The Six Categories of Creative Impact

The first step in defining a complex system is simply to begin with naming conventions. We started long ago with this strategy when developing language itself — naming the things we saw around us as humans to make the complex world easier to navigate.

Accordingly, in an effort to simply begin defining a space that is entirely undefined, I’ve broken out the below categories of “creative impact.” Which as an increasingly important field of work that is currently not recognized by society’s more formal institutions. So with no further ado:

1. Awareness: Creative production of video, text, etc. that raises awareness of a cause or issue among a certain population, ultimately influencing the behavior of others.

Example: of the awareness distribution channel is documentaries, such as Food Inc. that disseminate information about an issue allowing consumers to make more informed choices.

2. Education: Teaching and educating others in any of the fields of creativity (design, arts, etc.) which improves the lives of individuals and, more broadly, the community / society in which they reside.

Example: College professors, online tutorials, etc. that teach in any of the fields defined as being creative within the criteria that has been previously defined here.

3. Inspiration: Solution through a creative execution/activation that inspires others to take a positive action or change their behavior in such a way that it has a positive impact on the world which outweighs any negative costs associated with the production of the project.

Example: A billboard that creates drinking water out of moisture in the air for disadvantaged communities, or sculptures that create an environment for new life and the creation of new reefs.

4. Indirect Action: Assisting another organization reach their mission by amplifying their message, improving their effectiveness, or helping them raise funds/direct resources to a problem/solution.

Example: Creative agencies, film production studios, and other service-oriented businesses that primarily serve impact-driven clients.

5. Direct Action: Creation of a product or technological solution that needs to be sold, subsidized, etc. and which directly solves a problem.

Example: Tom’s Shoes which, through sales of shoes to individuals who can afford them, provides shoes to underprivileged people.

6. Prevention: The leveraging of creativity to prohibit or dissuade individuals and/or groups from behaving in an otherwise damaging manner.

Example: one group developed an idea to 3D print fake rhino horns and then flood the market with them which would ultimately drive the price of rhino horns down, preventing poaching and assisting the rhino population in areas of … now this is an entirely new category I hadn’t considered.

As always, these categories are meant to be a living document that will be revised as we continue to learn and develop the field of creative impact. I’d love your feedback, and if you’re interested in contributing your thoughts or would like to connect — would be happy to hear from you.

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