When we give money to charities or go volunteer for a charitable organisation, what we are essentially trying to do is improve someone's well-being. Well-being means something different to everyone and there is no objective definition for it.
Although economic empowerment, access to health care, education and other practical solutions can be incredibly beneficial towards improving welfare, a feeling of social inclusion and what Dr Felton Earls calls “collective efficacy” are actually some of the main factors contributing to happiness.
By nature, we are a social species that thrive in communities and most individuals won’t be productive members of society if they feel excluded. There is evidence that there is a positive correlation between economic success and strong social connections.
One way to strengthen community cohesion and feelings of belonging is through implementing cultural and art programs. Art and culture have the ability to bring people together through shared experiences. This applies to both creators and audiences.
Art programs have the capability to not only promote cognitive development but also interpersonal, communicational skills, adaptability.
Being part of a collective also helps with identity forming and understanding your position in society, one of the first stepping stones to empowerment.
Programs with cultural significance such as dance, music, painting, writing and theatre enable individuals, especially youth, to express their feelings and emotions. This positively contributes to their mental health and adds to their psychological development, helping them fashion their position in society.
Recent studies have shown that art and culture actually add to the job market, job creation and therefore promote economic growth. World Creative has created a global map showing all the cultural and creative industries. Their website easily illustrates how culture fuels the economy and how much revenue it builds globally.
If you'd like to contribute to causes that work in promoting arts and arts-based research you can check out one (or all!) of these organisations: