How do we drive change after the conversations?


The Western Sydney Jam hosted by NAVA in November 2016

Conference. Forum. Symposium. They are the events that aim to gather the industry and it’s supporters to discuss problems, share skills and work towards solutions. But there is nothing worse than events that become all talk and no action. You know the ones – we have all found ourselves in them. Is this the most effective way to drive conversations and thus the arts forward in Australia?

From break out sessions, round table discussions and consultations to expert panels with individual calls to action and coordinated strategies to mobilise the sector. What brought this to mind? Two things: our contributors have been attending events, ArtState (Lismore) is around the corner and before we know it, Artlands 2018. All the knowledge sharing!

How can we better sustain the momentum behind these conversations to ensure change? 

Is there a more effective model to harness the knowledge in the room and draw in thought leaders from other sectors to make sure we do social impact better? This is not to say that there isn’t a place for the traditional formats, but rather to consider how the arts sector can keep looking outwards, be responsive and enable ourselves to grow. Sometimes talking isn’t the solution. Sometimes we need something more.

This month’s provocation: what can the arts learn from hackathons to drive change? 

Hackathons are a-buzz in the social and technology sectors. In short, they:

  • draw in experts with different skill sets and backgrounds
  • lead with solutions-based thinking, reframing problems as opportunities
  • employ co-design tools to work through a plentitude of ideas without constriction
  • produce new ways of operating, services or products with the end user at the core.

A valid critique of hackathons is consistent with any of the traditional formats: without a commitment to a follow up strategy, there is no point holding them. Where the arts industry would benefit is from the mindset shift – from deficit to opportunity, from problem to work shopped solution and in welcoming outside experts to co-design a new system.

Whilst the arts industry is prone to falling into initiative-itis, could a solutions-based event – not just in name, but in process – be the way forward to systems change?


This article was first published by State of the Arts Media on November 6, 2017.

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