The creative industry used to be one with many networking and inspirational opportunities. Living in and around Manchester, we had the opportunity to go to talks, conferences and exhibitions as often as we liked, but then the Covid pandemic hit, and everything changed. Those fun social outings with our peers ended, the exhibitions got cancelled and the conferences were postponed indefinitely. 

Since lockdown lifted and much of the population has been vaccinated, events we once attended have slowly started up again. However, Covid hasn’t vanished and for some, there’s still a little apprehension about being in public spaces and others have perhaps fallen out of the habit of attending. 

That’s one of the reasons I set up a bi-monthly Lunch & Learn in our offices. As a team, we work incredibly hard and find little time to pull our heads away from our desks to take in moments of inspiration and creativity. It’s been well documented that taking breaks in our workday can help reduce sensory overload. Lunchtime learning sessions can be a chance for us to recharge our brains, reduce stress levels and change our thinking patterns. It also provides people with the opportunity to chat about something other than work, helping to build up a social rapport. 

So far, we’ve watched fascinating talks about the gender data gap, colour therapy and what’s new in web design. All useful but not necessarily related to what we do day in and day out – and that’s okay! Inspiration comes from a variety of sources and seeking it outside of our industry can only help us to get fresh and interesting perspectives. 

The sessions have also given us an opportunity to tailor sessions around our unique skillsets, one of our Senior Project Managers will be leading a talk on print tips and tricks and our Head of Design is running specific sessions for our studio to help ensure we all produce the best work we can. 

Due to rising Covid rates, we’ve recently been forced to work from home again, but that hasn’t stopped us from sharing tips and tricks amongst ourselves on Teams calls and on Slack and I’m still scheduling my bi-monthly Lunch & Learn sessions. My latest inspiring video was chosen with care and is all about activism. Inspiring and leading social change is fundamental to C21’s ethos. It guides the work we do and helps us define the people we work with. We want to make a difference in the world, and we’re determined as an organisation to leave our world a little bit better off than how we found it. 

The rise of armchair activism or slacktivism over the last couple of years has appealed to many of us, but it’s often seen as the lazy alternative to getting out into the world and making real change. Fundraising and campaigning don’t usually take place behind a screen, but for a year that’s all most of us could do. Also taking part in big global protests might not be for everyone. Introverted people – like me – often prefer to stay home, finding big crowds on the streets a little overwhelming, but we still want to make a difference. That’s why my latest Lunch and Learn was centred around Craftivism. The Craftivist Collective describe themselves as; 

“An inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful, crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.” 

This TED talk from their founder Sarah Corbett goes into some detail about how we can slow down, taking time to think and engage with the public about the big issues we’re all facing in a gentler way and that’s something that introverts like me can definitely get on board with. 

However, it’s not just people, brands are also taking part in activism in various ways, with differing success. I think we all think back and cringe at Pepsi’s tone-deaf protest advert. Since that backlash companies have realised that they can’t just pay lip service to social issues, they must do the work and lead the change. Companies that care are overhauling their packaging, using recycled materials, saving water, and getting rid of plastic. This global awareness has been led by consumers, using their money to buy more from brands with a conscience and this has completely changed how we think about design, positively influencing our industry for years to come. 

My goal when I started the Lunch & Learn sessions was to try and boost morale and raise our collective knowledge, but if by the end we help each other make the world a kinder and more caring place too, then so much the better!