Sustainable AmbITion was part of the AmbITion Scotland programme’s Make:IT:Happen Fund, and has come about through my Envirodigital research and development.
Sustainable AmbITion was about giving arts, culture, and heritage organisations support through grants, signposting and consultancy) to make some first steps towards being ecologically sustainable – using digital tools. Just because these sectors not seen as a significant part of the emissions/pollutant emitting and natural resource using problem (the energy, built environment, and transport sectors have greater impacts on a nation’s environmental footprint in comparison to the creative industries here) does not mean these sectors should not be a significant player in the solution. Sustainable AmbITion is about providing arts, culture and heritage organisations the opportunity to begin working – through the use of digital technologies – towards being more sustainable themselves, so that with integrity and by example, they can begin inspiring their communities of audiences towards sustainable lifestyles: ecologically (economically and socially too).
The Make:IT:Happen fund was part of the national digital development programme that Envirodigital parent company Rudman Consulting designed and delivered – AmbITion: and was created to help organisations to grasp the opportunities presented by digital technologies in order to grow business capability, capacity, creativity, and confidence in these areas. Make:IT:Happen funding offered support for environmentally sustainable projects via Sustainable AmbITion (£500 – £5,000) which supported organisations to be carbon-aware and improve their green credentials through funding new digital technologies or approaches.
Hannah Rudman, Lead Consultant, AmbITion Scotland said: “The Make:IT:Happen funding strands have been specifically designed to support organisations adapt to the social, cultural, economic and environmental changes that the digital technology revolution is driving. Given the successes that have already been achieved through AmbITion Scotland’s work in this area with some of Scotland’s creative community, we’re looking forward to continuing an inspiring and rewarding digital journey.”
The Make:IT:Happen fund evolved out of the work that AmbITion Scotland had undertaken since its inception in 2009. During that time, the project has enabled many organisations, large and small, digitally sophisticated as well as digital newcomers, to develop their businesses through opportunities offered by digital technologies.
I believe that the cultural and creative industries are a key sector to facilitating mass behaviour changes (ie. amongst the general public) in relation to the reducing, recycling, reusing and renewing of the earth’s natural resources. The point of a story can pierce a heart; a visual interpretation of data or a situation can blow our minds; emotionally engaging with a performance can make our souls sing; sending a viral video/cartoon/photo message round the globe through social media can embed meaning and understanding across cultures. Experiencing any of these can change mindsets and enable mass movements. Having our imaginations opened up, our emotions set ablaze, and our creativity enlivened are where the creative and cultural industries have an important role in mobilising people to act and think differently. For example, Do The Green Thing celebrates people from 209 countries sharing their green actions and ideas creatively through social digital media; Cape Farewell and the RSA’s past Art and Ecology programme have engaged significant numbers of artists to engage the public with the idea it might be humanity that has caused the earth’s current ecosystem chaos, and therefore humanity must take responsibility to resolve this. (An example of content from Do The Green Thing):
But we need to lead by example, and have a message backed up by own own integrity. The creative and cultural sector generally is behind other key sectors on engaging significantly with ecologically sustainability: the creative industries are neither a significant resource user nor pollutant emitter, compared to other key sectors. Some reducing, recycling, and reusing has begun voluntarily (and in some instances is incentivised because public funders demand an organisation’s carbon footprint to be counted) – Julie’s Bicycle is the company helping to organise and stardardise this effort, encouraging incremental change and continuous improvement, and in Scotland, Creative Carbon Scotland helps cultural organisations embed the Julie’s Bicycle tools and make reductions. But most organisations within the sector are not under any legislation, and therefore changes in resource, energy, waste, and water behaviours are only secured when significant economic efficiencies can be proven – environmental sustainability is not top of mind organisationally, it is not business critical.
Therefore only occasionally does environmental sustainability show up as a subject in the sector’s core product and output (great examples here though: National Theatre Scotland’s environmental policy is core to operations, but also in artistic output and product via shows such as The Last Polar Bears, and Five Minute Theatre which have an output focussed on being environmental sustainability. Five Minute Theatre – originally co-produced as an Envirodigital project – was created to show that theatre from anywhere can be shared and participated with anywhere else digitally: increasing reach, scale, and accessibility without emitting the 18 tonnes of CO2e a standard Scotland-wide tour would have created. The Last Polar Bears has been toured round Scottish schools this year by bike).
The creative and cultural industries need to be explicitly invited to the tables where environmental/economic/humanitarian strategies to avert ecological disaster are created. We need to be encouraged to become part of the mix of channels though which a public engagement strategy with the low carbon transition might be launched. An Envirodigital research project undertaken with the creative and digital industries for the Scottish Government’s 2020 Climate Group in 2011 came up with this conclusion too. The government is yet to engage – lets give them some inspiring case studies!