By Damien McGlynn, Communications & Partnerships Director,
From the six case studies presented here, we can draw out some common factors and considerations – if not definitive conclusions. Three key issues could be identified in considering inter-social bridging: value, integration and fun. Firstly, looking at the concept of ‘value’. This is to be considered both in terms of the value of the individual and their contribution or creative input. With many European nations experiencing growing economic inequality and dealing with the resulting division and anxiety (among other things), it is valuable to think about the personal need for validation. A person needs to feel of value and, in a neoliberal system with a rapidly evolving job market, this need can often go unfulfilled within a day-to-day existence which is focused on productivity and profit.
Understanding this unfulfilled need is a crucial ingredient in successfully approaching inter-social bridging. Activities and projects which are devised in a co-creative method, thereby involving – and valuing – the input of all participants, is likely to see a greater level of lasting interest from those who are often marginalised by activities which are delivered in a traditional, hierarchical format. This can be characterised as ‘investment’ by the participants. Allowing for co-ownership, rather than simple participation, places importance on the ideas of each individual and encourages greater ‘buy-in’ than other models. The process of creating together and having each individual’s ideas valued as equal is an important step in bridging social capital.
All of this is valid in itself, but when considered as a means of bridging inter-social divides, then the process of integration is an essential addition. In recent decades many models have been demonstrated which instrumentalise creative practice in order to address the perceived societal problems caused by poverty and inequality. Aside from other issues with this approach, the fact that it is regularly aimed only at those classed as experiencing socio-economic deprivation means that it neglects to address the issue of integration.
What we have seen in the case studies presented here are numerous successful models which have brought together participants from across these socio-economic divides to create together, thereby sharing the social benefits and deepening their connections and trust for each other. The projects demonstrate the need for careful consideration of approaches from start to finish to effectively enable an environment that promotes inter-social bridging.
As noted in the survey report, some of the key practical considerations around costs, location and transport are decisive in the field of inter-social bridging. These common barriers are often overlooked in the planning and budgeting stages of new and existing creative activities. Consultation with a range of people from different backgrounds can help to identify and address these concerns at an early stage. Too often conversations like these happen among an existing homogenous group that can be blind to the obstacles faced by others.
Finally, fun remains an integral part of the equation. As the State of the Arts survey report explained, the desire to do something enjoyable and creative is the main motivation for participants. Though this may seem like a simple basis for any creative project, it is important to consider what it is that any target groups might commonly view as being fun, exciting and enticing. As some of the case studies have demonstrated, it is necessary sometimes to question our preconceptions about what is the correct way to plan and deliver these activities. More listening and consultation can lead to important realisations about how to effectively plan, promote and manage creative activities so that they take into consideration potential barriers to participation and are as inclusive as possible.
 Understanding the Socio-Economic Divide in Europe, OECD (2017): https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/cope-divide-europe-2017-background-report.pdf