Get creative to create change
Everyone has something they’d like to see change.
There are plenty of folks lodging their complaints here in the paper, online and in public.
But rarely do we see real change occur. Why is that?
Many experts say it’s simply because no one really listens unless you create a message that draws attention.
Change only occurs when the effort goes beyond protest and into effectively conveying the cause. Here are three campaigns that combined creativity and strategy to make powerful change:
• Rainbow Grandpa Paints the Town in Taiwan Huang Yung-fu was relocated to a military settlement in Taiwan after the Nationalist Party lost the struggle with China’s Communist Party. Originally, there were 1,200 inhabitants, but over the years, people moved away or died, eventually leaving Huang Yung-fu alone. To combat loneliness, he began to paint colorful images on the walls of the buildings. After years of painting, the brilliantly colored artwork covered much of the town.
A decade ago, he learned that the Taiwanese government planned to demolish the village. A local university got involved and the students began to paint with Huang Yung-fu. They also developed a social media campaign to fundraise to support the artwork and prevent the demolition. It worked. One million visitors flock to the village each year, and the government decided not to tear it down. Huang Yung-fu is now affectionately called “Rainbow Grandpa,” is 97 years old, and still lives in his same house.
• Canadian Artist “Copyrights” His Land to Stop Pipeline Oil and gas companies wanted to build a pipeline through 800-acres of land owned by Alberta artist, Peter von Tiesenhausen. So, in 2003, he covered the earth with art such as a “a 33-metre-long ship sculpted with willow stalks, winter ice forms, nest-like structures in trees, statuesque towers and a “lifeline” or visual autobiography composed as a white picket fence built in annual sections left to weather naturally”. This move protected his land under copyright law. It also increased the remuneration for disturbance from $200/acre for crop loss to $600,000 for a work of art. Peter von Tiesenhausen also started charging $500/hour consultation fees any time the company lawyers called him. In 2010, his copyright claim was still holding up in court and the oil and gas company had backed away.
• Do-It-Yourself Campaign Stamps Harriet Tubman on $20 Bill In 2016, the U.S. Treasury (finally) agreed to put slave emancipator Harriet Tubman on the front side of the $20 bill, relegating Andrew Jackson to the backside of the nation’s highest circulation currency. But, in 2019, the Trump Administration backed off from the plan.
In protest, an artist, Dano Wall, crafted a stamp of Harriet Tubman and released the 3D printing design into the public domain, calling upon citizens to stamp the African-American woman’s portrait onto the $20 immediately. His goal is to stamp 5-10 percent of the bills in circulation, making it difficult for the administration to ignore. He has raised $3,000 for charity through the sale of the stamps and the design can be printed out by 3D printers, which many public libraries have.
The Take-Away: These stories are brimming with creativity. The capacity of human beings to address conflict with ingenuity, humor, and out-of-the-box thinking is staggering… and inspiring.
The stories are endless. When it comes to unleashing creativity for a cause, nonviolent action is where it’s at.
The very best campaigns combine strategy and creativity in effective movements for social change.