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Alumni, Ishtar Lakhani, profiled in Maverick Citizen

Center for Artistic Activism alumni and workshop instructor, Ishtar Lakhani, was profiled in the Maverick Citizen. Ishtar is based in South Africa and after participating in our 2015 training, has worked alongside the Center for Artistic Activism on several actions and trainings in the country. We love working together and are happy to see her recognized for her remarkable work.

Ishtar Lakhani: An activist working to create the world of our dreams

by Biénne Huisman in the Maverick Citizen

As a ‘card-carrying feminist’, Ishtar Lakhani knows that women have shown for generations that there is a better way of existing – and it’s her aim to help make a kinder, more compassionate world.

“I’m a human rights defender,” says Ishtar Lakhani. “What’s your superpower?” For the past year, Lakhani, 35, has worked as a “freelance troublemaker” associated with social justice projects around the world. 

“It’s about approaching very serious human rights problems, and brainstorming unusual ways to get at them,” she says. “For example, we’re working with an organisation in Australia to create a real lifetime machine, so that people can go in and experience what it was like in Australia in the 1920s. What does that mean for women’s rights, and where are we now? And where do we need to go? In Venezuela we’re working with a bunch of lawyers who want to create a food truck, in order to go out into communities and give legal advice.” 

We’re Funding Creative U.S. Election Projects

We are excited to announce the Center for Artistic Activism is supporting projects that uniquely address urgent and specific voter suppression problems in the United States. Creative, ambitious, strategic, risk-taking projects will be funded up to $10,000 each. Initial short proposals are due Sept 2nd at 11:59pm EDT.

The Unstoppable Voters Project

The Center for Artistic Activism’s Unstoppable Voters Project will fund campaigns addressing major voter suppression problems such as:

  1. Lack of poll workers. Historically, poll workers are retirees, a population now at higher risk for COVID infection. Lack of workers results in long lines.
  2. Barriers to voting by mail. Lack of education on the logistics of voting during COVID as well as misinformation, disinformation that can depress voting. 
  3. Outright voter suppression tactics, especially targeting communities of color and other underrepresented groups. Removing populations from voter rolls, rejected absentee applications, and closing polling locations.
  4. Preparing people for what happens after voting. Polling indicates half the country may not trust the election outcome for various reasons. Lawsuits, challenges, contested elections, and lots of tension are expected.

Of course, those who benefit from voter suppression want to keep these challenges in place. To combat them, The Unstoppable Voters Project will support artistic and creative projects that aim to:

  1. Keep polling places staffed and open.
  2. Ensure that people understand how to effectively vote by mail, drop-off, or in person.
  3. Empower people to confidently vote down-ballot in local elections
  4. Ensure that people know that voting is relevant to the issues that motivated so many people on the streets in the past months (and years)
  5. Monitor election boards and hold them accountable, so they can’t, for example, quietly close polls in communities of color.
  6. Cultivate engagement, fun, humor, joy, and community around voting and elections.
  7. Prepare people for the unknowns that will come after November.

The focus of proposals should be on states with a history of voter suppression and which are of special interest in this election, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin.

Amazing and accomplished groups are working in these areas. We invite you to utilize, build upon, and support their efforts within your proposal.

866-Our-Vote is a coalition providing solid voter education in the face of mis- and disinformation. This resource could use amplification.

Black Voices Change Lives, the NAACP organized effort to help get black people to the polls

VoteSave America has some good resources, especially about poll workers.

Fair Fight tracks voter intimidation, ensures ballot access, voter counting, and registration.

The ACLU’s Voter Suppression infographics summarize the complexity of these issues.

Alliance for Youth Action is engaging the (all important) youth vote in key states.

Power to the Polls focuses on pollworker recruitment and amplification of the recruiting effort.

These groups could use help getting their critical messages to people in creative ways.

For example, Power to the Polls is going to start online briefings for people who want to become poll workers, and are interested in ways to make those briefings more entertaining.

Dedicated voter rights organizations have experience and expertise in the field. Your proposal should not duplicate their efforts. Instead aim to support or augment their strategies using artistic activism methods that may be outside their scope or seem to risky given where these established organizations have committed their resources.

The Center for Artistic Activism has connections to some of these groups. If your project intersects with their goals, we may be able to connect you with them. However, as these groups are working close to capacity plan your project to be successful independently.


We’re accepting initial letters of interest until Sept 2nd at 11:59pm EDT. These are brief sketches of your idea – so don’t worry if you haven’t worked out all the details yet – we know this is a quick turnaround!

By around Sept 6th, we’ll let you know if you’re a finalist, and we’ll ask some more specific questions and help to flesh some things out with you.

Final decisions on the The Unstoppable Voters Project should be made by Sept 10th, and projects should be starting by Sept 12th.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: By what criteria will you be judging Unstoppable Voters Project proposals?
  • Are you building upon the existing work of voter rights groups, adding something creative, innovative, and useful?
  • Is it risk-taking, innovative, and creative?
  • Is it likely to have an impact on voter suppression?
  • Does it do more than “raise awareness,” meaning, the project has strong potential to change people’s behavior?
  • Does it align with real needs in communities most impacted by voter suppression?
  • Does it empower and create community? Does it welcome people to participate?
  • Can it be repeated and amplified by other grass-roots groups?
  • Is it risk-taking, ambitious, innovative, creative? Is it funny, weird or borderline impossible?
  • AND, is it actually possible, in the timeframe and budget?
Question: My project is about increasing voter turnout but not specifically combating voter suppression. Does it qualify?

There’s definitely some overlap between those things, but this support is focused on combating voter suppression especially where marginalized people are presented with barriers to voting. The goal is to increase voter turnout overall, but the focus is on places where voter suppression is a problem. For more on this, see ACLU or FairFight.

Question: Will Center for Artistic Activism staff be helping me manage and realize this proposal?

No, design a project you will manage. Center for Artistic Activism will distribute grants and coordinate some of the communications between grantees and organizations, but this will be your project which you are responsible for. We’re happy to consult and advise when and where we can.

Question: What if I don’t live in a swing state or a state with critical voter suppression problems?

If you don’t live in a key state, you can still come up with a project idea. In your proposal consider partnering with other artists and activists living in those states, or include budget in your project for local organizers, or connect with voting groups working in those states, or find a way your project can operate remotely in some way. 

Can my project advocate for a particular candidate or party?

No. That is not the focus of this project. Also, we are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and any grants we distribute absolutely may not advocate for a candidate or a bill.

Application Details

Please be brief. Around 1.5 to 2 pages please. You can alternatively submit your answers with a video, no longer than 4 minutes. Answer all these prompts if you can. (We understand this is a tight timeline and we’re just looking for the most promising ideas. Not having an answer to all of these will NOT disqualify you).

  • Describe the project and give it a name.
  • Which of the above listed objectives are you aiming for, and how does this project move closer to them?
  • Where will it take place?
  • How can you connect with local community groups working on voting issues? How can you align with or have connection to a local or national voting rights organization or other group that is advocating for the same things?
  • How is the project open and participatory?
  • Can it be repeated and amplified by other grassroots groups?
  • How is it risk-taking, ambitious, innovative, creative?
  • What help or input do you need before you get started?
  • Describe what would happen if the project is wildy successful. What will come next?
  • Would you be willing to merge with or collaborate with another project or group working on similar aims or methods?
  • Roughly how much money will you need to pull it off? Average support will be between $3,000 and $10,000. What kinds of things will you need to spend on? (We believe strongly in compensating people’s time). You can break it down into $500 and $1000 chunks.
  • Your name and email.

Send your answers in a text document (PDF is great) or a video to [email protected] before Sept 2nd at 11:59pm EDT. You can include sketches or a mockup of your project if you’d like.

If you have questions, let us know.

We’re hiring a Campaign Manager

Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 is hiring a Campaign Manager for Fall/Winter 2020 . A detailed description and application are on the site.

We’re looking for the right candidate and you can help. If you know someone who would be a good match, please pass the application along!

The Campaign Manager will work closely with the Center for Artistic Activism directors as well as international leadership from Universities Allied for Essential Medicines on fighting to ensure safe, effective COVID treatments, testing, and vaccines are affordable and accessible around the world.

Apply for Free the Vaccine for COVID-19: Season 2

We’re back for another round! Join us in fighting pharmaceutical monopolies to make publicly-funded COVID treatment and testing affordably priced, free at the point-of-delivery and accessible around the world!

Applications closed

Apply by filling out this form by Sept 1st 11:59pm EDT.

Returning collective members, please fill out the above form also!

More details on below.

First, What is Free the Vaccine for COVID-19?

Our campaign aims to ensure that publicly-funded diagnostic tools, treatment, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be sustainably priced, available to all and free at the point-of-delivery. We are finding new ways to achieve this through leveraging creativity, culture, as well as tried and tested organizing and activism in our Advocacy Innovation Lab. 

We are a global collective with hundreds of members from dozens of countries. We meet regularly and plan and execute creative campaigns. We have already completed one 16 week round of organizing and actions with our focus on the over $11 billion of public funds already invested in pharmaceutical R&D at universities for COVID-19. Changing the way these universities patent and license their research is a critical lever that can prevent pharmaceutical monopolies and increase access to life-saving medicines across the globe.

Find more information, past projects, and more at

Jonas Salk
We take our inspiration from virologist Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine. Salk refused to patent or profit off his work.

What’s involved?

Think of a book club – small groups of smart people sharing a common interest. In this case, our focus is changing the way the biomedical research and development (R&D) system and the we research and deliver medicines. And we don’t just talk about it over tea, we are taking action. As a member of the collective, you’ll be in a small “Salk Squad,” named after virologist, Jonas Salk, who refused to patent or profit off his polio vaccine. Squads are supported throughout the process with training and structures to learn artistic activism, and the history and theory behind the access to medicines movement.

What’s it like?

You will meet people all over the world who are working so COVID tests, treatments and vaccines are affordable and accessible to everyone, everywhere. A lofty goal we know but an important one. You’ll meet online to hatch plans, access videos and other training materials, and put together your own plan based on the skills and interests of your team. The whole experience is about learning new skills, getting things done, and having fun with an amazing community of people.

Who are we looking for?

We come from all sorts of backgrounds – some with no experience with these issues, some with lots. There are creative people, and people who don’t think of themselves as creative when they start. We’ve had pharmacists, dancers, front-line  workers, graphic designers, hollywood hairstylists, and students. There are adults of all ages, and from all over the world. All of them did great work.

We’re especially focusing recruitment for Season 2 on these universities and regions:

  • In the U.S.: DC, NYC, Pittsburgh, southern California (Universities of California), Georgia, Tennessee (Vanderbilt), Seattle, University of Indiana.
  • In Canada:Montreal (McGill), and British Colombia.
  • Also, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, UK, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany.

But if you don’t see your location or university listed, please do apply anyway. We need passionate people from everywhere.

What will you get out of it?

  1. Training and skills from the Center for Artistic Activism in using culture and creativity to create real change. These methods you’ll use for the rest of your life when you want to make things happen.
  2. Play a role in ensuring that publicly-funded medicines are accessible and affordable, with a focus on the most vulnerable.
  3. Learning about how the current system we use to research, develop and deliver our medicines works – from the economics, to the science, to day to day issues around caregiving – and how we can change it to center people and health-needs first
  4. A creative way to spend your time that makes a real difference
  5. New connections with people around the world who are as passionate and interesting as you.

How much time does it involve?

Around 4 hours a week. Like a book club, those hours are mostly flexible and on your timeline, in addition to one or two short, entertaining (we’ve been told) group meetings a week where we learn, plan, and get things done.

“Free the vaccine has given me the hope, structure, and accountability I need to put my skills to use.”

“While we’re results driven, I also feel a genuine sense of team love and pride – something very hard to do virtually. (Kudos!)” 

“There was a real feeling of being connected to a large, engaged, creative, active network!”

“The meetings were the highlight of my week.”

What if I’m not sure I have that much time?

There are two ways to take part and join in this fun, important work.

  1. Join the campaign as a Lab Participant and be part of a team that creates and implements actions.
  2. Be a Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 Supporter

Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 Supporter


Lend a hand to the campaign a few hours a month. In order for us to be able to plan and accomplish our objectives, we ask our regular participants to commit to regular meetings and at least 4 hours per week. However, for those who can’t manage that but still want to contribute, the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 newsletter provides weekly updates on the campaign, including weekly actions. The actions of the week could be:

  • calling your representative
  • constructing a DIY audio card and sending it to a university lab
  • posting to social media
  • giving graphic design feedback to a campaign visual
  • lending expertise on costume design.
  • wearing a costume in a (socially distanced) public performance
  • and more 

Supporters commit to around four hours a month lending a hand to the campaign and reporting back on the results on the site. 

London Carnival to Free the Vaccine For COVID-19

Free the Vaccine participants and others staged a carnival in London to bring attention to the need for an affordable “People’s Vaccine” for COVID-19. Pink-headed coronavirus figures were protected by patents from the syringe-wielding vaccinators. The fantastic costumes and storytelling shone bright against a dreary London day, and news outlets from the Telegraph to the BBC picked up the story.

To learn more our Free the Vaccine campaign, check out

We’re looking for an in-house Printmaker

We are issuing an open call for an In-House Printer for a limited time in Fall 2020. The In-House Printer will be invited to be in residence at the Eureka! House in Kingston NY, to help produce materials for the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign, and support get-out-the-vote efforts, with time to create their own work as well.

We need an In-House Printer for health equity and election advocacy.

We’re pleased to offer this opportunity to a print-maker who is talented and passionate about their craft, and wants to use it to help promote health equity and voting rights.

We’re looking for a specific combination of skills, so please read through and make sure you are a good match. If you have questions, get in touch.

The In-House Printer will be sponsored by Eureka! House, an artist residency, and Free the Vaccine for COVID-19, an advocacy campaign.

To apply, please send a cover letter. In it, please talk about your relevant experience and why you’re interested in this opportunity. Send to: [email protected] before August 24th 2020.

About Eureka! House

Eureka! House is a new artist residency and community space in a beautiful 18th century mansion in Kingston, NY. The residency supplies artists with welcoming spaces, studios, equipment, materials, food, and the opportunity to meet and share with other artists and activists (safely, in this time of physical distancing).

About Free the Vaccine

Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 is a campaign to ensure publicly-funded diagnostic tools, treatment, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be sustainably priced, available to all and free at the point-of-delivery. It is organized by two, collaborating nonprofits; the Center for Artistic Activism and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and is made up of dozens of volunteers around the world who are learning and experimenting with creative advocacy techniques:

Our volunteers begin with varying experience levels with art and activism. The In-House Printer will join the campaign, helping participants finalize designs for print materials that help further the advocacy goals of the campaign. The Printer will attend weekly online Free the Vaccine meetings, have weekly “office hours” with participants, work with participants to refine and print designs, and pack and ship prints to participants.

As the In-House Printer for this campaign we require someone who can remotely assist participants in executing their designs; pointing out possibilities they hadn’t considered and/or potential technical pitfalls before printing begins. Teaching experience is helpful. They will

  • execute print runs on the Eureka! House riso machine
  • ship prints for exhibitions as well as for wheat-pasting, street actions, and other interventions around the world
  • prepare/check prints before they’re submitted to other printers

The In-House Printer will also be invited to produce designs and prints to support get-out-the-vote efforts in the time leading up to November elections. Eureka! House staff will connect the printer with local voting rights advocacy groups that need printing assistance.


The In-House Printer opportunity is from Mid-September to mid-November, with at least one month physically at Eureka! House – timing is flexible within that 2-month period.

The In-House Printer will receive a stipend of $300 per week, a private room, and a shared kitchen stocked with food from local organic producers.

The In-House Printer will work with the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign to prepare and print materials for 40% – 50% of their time, and will be invited to spend their other time on their own work and on election-related work as needed.

Safety and health are a top priority during COVID-19, and the spaces and experiences at Eureka! House are designed with this in mind. The Eureka! House is a very large building with many spaces inside and out, and there will be no more than a few artist residents at one time. All spaces are large, and can be arranged so that physically-distanced interactions only occur outdoors. Please get in touch with us if you’re concerned about this and would like to talk about the safety procedures.


At the Eureka! House, the Fellow will have full and almost exclusive access to the following printing equipment:

  • iMac Pro
  • Wacom Tablet
  • Epson Pro Photo Scanner
  • Riso SF9450
  • Toshiba Copier
  • Sterling DigiBinder
  • Triumph 4810-95 Electric Paper Cutter
  • RotoTrimmer
  • Large worktable
  • 3’x4’ Self-Healing Mat

There are also ceramics, woodworking, darkroom, painting and other equipment and tools that may be available. Access to other materials and equipment is entirely possible – let us know what you need.

Additionally, the participant will have access to the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign including Center for Artistic Activism and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines workshop materials.

Who We’re Looking For

Ideal fellows will:

  • Have at least 3 years of printmaking experience, including on riso printers
  • Have experience setting up and maintaining printmaking spaces
  • Be interested in advocating for equal access to medicines and get-out-the-vote efforts
  • Excited about collaborating with advocacy organizations and having access to their expertise
  • Able to advise on others projects while balancing and respecting their creative independence and learning process
  • Have teaching and/or mentorship experience
  • Be able to work independently
  • Be interested in an artist residency live-in situation

We’re also open to multiple people working as a print collective.

To apply, please send a cover letter. In it, please talk about your relevant experience and why you’re interested in this opportunity.

Send to: [email protected] before August 24th 2020.

If you have questions or need more info, please ask!

Imagining America

The folks at Imagining America are putting out a call for submissions from artists and scholars around collective creative engagements in the U.S, in response to the COVID crisis.

They’re asking for people to suggest ideas around community meals and discussions, poems, stories, visual reflections for a quilt, and dialogues with people in other parts of the country.

Some of the questions they ask people to organize their responses around include:

What is the role of art, design, and creative culture in reimagining and rebuilding our world in ways that create antiracist institutions, structures, practices and ways of thinking?

How might we re-imagine our educational systems, and particularly our colleges and universities, in ways that divest from forms of violence and inequality and invest in cultures and communities of care within institutions and as stakeholders in regions?

What are local communities doing to move towards a more caring, just, and liberatory ‘America’ and world? What are the new and remembered ideas, images, symbols, forms of knowledge, and ways of being that will lead the way?

Amber Ruffin does evaluation

In Late Night comedian Amber Ruffin’s latest “Amber Says What” she asks a lot of valuable evaluation questions of the Trump administration’s latest political spectacle. We may start incorporating these into our work.

Some highlights:

  • Why this?
  • What was the desired effect?
  • Why is this happening and what is happening?
  • Did you know this was going to be public?
  • Where did this idea come from?
  • Was this exactly what you wanted?
  • Did you think this was something someone wanted to be done? And who were they?

COVID-19 Dolly Parton “Jolene” Parody for Free the Vaccine

We’ve been training an international group of volunteers for the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign. Our goal is ensuring publicly-funded diagnostic tools, treatment, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be sustainably priced, available to all and free at the point-of-delivery. The participants have been learning how to use artistic activism to reach these goals.

We learned that Dolly Parton had made a one million dollar donation for COVID-19 research to Vanderbilt University in her home state of Tennessee. Additionally, Vanderbilt has received over $10,000,000 in tax-payer supported research initiatives for COVID according to public records.

For publicly funded research to do the most good, it needs to be publicly available.

For publicly funded research to do the most good, it needs to be publicly available. That’s why we’re asking Vanderbilt University (and you*) to sign the Open COVID Pledge. Our Free the Vaccine teams came up with this Jolene Vaccine Lip-Sync Challenge campaign to use humor, participation, and music to get the attention of Vanderbilt and Dolly Parton fans around the world.

If you think that the any testing, treatment or vaccine that has been developed with public funding MUST be affordable and accessible to everyone, help get the word out.

Here’s what you can do:

Special thanks to the Free the Vaccine Band

  • Harry Bohay Nowell on pedal steel
  • Yuval Lion on Drums
  • Vox: Dally Proton
  • all other instr. played by Square Dill and the Rectangle Roundup Gang

And special thanks to the Vox Fabuli Puppets and Cookie Coutoure!

Advocacy Innovation Lab: Free the Vaccine for COVID-19

“Free the Vaccine for COVID-19” is the first implementation of our Advocacy Innovation Labs, designed to train participants in artistic activism while generating new, creative, and innovative tactics to solve urgent problems.

The Issue: What’s the Problem We’re Addressing?

It’s hard to imagine the day we read the headline “COVID-19 Immunizations Begin.” However, history shows that it’s only a matter of time until we have a vaccine for COVID-19. This day will arrive. And in that there is hope. 

The problem is this: when we do have a vaccine, will everyone have access to it? Without affordable access for everyone, across the globe, the vaccine can’t really do its job. Already governments around the world are investing billions in tax-payer funds into the research and development of diagnostic tools, treatments, and a vaccine for Covid-19. Since the SARS outbreak, the National Institutes of Health alone has spent nearly $700 million on coronavirus research and development. This virus is now a pandemic, following those of Ebola and Zika, yet experience tells us once the vaccine is discovered, pharmaceutical corporations will want us to pay again to acquire it. This means that payment will be demanded for something already paid for from public funds. It also means that not everyone will be able to afford access. 

More urgently than ever the global need for collaboration and solidarity is being felt by people who had never before paid attention to these issues. Almost everyone, everywhere is waiting for drugs and vaccines that can change lives, history and the current narrative. And an urgent question needs to be answered: how do we ensure access for all? 

Communities Served 

People from all backgrounds, ethnicities, levels of status and wealth have been impacted by Covid-19. We are all vulnerable, but not all of us equally. Our goal is to ensure the vaccine is freely accessible to everyone in the world. Our primary targets include: 1) university faculty who can pressure their institutions to be socially responsible in patenting and licensing of publicly funded medicines like vaccines developed in university labs, 2) Ministers of Health or other funding bodies, and 3) Pharmaceutical CEOs.

When we win, the people who will benefit will be residents of entire nations, often those historically written off by pharmaceutical providers because they are too poor to profit off of. When we win, uninsured residents of wealthy nations will have a chance to survive. When we win everyone benefits because flattening the curve isn’t enough – we can only eliminate the curve after everyone is vaccinated.

Strategy: How Does it Work? 

The social-political landscape has fundamentally shifted. We won’t win through old methods – holding up signs at a traditional crowded protest march is not an option. So we’re finding new, better ways that work in our current context through an “Advocacy Innovation Lab.” While the virologists are working in their lab developing a vaccine, we’re working in ours making sure that vaccine is freely available.

We implemented  a global program designed for the time of physical distancing with weekly online courses on innovative advocacy and best practices in access to medicines advocacy. From 300+ volunteers we have formed “Salk Squads” of 4-6 people (named after Jonas Salk who gave the vaccine for polio to the world). 

Each week, Lab participants meet online for training and lessons from special guest experts who have successfully fought for equal access to medicines. Then the participants, in small teams of 4-7 that are regionally-based, do weekly assignments to both learn more and to perform action experiments. They may experiment with narratives and ways to use social media to encourage health officials to pledge to support equal access to treatment. They may test social distancing performances that encourage people to pressure their governments. Over the course of 4 months, hundreds of actions will be implemented, and each group will be guided to reflect and refine their actions in order to learn from them and share with others. 

Their advocacy experiments and results are shared within regional groups where they are collaboratively evaluated and refined with an assigned mentor. Successful tactics are shared across all the regions so they can be iterated upon and deployed globally. We plan to learn new ways to promote equity in access to medicines from this massive number of experiments and assessments, while developing and building a grassroots movement ready to implement them. The methods, case studies and best practices will be shared with the public to encourage use by anyone.


Already the impact of the campaign can be felt in our participants where, a few days after meeting, hundreds of people are remotely coordinating, planning and working together to ensure global equity in access to medicines.  Within days of our announcement we had over 600 sign up. Shortly after over 300 volunteers committed to work on the campaign weekly for the next four months. They are from 29 countries on every continent (except Antarctica!). They are young (79% are under 45), 66% identify as women, 60% as activists, and 36% as artists or designers.

We believe in this campaign’s future impact because, while it is a new and innovative concept in massive, rapid online organizing based on creativity and experimentation, it is built on many years of work by organizations with excellent track records.

C4AA has helped thousands of people create successful advocacy campaigns around the world, and helped organizations and funders create visionary strategies that combine the best practices of arts and activism. Their research and publications demonstrate the astonishing impact of putting innovation, culture and creativity at the core of change.

UAEM has the depth of technical knowledge on alternative R&D mechanisms, licensing and global health. With over 100 chapters in more than 20 countries across the world, UAEM students work has successfully influenced policies at universities in order to ensure that products of biomedical research and development are made available to and affordable to the people who need them most.

Innovation: What makes this approach distinguishable from other efforts? 

This project is specifically designed to respond to this moment, facing its uncertainty with a movement that thrives on innovation, action, and collaboration. This is unique and groundbreaking for the access-to-medicines movement, which for the last decade has been heavily technical in their search for solutions to the access challenge.

Our entire program is aimed at propelling innovation in advocacy by emphasizing rapid, crowd-sourced experimentation and creativity. While traditional advocacy methods can rely on fact sheets and petitions, research shows that narrative, surprise, and creativity is more effective in the cultural and social change that propels policy change. And yet few advocacy groups know how to use those tools.

Center for Artistic Activism has been helping advocacy groups do this work for over a decade, and this is the largest, most concerted effort to date to apply the research and methods to a global campaign.

We are reaching and mobilizing people confined to their homes but desperately wanting to collaborate and use their diverse skills to ensure everyone has the care they need. This could be remembered as a moment in history that is about fear, isolation and suspension. This project counters with hope, collaboration, and innovation.

Suitability: What makes our organizations the right ones to address this issue?

This project is a partnership between the Center for Artistic Activism and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.

C4AA has led dozens of workshops, in 20 countries with 2000+ people helping them use their creativity and culture to affect power. They’ve moved public health campaigns forward and conducted groundbreaking research on the impact of creative activism. This campaign is built on the successes of a similar anti-corruption program with artists, activists, and investigative journalists in the Western Balkans and West Africa.

UAEM has grown from a North American movement, with its origins in the HIV/AIDS movement, to a truly global one, encompassing regions with contrasting needs and contexts, working collaboratively towards a global objective of making medicines accessible to all. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed hard truths about the world’s preparedness in face of a global pandemic including responses that feed social inequalities and increased oppression of marginalised communities.

Long-Term Vision: If we’re successful, how will the issue be impacted?

We’re training hundreds of people in how to become the cutting-edge, creative activists of the future. Each will have the tools to develop innovative campaigns that can overcome a variety of obstacles, and build movements with everyday people, through accessible tactics, that embody local cultures, vibrancy, and life.

Our specific vision is to empower citizens to replace a medical R&D system that favors profit over people with already existing alternative models. Pharmaceutical corporations develop profitable drugs, not medication in the public interest. COVID has been researched for years with billions in public funds, but until a pandemic emerges, there’s no profit motive for pharmaceutical corporations to initiate testing, treatment, or vaccines. We are living within a system that has obviously failed. Hundreds of thousands have died and will die because of it. What must replace the current model is an ethical, human driven R&D system where publicly funded research leads to needed and affordable treatments. UAEM has mapped 81 alternative R&D models that were included in the UN’s High Level Report on Access to Medicines in 2016.

COVID-19 is undeniably shaping our future. Let’s make this the catalyst: transforming our access to medicines and improving millions of lives with it.

For more information contact us.