Getting Creative for Sustainable Development!

Are you interested in getting Creative for Sustainable Development?

Step 1: Join the Conversation! As a result of the workshop, theHuman Impacts Institute has developed a discussion group for Creativity for Sustainability, where we can begin building a community of ideas and projects that inspire action in our communities. Join the Creativity for Sustainability group today!

Step 2: Brainstorm the questions below with some friends, family, or colleagues! See if you can come up with a sustainability problem and a creative solution for your own community. Email these to and we’ll post them on our blog. And if you’re really ambitious, and based in New York, maybe we can talk about joining forces and executing your idea!


On Day One at the U.S./Canada Citizen’s Summit for Sustainable Development theHuman Impacts Institute lead a workshop organized to answer the following question: “How can creativity inspire action in sustainable development?” Much discussion of the conference was around either the broad questions of sustainable development policy, or the gritty details of its science, but one thread connecting them all is the social dynamic, and this session was one of several to highlight and explore it.

HII Executive Director Tara DePorte hosted the session, which first over viewed different creative avenues, visual art, music, and mapping, and highlighted the work of the three co-facilitators of the session: Josephine Decker, a New York based artist and filmmaker,Brian Kauffman, Artistic Director at the Sounding Board, and Wendy Brawer, Founder and Director of Green Map System. View the speakers presentations here.

The speakers shared their thoughts on a marriage between the emerging sustainability movement and creative activism. Using past performances, Josephine highlighted potential for art to shape the news and even turn typically unread stories into front page headlines. Brian shared how the Boston community successfully advocated for global sustainability through the Boston youth’s own music. Using maps as her medium, Wendy is bringing Rio+20 home by developing comprehensive resources for anyone to become involved with the local environment. That can mean hopping on board with a major initiative or just enjoying a waste-free day at the park. Each one of their perspectives highlighted the potential for creative expression to connect the individual to larger issues through emotion and intuition, and that such outreach is accessible.

What followed was a series of smaller workshops designed to get people thinking about how they might apply creativity to a particular sustainability-related problem in their own community. Participants were led through answering a series of questions to get some creative juices flowing:

  • What are the top three obstacles to sustainable development in your community?

  • What are the three most effective creative solutions or actions for sustainable development you’ve seen?

  • What resources already exist in your community for addressing sustainable development?

  • What are three effective groups you know that do creative outreach? Why are they effective?

  • Who is your priority audience for engaging in sustainable development? Why?

  • What 10 words best describe sustainability for your community?

  • What 10 images best describe sustainability for your community?

  • What are the top three forms of creative outreach that resonate most with you (i.e. hip hop music, interpretive dance, stand-up comedy, tv shows, etc.)?

  • What inspires you to take action for sustainable development in your community? Nationally? Internationally?

  • What do you think would inspire your community to take action for sustainable development? Nationally? Internationally?

  • What are the top three actions you want your community to take for sustainable development?

  • How do you connect your creative event to that action?

  • How do you ensure action is taken?

Even in a limited time, many creative thoughts were developed. The break-out session helped everyone define the key issues when confronting the task of creating a sustainable future, such as apathy, convenience, and widespread public confusion. In order to combat these obstacles people brainstormed effective projects like guerrilla theatre and flash mobs. Paralleling the importance of successful creative demonstrations is the importance of inter-generational connections, as they are pertinent to the successful transition of innovation and responsibility to the emerging leaders. In some cases agreements were made to follow up, so let’s be on the lookout for real outcomes from the creative outreach session at the first U.S./Canada Citizen’s Summit for Sustainable Development.

The session wrapped up with summaries of the individual groups’ work, and everyone left reminded that an absolutely necessary, and many times overlooked element of implementing sustainable development is winning hearts and minds. Here’s hoping they’ll be won more and more in the time before Rio+20, and beyond.

By Alex White, Human Impacts Institute Director of Outreach and Advocacy

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