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What’s the best way to support people living in a warzone? Maybe offering them medical supplies? Safe shelter? Clothes and supplies?
What about making them a recording studio?
Most people would work through quite a few options before they landed on that last one. But then again, Ruth Daniels of In Place of War isn’t most people.
From its inception at the University of Manchester in 2004, Ruth Daniel had her eyes on something different. She started with a provocative question.
“Do people make art while bombs are falling on their heads?”
As it turns out, they do. And while hip hop may not be as physically necessary as shelter, Daniels and her team found that it’s just as important. Not only do people living in war-torn areas continue to make art, but this art is a vital source of hope, peace, and prosperity for the entire community.
In Place of War is a global organisation that uses creativity to spur positive social change in areas struck by violence. They work with a network of creative leaders in countries around the world, to support the unique artistic needs and aspirations of each area.
They refer to these people as 'change-makers'—a fitting name, considering that even though the organisation supports these projects, they understand that real change has to come from the ground up.
These change-makers are young community leaders with vibrant, innovative ideas, a passion for the arts, and an active creative project that’s already supporting their community.
They connect with In Place of War (or vice versa) to share their goals and needs. Then, In Place of War provides support and resources, including sending funds, tools, and supplies, offering training, and connecting them with fellow change-makers worldwide.
"We want the world to be a more peaceful place," says Ruth Daniels. "And we really value when we can see what these programs have done in communities.
For example, there's a community that we work with in Brazil that introduced a small spoken word, poetry and hip hop space in their favela. And that community, since that's been introduced, has become a really peaceful and safe place where formerly it was a place of violence."
And that's because for the first time there was a place where people from across the community could come together, be creative, share their experiences and transform that community."
Creativity isn't just about picking up and playing the guitar. It's everything that goes with it. It's about the people that you meet. The positive role models that you bring into your life. The opportunity to do something creative and express yourself; to imagine a better future and then be able to realise it due to the connections you’ve made and the support network you have. It’s so much more.
The In Place of War change-maker network now consists of over 100 artists and activists from 26 countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe.
"Our change-maker network is the core of everything that we do," says Daniels. "They tell us what they want us to do, and we try and make those things happen, whether it be creating music studios, cultural spaces or developing educational programs.”
Most change-makers are young artists and activists using their unique gifts to lift up the people around them. To be considered, they need to already be creating a project that’s delivering tangible, positive results in the community.
By focusing on artists who know their community best, they connect organically with those who can benefit the most from their support.
Take MC Benny, for example. He’s a change-maker located in northern Uganda, an area ravaged by decades of violent civil war. It’s in this climate that he started what may well be the world’s first hip hop agribusiness.
Benny and his fellow musicians work on a farm where they grow produce, which they sell at local markets. With this money they fund their program—which is to run hip hop and art workshops at local prisons.
These workshops provide essential creative outlets for prisoners, allowing them to express themselves in new ways. In turn, they’re significantly less likely to become re-offenders.
The farm creates jobs, supports the incarcerated, and gives the community a place to be creative. But MC Benny lacks resources. He needs more funding, mentoring opportunities, and the ability to connect to arts activists like him worldwide.
That’s where In Place of War comes in. They were able to partner with Roland music to provide state-of-the-art recording equipment to his music studio.
“DJ Benny is just one example of someone who’s using what he has around him to make real change in the community," says Daniels. "What In Place of War does is work with people like Benny to establish a huge global network to provide support to that entire network.
The network's grown really organically, essentially through a community of people who want to learn from each other. Who want to share and inspire each other and want to grow the network of this amazing support system all around the world of people using arts and creativity to make change.
There’s a real thirst for people wondering how they can make a bigger impact; how they can make a bigger change. It’s brilliant.
In Place of War uses Paperform to gather information from business partners and change-makers. Rather than getting lost in a back-and-forth emails, Ruth sends over a Paperform.
“Paperform is something we use all the time," says Daniels. "Especially when we’re gathering information and speaking to the people that we work with. It’s just amazing—and it’s beautiful too.
Paperform just works brilliantly. It’s so effortless and it’s a beautiful platform to collect information for us.
The last time we used it recently was in a partnership with Roland and Native Instruments, two equipment manufacturers. And we’re coordinating the distribution and donation of equipment across the world.
To achieve that we had to gather information from across our network, and we use Paperform to do that."
If you’re interested in supporting the work Ruth does, you can reach out to the In Place of War team. They’re always looking for new members of their community.
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