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Small Change, Big Impact

4 December 2017

‘Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world.’

Howard Zinn

Sometimes whilst describing our approach I can sense the raised eyebrows when we talk about the value of the small changes and the differences they make. These are the changes that alter how people interact with our work, the way we build relationships and allow us to utilise the power of a well planned structured activity to create a big impact. We are all about the little touches that maybe not everybody notices, but when they do they recognise we are saying that we care, we value their input and we want to work collaboratively on whatever happens next. Small details might mean the cups people drink from at an event, through to the artwork we produce for a physical change that is locally relevant because we made it with people who live, work and play in an area.

Our philosophy of small change big impact trickles down into the way we approach the design of our built work, as we want the proposals we develop to combat the insult du jour of ‘this could be anywhere’ and make things that feel special, specific and for a particular place. For us, that happens at a human scale with the graphics and imagery that people see when they look around them.

Nabeel Hamdi’s book Small Change (which is a great read if you ever feel so inclined) talks about the value of taking a non-traditional route to engagement and that rather than the top down approach to change it is the trickle up effect of small change that leads to lasting legacy. Hamdi promotes the role of informality in urban life, something that we know Liane Hartley from Mend speaks so eloquently on, for it is the stuff that happens outside of the rigid structures of the formal planning that really gives a place a sense of excitement and life.

It is a way of working with what is there, both in terms of the physical environment and the people who are there, so that they develop the permission to steer and lead the process rather than feeling like something is being done to them. Easier said than done I know. So often we are impatient and want to force things to happen so that people can see what our role achieves, but actually it is the small changes and shifts over time that have the largest impact.

As I have been mulling over this topic it reminded me of a blog I wrote a few years ago about Art & Social Change . It made me realise that I think often the biggest thing we leave behind are the personal changes in people’s perceptions of themselves, the places they live, their relationships with their neighbours and their overall wellbeing. Such is the power of getting involved. We know about these impacts because with our hearts in our mouths we go back and talk to people we have met on our projects months and years later and find out what the impacts have been. This links so closely to the current social prescribing trend and linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community so it is no wonder that our work often crosses the boundary into talk of wellbeing.

We’re a small business, working on small projects, focusing on the quality of each small interaction we have with somebody who is connected with our projects, and yet when you take stock you see that we have a big impact on the people we work with and if nothing else raise a smile, and who doesn’t want to live in a place that makes them smile more often.

So here is a future filled with small change, big impact.