United in adversity... through diversity
Quiché project - credit Heidy Cabrera
By Isabelle Viens, Expert in Social Art for Behaviour Change
Update : May 2021
Today, May 21, is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development and, to mark the occasion, we would like to put the spotlight on culture and diversity as vehicles for change.
The current global pandemic emphasizes our true solidarity. However, it has also clearly shown how every country, community, family, and individual has distinct experiences deeply influenced by both cultural and artistic forces. The roles that culture and art play in our lives deserve to be considered, understood, and even celebrated, to ensure that vital projects — like access to water, sanitation, and hygiene — can develop in a sustainable manner.
In India and Africa, in Quebec’s Far North, in Latin America, and in the Caribbean, One Drop prioritizes close collaborations between partners, artist groups, and Leaders of Change, but especially among the women and men who are the bearers of their communities’ cultures — those who give culture meaning, who keep it alive. Paying tribute to cultural diversity is a way to ensure a dynamic and inspiring space for people, communities, and nations to acknowledge each other, to envision the future, and to grow stronger — together.
Culture is said to have the power to transform a society.
One Drop’s Social Art for Behaviour Change™ (SABC) approach maps out phases through which communities’ cultural and artistic references can come alive. It is a collaborative process that brings forward discussion, debate, and open dialogue, and allows community members — the women and men who bring culture to life — to identify with a project and take ownership of it. It is what ensures a project’s sustainability, and what makes for such positive transformation. This artistic process speaks to people’s emotions, and that is what brings about lasting change in behaviour — including behaviours like handwashing with soap and water.
Art. It is such a small word. But it has such enormous reach.
Art, which is part and parcel of a people’s culture, can create a space for exchanges.
In this reflexive space, we turn to the vital role that emotions play in artistic processes, and for behaviour change. It is important to consider how and when individuals’ emotions transform and transcend to become collective emotion; that moment when the “me” turns into “us”. This invites us to question the relationship we have with our fellow human beings, and with the world around us. We must also consider the “social” aspect of art, which begins with who we are individually, and who we are together. And "together" is the key.
In the creative process of the SABC approach, participants are no longer simply beneficiaries of a project. They become co-creators of solutions and results. Using their own experiences of their local, natural, and social environments as a starting point, they suggest new action pathways to encourage targeted behaviours. By integrating creativity to the development of a person’s self agency, a new reality can emerge, one that puts current social situations into a new perspective through the means of artistic expression. Actions and habits are questioned. We see ourselves differently: who we are, our culture, our cultural diversity, our knowledge, and our emotions. The SABC activities associated with One Drop’s water, sanitation, and hygiene projects aim to give a voice to the essence of what makes up our participants’ culture, which brings about an environment of reason and empathy, and a peaceful and inviting space for dialogue.
Through One Drop’s various project collaborations, we have had the opportunity to witness very human and sincere moments: personal exchanges, moments when the people directly involved in our projects come together and share their lived experiences. Women participating in a puppet workshop in Mexico, for example, talking about their dreams as mothers and women. Rallying and using artistic creation to work towards positive behaviours around handwashing, offering solutions to problems that arise in their community. This process reveals the enormous potential for creativity that can be generated in a space where open dialogue and artistic expression are respected. Women who participate in our projects contribute to the social cohesion necessary for change and mobilize those around them. These women speak from the essence of who they are, from their customs and traditions, and from what they are willing to give and what they are hoping to receive. They speak a cultural language that is alive and truly inspirational!
We are proud to work with more than 40 social art partners across a dozen countries and to raise the curtain on a stage where a wide variety of cultural forms take the spotlight to promote tolerance and cooperation. Our actors take centre stage to offer a space for dialogue, one without borders or dominant language, with the sole intention of creating together. Artists and co-creators invite communities to mobilize around ideas, solutions, and creative proposals — the local individuals become the focus and have the opportunity to participate, to contribute, and to share.
On this World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, let us all take a moment to stress the importance of cultural and artistic diversity. Let us celebrate this richness, so that the cultures of the world can feel and know that we are TOGETHER. Let us take the time to think about how we foster sustainable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, and let us ensure diversity is put at the heart of our approaches.
Let us be united. United through diversity.
“Taking the time to be with the people on the ground, that’s the real life!”