re.think is working with Common Cause in order to develop new knowledge about whether, and if so how, engagement with art and culture activates and enhances the likelihood that people can behave in ways that express intrinsic values for self-acceptance, affiliation, and community feeling, values that are known to promote higher levels of personal, social, and ecological well-being.
re.think has chosen this focus because Common Cause’s research has evidenced the central importance of cultural values in underpinning concern about ‘bigger-than-self’ problems. This phrase, which re.think has adopted, has been coined by Common Cause to describe and underline problems which are of a global collective nature such as resource scarcity and bio-diversity loss, climate change and social injustice – all of which are fuelling global conflict, mass migration, poverty and many other social problems.
Evidence that cultural values are of profound influence in shaping our motivation to engage with bigger-than-self problems is now extensive. Because cultural values exert this influence, it is of pressing concern that we harness all possible vehicles that could have an impact on shaping our values.
Traditionally, those have been communications, campaigns and public policy vehicles but re.think believes that art and culture are potentially powerful vehicles for communicating and shaping cultural values. There are at least five reasons why this is so:
• art and culture are among the most participative, dynamic and social forms of human behaviour
• art and culture’s capacity to trigger reflection, generate empathy, create dialogue and foster new understanding means that
they can offer a powerful and democratic way of expressing, sharing and shaping values.
• by helping to create an environment, and state of mind, directly conducive to the creation and development of new ideas, art
and culture challenge the status quo and provide spaces where anything is possible.
• art and culture can help people build new capabilities and understand how to imagine a different way of being.
• art and culture can enable people to design useful and meaningful things and are increasingly the basis of livelihoods and
enterprises that are motivated by much more than profit
However much research on the impact of art and culture has focused on broad social and economic outcomes, and there is less robust evidence of whether and how art and culture affect how people think about the world and the values they consider important. Greater attention therefore needs to be paid to art and culture’s potential in enabling people to engage with bigger-than-self problems, both to enable policy makers and funders to develop a richer understanding of the role and value and art and culture and to support practitioners working with art and culture to make the world more livable.
In order to advance and evidence the potential of art and culture, re.think is beginning by publishing a provocation by Professor Tim Kasser in the Spring of 2013 to which a number of artists, campaigners and academics politicians have responded. A research project is also in design stage which seeks to explore whether and how engagement with art and culture helps activate and strengthen ‘bigger-than-self’ values – empathy, concern for future generations and recognition of the importance of human relationships.
If you are interested in actively participating in and contributing to this or any of the other Projects described in this section of the website you can join in the collaboration by joining our CoP. Read the CoP Charter here first and if you are interested in joining, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org