How can we help?
The Community Brain can help with anything from short term consultation to full project delivery. We've helped communities create their own legends about goat boys, created food and fish festivals, beaten the bounds for suburban towns and created giant versions of children's board games. Have a look at our areas of focus and expertise and let us know how we can help!
Communities are at the heart of all we do. We don't target specific segments of the community (although we often work with partners and agencies who do specific targeted work). Instead, we look at how we can help bring all factions of a community together. We often work with communities that may be struggling to find their voice, their story, what makes them unique and distinctive. We help communities where people feel isolated, disenfranchised, disconnected and do not feel they can engage. All our work is about harnessing the natural brilliance of the individuals that already exist within communities. It's never about us telling people what to do. We want to find ways to open the doors that allow everyone to get involved. And not necessarily through traditional or established routes of engagement within a community.
We believe in the sheer transformative power of allowing everyone to play and have fun. Past projects have included the building of giant board games, the invention of Suburban skiing, the Great British Bread Golf Open and The Freshwater Sardine Festival. Bringing people together under the banner of doing something that's 'just fun' or 'silly' instead of earnestly forcing the issue that we're building stronger communities is a great way to lay the foundations. People don't feel forced, or preached to – they get involved because they sense they are going to enjoy themselves.
We find play and silliness have a very serious outcome ... stronger communities.
Myths and Legends
We often use myths and legends as a way of allowing communties to write a story which allows them to imagine a shared, collective past together. The stories often refer to things that are currently good and cared for in the community and help form a collective narrative which people can move forwards together having created it together. The added benefits of myths and legends is that they allow for a range of complementary, participatory activities – processions and festivals to celebrate the narratives, books written and illustrated by local people or workshops to create artwork drawing on the tales to decorate community spaces. We find that when you ask a community to write their foundation story, it will rarely be negative or sad. It will be filled with hope, love, generosity and the behaviours people want to see and spirit they want to feel. Good will nearly always triumph and the stories come to hold a very special place in a lot of people's hearts. Children grow up with them as core factual tales about the development of their community – magical associations investing the places they know with a sense of wonder and joy.
The 'Real' History
We've discovered that as people come together to play, write stories, have fun, make and create – brilliant things can begin to happen. As people begin to talk and share their passions and experience of the local area, they begin to discover history, heritage and the real stories they may want to learn more about. We have supported a number of Heritage Lottery funded projects emerging from local history discoveries and through working with community groups. We've also found that the work attracts academic interest – thought-leading institutions have accompanied us, to study what we are doing, understand what it achieves and learn more about their own discipline's contribution to community-building. Projects have been diverse – touching anthropology, museum and gallery studies, place-making, environmental design, mapping and material culture – and some have even led to change in their approaches to study, fieldwork and interpretation.
When we've spent some time with communities and they've established more solid foundations on which to build, attention often turns from finding and celebrating their mythical and historical pasts to thinking about the future. We've begun working with some to build on what we've established about their past, to generate narratives to help shape those futures – projects like The Museum of Futures are creating safe places for people to share their hopes for their community, see how they can contribute to delivering the changes they imagine, and to collaborate with others on beginning to realise some of their shared dreams.