Empathy is important. We can’t connect with one another without considering the thoughts and feelings of others. However, the only experience that we have to draw on is our own, which is why no matter how hard we try and the importance we place upon empathy, we will never be able to fully understand someone else’s experience.
This is why CAGED Arts work using participant centred methods. No amount of project planning can help you create a programme that is suited to a particular community. No demographic is a monolith and this is particularly true of young people. We have all been young people. But nobody’s experience is the same. The projects in CAGED that I am most proud of are the ones where participants and their communities have been at the heart of the building process.
As someone who works in arts management, I don’t always get to spend time in workshop sessions but I have learnt so much just from planning with communities. I am very conscious about how I view my role and my work. How can I use the skills I have to support communities? How am I adding value to their lives and what they want to do? Do we share the same values?
Sometimes you have to accept that you are not the best person to help with a project, and point someone in the direction of someone more useful. As a business, it may seem crazy to step away from a project and an income; but sometimes collaboration and knowing someone else could do a great job, where you could only do an ok one is more important than a quick buck.
My personal values impact my work. I work hard to make sure people are fairly paid, and that everybody is accountable to the participants of a project. We have recently started exploring how we can give back to the community as a company, with the Creative Futures: Mentoring for young artists. It’s another way of looking at how we are adding value to an arts scene, being responsible for supporting those emerging.
It’s taken a long time to get to this space where I am happy with the work that I am doing. I love my job, even though I seem to spend every day chasing funding bid deadlines and writing hundreds upon hundreds of characters about need and plans and audience development. I get to meet fantastic people who want to do great things. I am passionate about the changes that CAGED Arts makes for people. I am passionate about the system and the platform that we are trying to build, where the voices of young people matter in creating provision.