Alison DiDonato Headshot

During my MA Arts Management, Policy, and Practice course, I completed a work placement at In Place of War (IPOW). IPOW began as a research project by the University of Manchester’s Professor James Thompson to study the role of art in areas affected by conflict. Now, it has evolved into an organisation that aims to “mobilise, empower, and connect” artists in these war-stricken and marginalised communities by providing resources and encouraging grassroots artistic production. Its most recent project is the development of a Creative Entrepreneurial Programme (CEP), an eight-week curriculum that teaches young people skills for working and establishing businesses in the Creative Industries. IPOW aims to deliver the CEP in several locations worldwide, including Bosnia, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. In conjunction with this course, IPOW plans to establish cultural spaces with partner organizations in each of these locations in which the CEP can continuously be delivered by community members to future generations.

I was tasked with researching and planning the establishment of a cultural space in Kisangani, DR Congo. IPOW plans to begin administering the CEP and organizing other youth artistic programs in coordination with local partner organisation Mental Engage in a donated space in the city. Kisangani has been greatly affected by civil war, is largely impoverished, and presents few educational and employment opportunities for young people. However, DR Congo has a rich tradition of Rumba, Jazz, and Hip-Hop music, and music has had a huge cultural significance in the DRC since the early twentieth century. By creating a space for young people to learn and create, IPOW and Mental Engage hope to inspire artistic production, enhance self-confidence, and stimulate creative entrepreneurship in its youth population.

After contextualizing and planning the Kisangani space (from declaration of need to aims and objectives to proposed timelines and budgets), I also drafted funding applications for the space. My bid for a fleet of computers and printer for the space was successful, guaranteeing that children will have the equipment for learning basic technological skills, and have access to music production, film editing, and digital design programmes. IPOW is also planning a high-profile fundraiser and enlisting several celebrity ambassadors to help raise awareness and funds for its various projects. In the upcoming months, funding will become the organisation’s main focus as it strives to expand the CEP programme.

Other activities I worked on during my placement include composing several policy documents for the organisation, researching cultural policy and educational contexts for each of our future CEP pilot locations in order to develop location-specific evaluations, and creating an “Environmental Sustainability Tool-Kit” for our future cultural spaces. The Tool-Kit will be implemented as a module in the CEP curriculum. My responsibilities were varied and interesting, and I learned different things with each project.

The experience was extremely valuable, as I gained experience in writing funding applications, developing evaluation templates, and composing organisational policies. I also gained a better understanding of structures, financial struggles, and communication techniques of small nonprofit arts organisations. IPOW’s mission is inspiring, and I was happy to contribute to its vision of a world full of opportunity and creativity.