Conservation and Creativity Intersect in Ghana

Saturday, December 10 – Elmina, Ghana: a packed five-day agenda of innovating activities engaging 24 individuals from 13 New England Biolabs Foundation grantee organizations awaits. These conservation leaders from all around the country are convening with the goal of leading effective community initiatives and facilitating their own creative action trainings.

Each day, trainees discovered more about their colleagues and gained deeper insight into the issues they grapple with, including domestic violence and forced marriage, unsustainable mining, child trafficking, climate change, water pollution and lack of hygiene awareness.

Over the course of the week, participants came to internalize leadership as a process as they strengthened their ability to think creatively, reframe challenges, ask generative questions and design social actions. Sound like a lot? YES, it is!

Yes and... they did amazing work. Because these peers working together powered change from the very first day. Their hands-on exploration of art codes produced a strong visual message addressing improper waste disposal. They presented the devastating effect of bush fires applying the medium of theater. An original song was composed to educate children about good hygienic habits.

Jessica Brown, Executive Director of collaborating partner New England Biolabs Foundation, took part in the training and shared a moving video from Ghanian visual artist Shelly Xie: Schistosomiasis - Impacting Medicine through Art – a perfect introduction to the application of art codes to educate and mobilize.

Day by day, a growing mutual support and appreciation was apparent, cultivated by the Super Hero Appreciation activity. It was clear that cultivating a culture of appreciation helps us to build healthy and thriving organizations where people feel that their contributions are recognized and valued.

The Group Innovation Challenge was an opportunity to put creative thinking skills into practice, resulting in ingenious projects, such us a solar paneled mobile home, a dove house, and a learning chat for children.

“It was my first time trying such an activity - and yes, it was so fascinating. It appeared impossible to make anything out of the recycled materials we were given at first, but the group worked together and came up with the award winning “Ecofriendly Mobile Home.” - Abigail Frimpong, Conservation Alliance

Council of All Beings, Step Into the Circle and Each One / Teach One were received with a high level of interest and respect. The ways natural disasters affect women and children and the powerful role women play as keepers of traditional environmental knowledge was another subject for a variety of arts-based processes.

Action items to bring back to their communities included creating awareness of pressing issues through community meetings, radio dramas, working with local officials, cultural initiatives, and tapping into ancestral practices and indigenous knowledge. Every participant takes with them the ability to replicate their creative training with their organizations and community groups.

What an inspiring and productive week we all had! Thanks to all the participants - rising stars and creative leaders in their communities from Agro Ghana, Wildseas, CSRAD, Kalesea Foundation, Herp-Ghana, WADF, Transform Ghana, PAORP-VEC Ghana, Ahado Youth Environmental Club, A Rocha Ghana, CIKOD, Conservation Foundation, Conservation Alliance and collaborating partner New England Biolabs Foundation.