Riding the Waves: How pop culture has the potential to catalyse social change in the UK
By Alice Sachrajda, with Esme Peach
Introduction by Alice:
In 2016 Unbound Philanthropy began a programme of work exploring how popular culture can be a driver for social change in the UK. We set about meeting with people from different industries ranging from philanthropy to community arts organisations, to entertainment and media professionals. We mapped out the UK’s pop culture ecosystem, delved into case studies across television, film and music, and ruminated on the opportunities and challenges in this area.
Our findings are set out in our report, ‘Riding the Waves: How pop culture has the potential to catalyse social change in the UK’. The report explores six key thematic areas: Representation – promoting diversity in our popular culture both on and off-screen; Authenticity – boosting the profile of credible, authentic voices; Normalisation – embedding messages in our social spheres over time; Narratives – acknowledging how messaging can educate and empathise; Novelty – appealing to trendsetters and tapping into the zeitgeist; and Relationships – building networks across and between sectors.
We recognise that there are complex challenges: Creatives are understandably wary of politicisation and being hijacked by a cause. Funders too are cautious of dabbling in an area beset by commercial interests. Evaluation in the area of cultural change is fraught with difficulties. But, we are optimistic about the potential pop culture has for catalysing social change. The UK has a prolific pop culture industry with global interest and appeal. There are many examples and case studies in our report where ripples of positive change have come about as a result of cultural interventions and cross-sector networks being forged.
Our next steps are to promote more diverse and authentic representation in our cultural industries in the UK, to initiate conversations with other funders interested in the potential of pop culture, and to link up the players, from the cultural arts organisations at the one end to the big media bodies at the other.
Read the full report: