Work &

Impact

As a registered charity in England, Swarm Dynamics works towards the charitable purpose:

“To promote sustainable development for the benefit of the public, by raising awareness of problems and solutions for the preservation, conservation and protection of the environment, and the prudent use of resources, through the use of the arts.”

To our knowledge, we are the only UK Charity working towards this purpose at the level of systemic change and also advancing awareness of ecological economics by combining artists with experts.

Our Strategy

In pursuit of our purpose, all our work falls within one or more of the 4 pathways to change we have developed: a research pathway, an artist led pathway, an educational and community pathway, and a policy/practice pathway. To explore the below diagram in larger form, hover the mouse over it or click here to open as pdf: Pathways to Change Diagram

System Change Hive

System Change HIVE – creative engine room to communicate brighter, zero carbon futures:

Our flagship project for 2019, the HIVE is an innovative collaboration between Swarm Dynamics, experts in sustainable development and systems change at STEPS Centre, and Brighton University School of Media. 14 emerging artists and communicators will work with experts to explore and translate complex issues and information about solutions into art driven communications to inspire mainstream audiences. A resulting informative exhibition, including Virtual Reality simulation, soundart and visual art will be brought on tour across the UK from late 2019 till end of 2020 in a rich public engagement programme of festivals and venues, including NESTA’s Future Fest, Brighton Digital Fest, Birmingham Open Media and Eden Centre. Read the press release here or visit the website systemchangehive.org

The project will result in 3 main outcomes that advance our charitable purpose. Firstly, the exhibition will provide an informative immersive experience for an estimated 20,000 physical audiences and many more online and via broadcast media. Through audio guide and interactive information delivered through virtual reality, public audiences will explore pathways into the future and understand how key transformations in the behaviour and consumption patters of individuals, communities, and corporations could result in a cascade of benefits and rapid societal transformations towards a zero cabon economy with well-being for all at its centre. How might our relationship with technologies, with each other, with urban space, work and food transform for the better in zero carbon futures based on sustainable well-being? Audiences will come away with access to an online portal of information including links to real world initiatives that advance game changing sustainable transformations in their area.

Secondly, the HIVE will provide the beginnings of a research base for arts based enquiry into how to creatively communicate and translate complex ideas around system change, decarbonisation and  ecological economics to general audiences.  We believe that artists have an untapped role to play in conceiving new societal solutions, not only as communicators. A number of roundtables and capacity building events will be held in 2020 with NGOs and research managers, to share the creative communications and communications learnings from the project.

Thirdly, through an independent report, we will assess the replicability of the HIVE and the experimental approach to pedagogy we piloted, with a view to consider establishing a permanent HIVE in Brighton or beyond.

Capacity building for ngos
creative content and story telling workshops to help engage and inform wider audiences:

We have delivered trainings and capacity building events for NGOs and Higher Education providers who share our charitable purpose, including Friends of the Earth, Sustainable Development Goals Watch, and Schumacher College. As one example, a story telling lab we ran in 2017 for over 20 communications managers across the Friends of the Earth network gave them tools to approach story telling in fresh and more artful ways, with the help of artists and animators working up a live story board throughout the process. They invited us back for more work. Informed by the evidence from ClimateOutreach and others about how to communicate issues like climate change to the unconverted, participants evaluated our training as highly beneficial for their work engaging and informing wider audiences on climate change and sustainable development.

In 2020 we were on the guest faculty of Changing the Frame, a short course for post-graduate students at Schumacher College, imparting insight and evidence in how to communicate rapid transitions to sustainable futures thought the power of art and artful language. We were since invited back for guest lecturers on related topics.

Before we became a UK registered charity we also worked with the European branch of Friends of the Earth (which includes UK), to generate visual identity for a new awareness raising campaign under incubation – Fossil Free Europe. The same year we were engaged by the Peoples Budget campaign to create the visual identity and website artwork for their campaign about how public funds could be used to better drive green and socially just transformations, escaping the ‘tired’ imagery of wind farms that predominates in the visual language of environmental groups. In a nutshell – our work for environmental NGOs and researchers helps them harness the power of arts, imagination and evidence based story telling, helping them to innovate in how to engage wider or different audiences in their work.

We support disadvantaged artists

In the last financial year 2019 to 2020, we have supported:

  • 2 young artists facing financial difficulties through the provision of bursary awards allowing them to access on campus education about system change and zero carbon futures, plus professional training and exposure during our 9 month programme in Brighton (System Change Hive).
  • 5 artists who had lost all of some of their income due to COVID-19, through the award of  micro-commissions for our post-pandemic brief.

When assessing disadvantage, we have been helped by Arts Emergency who pointed us to useful resources and reports to help us understand wider and systemic barriers faced by groups of artists and vulnerable people. We are committed to continue to prioritise support for vulnerable artists in the post-covid world and to find ways to support artists to engage with system change issues during this challenging time.

Creative factory at UN COP21

Created and delivered by Forever Swarm, before the creation of Swarm Dynamics, the Creative Factory provided proof of concept for much of what we do. We brought artists in residience from the UK and beyond to Paris to collaborate with 180 campaigns and communications experts. The goal: to rethink failing communications around climate change and figure out new ways to change the climate story. The result: prototypes and seeds for over 12 new creative communications strategies, digital apps, and artful approaches to reworking the climate action story, some of which have since been further developed and brought into reality. An overwhelming number of participants described the 2 week journey as ‘transformational’ for their work on climate change. To read testimonials of participants on the final day, open this: Testimonials Creative Factory

How we select projects

We select projects and artists on the basis of:

 

  • Whether the project is capable of reaching the public with information and messaging concerning the given issues of sustainable development.
  • Whether the project is capable of informing and inspiring people to adopt specific lifestyle or consumption changes/choices, or help them understand and engage with more holistic solutions toward sustainable development in their community.
  • The project helps communicate accurate and robust research or findings concerning the state of the natural environment, its connection with human well-being, or the benefits of solutions.
  • Whether the key partners are environmental charities or NGOs or research institutions who work towards the same charitable purpose.

When we select artists for major projects and commissions this is always done via an open call that is not restricted to the artists we already know through our networks. Interviews and selection will then take place with the help of a panel comprising people both internal and external to Swarm Dynamics. Since COVID-19 we are more committed than ever to prioritising support for vulnerable and disadvantaged artists to allow them to engage in our work.

We have a preference for, and actively encourage, open source (public domain) or creative commons-non commercial licensing for any artworks resulting from projects we seed, or are involved with creating.

Contacts

If you are an organisation seeking our help as creative catalyst to think differently about your environmental campaign strategies, to deliver creative workshops or educational events about communicating rapid transition, or for inspirational guest talks involving creatives, please use the contact form below and address your query to David.

 

If you are an artist, creative, or change maker generally interested in joining the Swarm collective or finding out more about what we do and would like to do, please fill in the below mail form below and one of our team will get back to you in a week or two. Alternatively, follow and ping us on facebook or twitter.

 

If you are able to support our unique work embedding the arts within system change and sustainable futures, please help us keep going in the aftermath of COVID19 with a small donation, which you can make securely through our page on the Charities Aid Foundation – please click here