Creative Hero’s Award – In Place of War

Earlier this year Creative Social was invited to speak at the brilliant IAM Weekender, a celebration of internet culture and a bringing together of a wonderfully eclectic group of people.

One of the most impactful talks we watched was by In Place of War (IPOW), a non-profit organisation helping people in some of the most dangerous places around the world.

The experience has lead us to create something special – The Creative Hero’s Award; celebrating companies and individuals who are using creativity to positively impact the world. This award will allow us to connect the winners to agencies, brands and creative thought leaders from around the world by inviting them to join us at our CS Global events free of charge.

We caught up with Alison Surtees from IPOW to find out a bit more about the organisation and how they were feeling about joining us for CS Fresh next week…


Can you give us a brief introduction to In Place of War?

In Place of War (IPOW) is an award-winning organisation within the University of Manchester that works with creativity in sites of conflict. This work has developed over the last ten years from a singular artform to cover art and creativity across all sectors. IPOW’s aim is to empower the worlds most under resourced communities through alternative education and entrepreneurialism; the development of cultural spaces; collection and distribution of resources and mobility of creative people. The work of IPOW is divided into several strands: Digital; Production; Research; Networks and Education.


What are the biggest challenges In Place of War are faced with at the moment, and how are you overcoming them?

The largest issue IPOW faces is capacity to rapidly grow and develop the internal team to meet the ever increasing demands of communities we wish to support across the globe, predominantly in Africa and South America. Access to funds, finance and donations are critical in supporting our activity, and enabling us to effectively deliver our programmes on the ground, with communities, and not loose impact or indeed finance through delivering with 3rd party NGO’s. The difficulty of accessing funds is the large competition and the decreasing amount of finance available. We have now started to look to fundraising using our contacts through events and working with brands to support our activity and more recently are initialising crowd funding options. We have healthy input of donated equipment, but we also need capital to be able to mobilise is and artists.


What project do you plan on showing during ‘That’s Me That Is’ and how does it define who you are?

I would say that all the projects I have worked on have a singular aim at their core, and that is to use creativity as a tool for social change and personal change. I will use two examples of quotes form artists in Columbia and South Africa where they articulate how creativity has saved them in some way from a life of crime, violence, drugs or worse.


What advice would you give to people who want to set up projects that focus on using creativity to impact good causes?

Facilitate don’t dictate and always use a bottom up approach. Never come with a pre conceived idea about what is needed and how it will work. when you are working with communities there has to be an equal footing if you want something to be a success. Using creativity as a vehicle to engage people in this initial process is critical, whether or not the eventual project is a creative one. Creatives and communities are not mutually exclusive, they can be one and the same thing.


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Always hold something back of yourself – crucial when working with communities and social change, or you loose yourself completely in the emotions of the work and when it ends it’s like bereavement. Equally if is goes wrong it can also have a massive impact on you personally. Recognise boundaries.


What’s are the 3 most interesting things that you’ve seen recently?

  1. A piece of ariel art that I saw at STRP Festival In Eindhoven in March 2015 – a beautiful melding of dance, visual, triggering and technology. Watch HERE
  2. Grayson Perry’s tapestries, depicting the new gods of our era – I love his take on things, and his Reith Lectures were amazing
  3. Akala talking at a recent festival we managed for University of Manchester, highly articulate talking about race, feminism and social change. The stage was outside and everyone was listening to him talk.


What could Creative Social do to support more companies and individuals who are using creativity to help good causes?

Quite often what is the most important is time. At IPOW we are trying to develop a mentoring programme, the first round of which has been launched. People need someone who can help them develop their ideas, sound out ideas or link them to people who can support their work. Mentors form a key role in this aspect, and giving some time can have a massive impact. Equally, volunteering and at the highest level setting up a fund that can be accessed. Small amounts can do as much as large amounts for simple projects. We have sliding scale for donations and what each donation can provide, and that can be from as little as £100, it’s all relative.

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