding Director of Centre and chair of the Transported Management Group. He led a passionate discussion about the role of arts and creative thinking and the difference they make to lives and places. We also heard from researcher Mark Robinson who ran through some of the highlights from his 10 years of Learning report, that was commission by Arts Council England to mark the 10 year anniversary of the Creative People and Places programme.

Following the discussions, Nick Jones, Programme Director for Transported, led a walking tour around Boston to visit Transported public art projects which included the Boston Buoys and the Dolphin Lane Heritage Mosaic Project.

It was great to meet the team and hear them speak so passionately about their work and the impact it’s had.

It was also brilliant to spend some time with the Make/Shift team and consortium and start getting to know each other a bit better. There is really nothing like four hours in a minibus to help build new friendships!

Massive thanks to Tony from Derby Museums, Lynn from Amber Valley CVS, Bernadette from U3A, Rhiannon and Ian from University of Derby and collaborators Mark & Victoria, for taking a day out during the hectic run up to Christmas. And a huge Thanks to Nick, Anna and all the Transported team for welcoming us to Boston and sharing their experience and passion so generously.

We’ll definitely be keeping in touch with our peers at Transported as we begin our journey here in the Amber Valley, as well as getting to know some of our other neighbouring Creative People and Places projects here in the East Midlands.

Some key take-aways from the day that we’ll be holding on to:

Move at the speed of trust
Relationships take time. Patience, kindness and curiosity are key if we want to find our way together.

Stories of hope
Focus on strengths and possibilities that can guide us towards a brighter tomorrow rather than trying to fix problems.

Think long term
Don’t let short term funding cycles limit long term ambition. This work takes time and we need to be in it for the long haul.

Try things out
Be bold and take risks. Its normal for things to be messy and imperfect when trying new things out together. We’re learning. That’s the point.

Have fun
Make sure to have fun, celebrate the successes and look after each other along the way.

We’re steadily building relationships, meeting people and laying the foundations for something remarkable. We hope you’ll join us on this journey. You can get in touch with us via email hello@wearemakeshift.uk

Keep watching!

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