Impact Sector and the Arts

How the Impact Sector and the Arts Can Best Work Together with Camille Duran

There’s a new show in town and it combines the complex and sometimes turbulent worlds of The Arts and The Impact Sector: nonprofit organizations, think-tanks and social enterprises.

Cosmic is a weekly livestreamed podcast exploring the world of change within society and within people.

The host of the show, Camille Duran, is no stranger to the world of podcasting. Having started in 2013, he is the creator and host of two previous shows. The Organic Stream focuses on organics recycling and soil management, while Green Exchange explores environmental and social issues with a wide variety of international change makers.

Camille is a master at reshaping weighty topics, which are made dynamic and enjoyable though conversation and a masterful mix of epic tunes.

Season three of Cosmic is just underway, and Camille is now focusing on the power of artistic production in unlocking human potential. We sat down with him to learn more.

Hi Camille, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Can you please start by explaining a bit more about the impact sector and how you initially got involved?

Thank you very much for the opportunity to sit with you.

It seems we are all involved in the impact sector since birth, the question is “what kind of impact?” (laugh). By impact sector we generally mean organisations or individuals who make decisions primarily based on a social or environmental purpose (vs. profit, for instance). In 2013, after a few years in the media industry, I decided to radically shift my career towards social & environmental missions. I was living in San Francisco at the time, completely caught-up in the story of the startup world and Silicon Valley culture. After yet another greed-based board meeting clash, I resigned and started my own thing. I didn't really know what to do but I was sure I wanted it to be mission-driven. I initiated my quest from a problem that was in front of me every day: trash. I got involved in the zero waste movement as a media & communications advisor, and that’s where I started nurturing my passion for change.

There seems to be a natural progression from little picture to big picture in your work. From soil, to trees, to forest, to earth...and now into subconscious realms of the cosmos. Can you tell us a little about the evolution of your projects and how that impacts the topics you cover?

I am interested in root causes more than symptoms and consequences. Over the years, I fell in love with the investigative dimension of the media work I was doing, but I am realizing I always looked at people and projects around from an outsider perspective. What are they doing and why? As a Producer, I had the chance to take part in campaigns across a wide range of themes (from soil health to sustainable fashion, climate finance and energy transition) and work with diverse actors (governments, NGOs, think tanks…). I realized the structural challenges in each area were always the same and I quickly felt like I was running in a hamster wheel. I decided to put my focus exclusively on storytelling, narratives and the subtle realm, which I found out are actually what moves all decision-making across society. This led me to cognitive sciences and psychoanalysis, which have become day-to-day tools. As change agents we love to think we are solving hard problems out there, but all root causes are subtle, and “in there” (pointing to his head). I would even say they are treated at the individual level, and not at the collective level, but that’s a vast topic (laugh).

In the third season of Cosmic, you have chosen to focus on artists. Do you think that artists are particularly adapted to communicating difficult problems?

At the individual level, I am finding out the art practice is the most undervalued asset accessible to all human beings. This is what season 3 of the podcast is starting to reveal. At the collective level, we all know artists can play an active role in producing dialog, creating space for reflection, providing beauty to the world, shifting narratives, shaping perception, capturing imagination and showing possibility, among other magic powers. It’s much more than just helping communicate on difficult problems. How can we all agree that 90% of all decision-making is emotional, and not harness the Arts to their full potential when trying to influence decision-making. How ironic is that?

Are you focusing on a particular kind of artist (visual, performance, etc.) or a specific style of art?

Season 3 of the show features artists from all across the spectrum. I handpick them for a specific reason and ensure their insights bring a new perspective and approach to the investigation. I am very grateful for their openness and support to the mission. Of course, they don’t all agree with each other and there are a couple of hot potatoes, but that’s where it’s interesting to broadcast the interview (vs. an internal research project): listeners can make their own opinion from the talking points and decide who to agree with.

How do you think artists can help effectuate the big changes that are needed in a corporate-run world on the brink of mass extinction?

By inspiring us to feel alive, emotionally involved, and to tap into our inner creation potential. I believe the audience plays a role as much as the artist. We got used to going to the doctor to get a pill and hope it will do the job. We got used to putting our life in the hands of others. It’s the same with art. I don’t think it changes people if people don’t step towards the piece with an intention. At the systemic level, there are structures that can be put in place to augment the exposure of decision-makers to artistic expressions on a given issue. Ironically, all decisions are made based on facts, figures and left-brain activities and most agree it’s not working, even with science in the middle. Integrating the right brain into the equation can only happen if we develop a new culture of decision-making, and therefore a new culture of campaigning and advocacy.

What is your ultimate goal of collaborating with artists?

At Cosmic, we are developing new ways to get artists involved in social & environmental campaigns, making sure they occupy a central role in change projects, rather than being called last minute to paint a message on a wall. We are growing a community of like-minded artists and change agents who believe in a bigger role for arts in both individual practice and collective decision-making.

You’re based around Girona and soon (quarantine permitting) plan to open a physical location there. Can you tell us a bit more about this next Cosmic Phase?

Yes thank you, we are soon opening Espai Cosmic (Cosmic Space, in Catalan). A space dedicated to change. Comfortable chairs, good tea and coffee, good wine and a couple of microphones to capture the conversations and send them out to the world. We will host events, play music, display art. The focus right now is to offer a physical space for these conversations to take place, and invite international artists visiting Catalunya to stop by for a drink and share their thoughts.

Any other big projects in the works or news that we should watch out for?

This sounds big enough to me! (laugh) Every Thursday at 19:00 CET we are broadcasting a new chapter of the podcast investigation with a new guest each time. I also produce a snack podcast called Cosmic Dynamics. It’s a 5-minute format published 3 times per week,  featuring thoughts of the day and connecting real life events to an art piece that inspires me.

Lastly, where can our readers find the Cosmic Show and how can people get in touch with you?

The show is broadcasted live every Thursday from www.cosmic.show and published on most podcast apps and on Spotify the next day. Please feel free to get in touch at hello@cosmic.show or via DM on Instagram.

Awesome. Thanks Camille!

Thanks again for having me today.

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