How can we make people aware of our projects? How can we make new groups of participants feel like our projects are interesting and available? In order to have a successful project, recruiting participants and audiences is key. Without participants, you have no project! You need to reach youth, let them know about your project, and motivate them to get involved - this is where outreach comes into play. As much as we strive to, creating projects that naturally recruit a broad variety of participants is a difficult, yet important task. Reaching out to new communities and groups of people is something we actively need to do.
Outreach is also a way of connecting with new partner organisations, projects and individuals.
An important cornerstone of this work is to remember that you have control over your organisation and project. Change needs to happen within you in order to reach more participants, performers, and new communities. Unfortunately, you do not have control over nor the power to change the situations surrounding the people you want to reach. Hence, in order to reach them, you need to adapt to the realities of your potential participants. Let’s look at why outreach is important, and how you can achieve broader outreach!
Why is outreach such an important part of creating more inclusive and gender equal projects? For the participants you want to reach, your outreach is the main way in which they can learn about your project. Many might not even have thought of participating in cultural projects as an option. For participants, your outreach might mean the difference between having access to music and cultural activities or not. Your outreach may also give more kids and youth the opportunity to spark their curiosity about music and culture, empower them to create change within their community and feel heard, seen and taken seriously.
For your organisation or project, a better outreach may provide you with the feedback you need to make your projects feel necessary and relevant for the people you want to reach. Having a dialogue between you, participants and participants’ local community can also open more comprehensive discussions. This might give you the knowledge you need in order to make spaces feel welcoming and safe. It can also help you discover what types of projects are missing in certain communities. If you are able to provide this, your organisation might also grow. Outreach can help create a network with other organisations, projects and individuals working in areas where you do not have that many activities and representation. Outreach is also a very good way of discovering new talent that might not have been discovered otherwise.
On a societal level, all the reasons mentioned previously are also important. In addition to this, giving more youth the opportunity to participate in music and cultural projects is a part of our responsibility. The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child states “the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” So through reaching all kids in our community that could and should partake in our activities, we are actually executing human rights. Highlighting this might even be an advantage in funding your project.
Reach out to schools.
Most kids and young people are in schools, so this is a great platform to meet a mixed group in terms of background, financial resources etc. Maybe you can set up a stand and hand out information in a recess? Or ask the music teacher if you could come by and talk about your projects in class? Underlining the fact that you want to reach new groups and that you have opportunity for free participation might help get access to these arenas.
Translating information into many different languages is also a way to ensure more outreach.
Map out what languages the parents of the youth you are wanting to reach speak, and spend some money on good translations.
Map out the challenges and obstacles within your own organisation and projects that are stopping people from participating!
If you are lacking a specific group of youth, consider: Does the space feel safe? Does your promotion material only have pictures of boys playing rock? Have you explicitly expressed that trans and gender non-conforming youth are welcome? Does your web page explain how accessible the venue is?
Establish an understanding for the value of different types of arts and cultural expressions within your organisation/project.
What type of music are you focusing on? Maybe hiring a facilitator with knowledge on non-western music will open up your projects to new participants?
Ask the people you’re working with if they know people that might be interested.
You might already have access to a more extensive network than you think! Maybe a trainer you’ve worked with once has a network that could be useful for you to access?