Can we help the next generation of policy makers, business leaders and citizens to become creative, critical and independent thinkers? Can we make them aware of the nature of the problems they will be confronted with? Can we strengthen their capacity to foster and lead stakeholder processes to address these problems?
Twenty years ago, at one of the first research workshops I held for stakeholders, a participant from the local community put up his hand and asked when we were going to start making something. I obviously looked confused so he picked up the workshop flyer and pointed to the word ‘workshop.’ “You make things in workshops don’t you?” he asked.
At the time, I took this as a lesson in choosing your terminology with care when working with diverse groups of stakeholders. However, on looking back I wonder if I missed something else.
What can art contribute to participatory modelling? Over the past decade, participatory visual and narrative arts have been more frequently and effectively incorporated into scenario planning and visioning workshops.
We use arts-based techniques in three ways:
incorporating arts language into the process of visioning
delineating eco-aesthetic values of the visual and aural landscape in communities
engaging art to articulate challenges and solutions within local communities.
The arts based approaches we use include collage, drawing, visual note taking, map making, storyboarding, photo documentation through shared cameras, mobile story telling, performance in the landscape, drawing as a recording device, and collective mural creation.
They allow us to expand and deepen engagement strategies beyond the scope of traditional dialog tools such as opinion surveys, workshops, and meetings. And, they allow for both individual and collective work, from spending reflective time independently, to rejoining as a group to discuss process and products. They are also particularly effective in bicultural and multicultural settings.
Visual techniques can help foster a different type of discussion than one that is primarily verbal or quantitative because they involve participants in different patterns of thinking, questioning, and interacting.