ITC Blog: Christmas Gift #ITCSmallChange

By Charlotte Jones

As 2018 virtually screams cataclysmically to an end and we look forward with trepidation to the Brexit-ridden uncertainty of 2019, I am forced, as ever, to scrabble around looking for little grains of hope. I don’t have to look far. I am fortunate in being surrounded by and daily working with excellent, well-intentioned people in the ITC membership working hard to make the world a better place.

At ITC’s Board/Staff Retreat recently discussion ranged from global issues through to the most day-today and grass roots – all with the common theme of how they impact on the Independent Theatre Sector and how this sector can contribute to positive change in the world. A recognition that that we probably can’t bring about big change opened up an inspiring conversation about individual action and an optimistic sense that the ITC Community could collectively contribute to significant shift – the power of Small Change.

ITC Board Member Gareth Nicholls, Artistic Director of Little Earthquake, shared an idea originating from the concept of The Accumulation of Marginal Gains which he used to develop the 1% Pledge idea at the East Meets West gathering last year. This Little Earthquake blog post all explains how The Accumulation of Marginal Gains helped Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France, and how East Meets West applied the concept to the theatre-making community in the Midlands:

Essentially everyone (representatives of venues and companies and independent producers and artists) attending the East Meets West gathering pledged to do one thing to improve the way practitioners work together in the Midlands and ultimately to improve the quality of the audience experience in the region. Pledges ranged from offering surgeries, mentoring and hosting an event to recommending and promoting other companies’ work. The level of generosity in these pledges and the inspiration it generated have inspired us at ITC to try to encourage the whole ITC Community to engage in and share the Small Change that they are making. The more we explored this the more we recognised that everyone has something to offer and that a Little Earthquake of positive action can give rise to a Tsunami of positive change.

Many ITC companies are already initiating excellent projects to improve life. Cardboard Citizens, out of their Cathy tour, created #Citizensdo. Over 1200 people signed up to this campaign of whom 76% completed an action to address homelessness. The top 3 actions were: 72% of people donated to a food bank, 68% of people engaged in a conversation with a homeless person and 60% bought a Big Issue. Most notably 66% of people said they wouldn’t have done the action if they hadn’t been reminded by #Citizensdo. There is something about being part of a wider movement and being encouraged to act that helps people feel that their action has impact and that it is worth continuing with.

Gavin Stride, Director of Farnham Maltings contributed these thoughts**:

‘I got into a fairly heated conversation with our local MP and he said ‘you should go into politics’ and I said ‘I am far too busy trying to make the world a better place to get involved in politics’. It feels like that time now. When we see Trump or Boris de Pfeffel Johnson spouting their nonsense, we know that the truth has been lost somewhere along the way and it is east to feel lost. Our response has been to focus on the things we can affect.

We have a deaf volunteer. In a pretty obvious act of welcome everyone in the entire staff team including caretakers, box office staff, cleaners, learnt how to sign ‘hello, my name is …. How are you?’ Everyone completely embraced the challenge and started showing off to each other – and some have gone on to learn more. The impact it had on the young volunteer was extraordinary.’

A few other suggestions and actions that came out of the conversation were:
• Tweet about somebody else making great work in your area.
• Add a mention of someone else to your monthly newsletter.
• Recommend shows that you’ve seen.
• Invite people into your rehearsal room.
• Offer to introduce peers who you think would get on with one another over coffee or a pint.
• Give anyone who wants to meet an hour of your time, or a telephone chat, or a Skype call.
• Reply to every email if they write to you using your name.
• Tweet a resource you’ve found very useful.
• Offer discounted tickets or comps to younger artists (comps don’t just have to be for press)
• Put every job that is available in the organisation on a notice board outside the building – a way symbolic to say to anyone passing ‘this is how you can work here if you want’
• Create a social story – a visual record - so that anyone can go on line and find out what to expect before they visit the building – simple and transforming for many people on the autistic spectrum.
• Contribute to Arts Emergency
• Mentoring can work in all directions – it doesn’t have to be just senior to junior. The act of listening and learning has a powerful impact between people prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue.

‘Pay it forward’ – a powerful concept based of the simple premise of ‘what goes around comes around. If you have benefited from someone’s generosity pass it onto someone else. The act of giving works both ways – for the recipient a tangible benefit, for the donor recognition, empowerment, engagement, involvement and increased self esteem. This is a small way of offering a really positive counter narrative. Everyone has something they can offer the community (no matter how big or small). It’s about paying something forward in the knowledge that you will get something in return from another direction. Sometimes the most useful gifts don’t cost anything.

There is so much wisdom and goodwill in the ITC community. We want to do more to recognise that and to encourage people to celebrate what they give and what they have gained from each other. In the spirit of Christmas giving we are asking you to give us your ‘Small Change’ – tell us what you are doing to make the world a better place and what you have received and appreciated. We will share it through our community and networks to inspire others and to generate more shift.

Use #ITCSmallChange to share your actions, wisdom, ideas and generosity. We will track it, share it, recognise it and pay it forward.