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.
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
Green New Deal Reloaded is a new project led by Swarm Dynamics in 2021 and 2022, generating informative, artful creative content to communicate to wider audiences how an ambitious Green New Deal in the UK could drive system change – beyond the current growth addicted economic model. Involving experts in capacity building for campaign partners with national reach, the project is made possible by support from the Poldam Puckham Foundation. The first animated film was release in late October and rated 4.5 stars by Films for Action. The films was trending on Films for Action during COP26 and can be viewed there at this link: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/jane-and-the-dark-cloud-animation/
Our communications learnings report, capturing the insights from developing the approach to this animation, and drawing on some evidence about communicating the huge topic of system change to broader audiences, can be found here: Comms Learnings Report – animation 1
A quick visual showing our activities, outputs and public engagement levels we achieved during our first reporting period to the Charities Commission, 2019- June 2020. Hover over image to expand.
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.
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.