Community Performance is used by various governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in Development. Sometimes referred to as Theatre for Development, or Community Arts, it is a highly effective methodology that can be used in various communities, including those with high levels of illiteracy and those without access to media technology.
Whilst many use Performance as a means of message-dissemination, it would be an oversimplification to think of this as its only application. Its use as a discussion tool means that it has become a frequent means of ensuring meaningful participation of community members. Interactive policy-making workshops, forums for community building and discussion, and targeted arts training for vulnerable youth are not uncommon in the field.
As International Development has grown and progressed away from the simplistic, modernist conceptions of Economic Development, Community Performance has been identified as a means of encouraging and achieving Development in a more well-rounded humanistic manner. Placing local culture at the heart of its narrative, it supports social and cultural initiatives and provides an outlet for communities to self-identify and explore solutions to the challenges they face on a daily basis.
Community Performance’s wide-ranging applicability to different Development challenges is evident when examining its applicability to many of the United Nations’ post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/):
Goal 2 – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Community Performance can be used to communicate health messages around nutrition, and to facilitate discussion about agricultural issues with community groups and other stakeholders.
Goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Community Performance can provide a platform for an accessible and relatable health education (from Infant Mortality to Sexual & Reproductive Health issues). Moreover, sustained involvement in Performance activities can aid participants’ physical fitness and mental well-being.
Goal 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Community Performance is an effective tool to use within an educational setting as it promotes holistic learning beyond just academics, in order to cultivate students’ social and emotional well being. Performance projects can give students a sense of purposeful learning, and its interactive nature can support inclusivity in the classroom.
Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Community Performance can be used on women’s rights projects and campaigns, in order to educate and mobilise communities to work towards gender equality. Moreover, women and girls’ participation in Community Performance can provide them with a platform to speak out about the issues they face.
Goal 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Community Performance can be used by unions and local campaigning groups to advocate for better work conditions. Additionally, youth training in Community Performance can develop employment opportunities in the Performing Arts.
Goal 10 – Reduce inequality within and among countries
Community Performance can be used in areas with high levels of illiteracy and those without access to media technology due to its interactive nature. Whilst such communities are often neglected by other Development initiatives, Community Performance can benefit the most vulnerable in society by including them in projects they may otherwise not have benefited from.
Goal 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Community Performance can be used as a participatory means of involving local people in the ongoing development of peace and inclusive societies. Such projects include anti-corruption campaigns staged through theatre performances, and interactive policy-making workshops.
Goal 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Goal 7 – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Goal 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Goal 13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Goal 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Goal 15 – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Community Performance can be used to educate communities about sustainability issues and as a discussion tool to involve various local stakeholders in the decisions that need to be made.