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Art for Change

When I consider the ways I can catalyze positive change in the world, my first thought is always about influencing people. It was for this reason that I initially chose a business education. Businesses – for better or for worse – are some of the greatest sources of influence today, whether through political lobbying or targeted marketing campaigns that subtly shift consumer mindsets. I felt that if I wanted to have an impact, business was the arena where I could do it.

Over time, my perspective has continuously evolved. The business sector can’t solve the world’s problems on its own; collaboration across sectors is more critical now than ever. And, other methods of influencing people remain important – methods like art. To influence people and create change, we need to connect with people in a shared language. I’m now working on opening my mind to the ways art can play a role in facilitating these connections – in and outside of business. As a musician, this topic is important to me on a personal level.

The more I think about this, and the more I look, the more I see examples of people taking advantage of the shared language of art to catalyze change and draw attention to social and environmental issues. For example, Too Good To Go – a company preventing food waste by connecting consumers with surplus food using a mobile app – partners with artists to create posters on paper made from organic waste. The posters showcase the local artists, raise funds for the UN World Food Programme, and some even include tips for avoiding food waste at home. This is just one of the many emerging examples intertwining business, art, and positive change.

In a more personal example, I recently considered the power of art to bring people together in difficult times. At Western University (where I just recently graduated from), 10,000 students participated in a walkout to speak out about cases of sexual and gender-based violence on campus. This reminded me of a song that was made famous during the 2017 women’s marches, and since I couldn’t be at the march, I recorded a cover of it to share with my family and friends because I think it’s so powerful.

My original song, written this spring during lockdown, was also related to change in some ways. It was intended to encourage and remind people that life on the other end of it would be worth waiting for. Similarly, I shared this cover to spread positivity during lockdown. I am glad that as part of GBSN Beyond 2021 hosted by Global Business School Network, we’ll be discussing the power of art as a vehicle for social change on 16 November 2021. The session is conceptualized by Dr. Divya Singhal and various panelists (including me) will discuss how art influences people, and share more examples of how business schools can also integrate art into their curricula to bring change. I hope you’ll join us!

  • Abby Litchfield

    Senior Associate
    Network for Business Sustainability