Creativity at play…

Johny Haycocks, member of York MCN network and Systems Changers participant

Lankelly Chase
5 min readJul 21, 2021

It’s often the least tangible of expressions that convey the most meaning. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the creative process allows us to access emotions and feelings in a far more connected sense in terms of empathy.

Words and questions are great for extracting information and responses, terms, and partial meaning. However, with the MCN network it’s becoming more apparent to me that it’s actually the creative process of the engagement that allows the most sentient of connections between us as human beings and therefore the greatest understanding and learning. These sentient connections we have are not always spoken or written, instead they are felt, they are emotions, they are feelings, it’s an unrestricted and open-ended dialogue by which we communicate our experience and responses in life.

I have been trying for a long time to explain the difference between using the creative process throughout a project versus creatively presenting the research results of a project. The former allows creativity to ‘carry its journey’ and organically produce expressions and experiences without there being a beginning and an end. Life is transient and in a constant state of flux, therefore any engagement with people should be just as adaptable and ingenious in its approach as life itself.

It’s not just about exploring a piece of research with a group of people and presenting the work creatively in the form of a picture or a poem that makes the process of creative engagement, creative engagement. It’s about the entire journey from the start of the work until it pauses in time for a moment of reflection before moving on again. It’s in that space of free-form moments captured in the creative process, that is the where the real creative process of engagement is at work.

When we are looking at systems in our lives and trying to understand them as more than a graph or a speech or a report full of terminology required by law and policy makers, surely, we need a natural environment? Human engagement isn’t always a science experiment and therefore nor should the behaviour of us as human beings be as individuals in that system. I mostly live my life by feelings and emotions, whether they are mine or my fellow human beings at any one time. To understand a situation in real terms is to put yourself in that situation to truly understand its very nature. The important word there being nature. The creative process is all around us every day if we choose to unplug from our terminals of data and order and class and other definitions of borders and barriers.

The process of creativity is all about making connections with people on a level that doesn’t require words always, a look, a facial expression in a conversation with someone will tell you far more about their true self and their experiences than any questions you may have loaded, ready to fire. Let’s not forget that only 7% of communication is spoken and that’s the only statistic that has any place in this reflection of my engagement within the MCN network over the last two years or more. It’s far more than that for me. The Systems Changers training alone has not only given us tools by which to interpret parts of the systems at play in York, it has also bonded those of us involved in ways that words don’t do justice to. That sentient nature of our connection is felt and thought, it’s something inside our soul that has formed an empathy and understanding that isn’t always spoken or written, it’s a sense, it’s a sensation, it’s an emotion.

A great Artist said that our bodies are the only things we can think about from the inside out and that has stuck with me since uni. What I’ve tried to touch upon in this quickly written cathartic outpouring on a Saturday evening is a culmination of reflection, based on both my observations and my feelings along a path which has had a huge impact on my sense of self, my learning and in my connection to people within the MCN network work. I’m not claiming it’s all down to creativity by any means and of course other methods of inquiry and exploration have their merits and their place for sure. However, I still insist after two days of an experiment for the Systems Changers training where we opened a space for conversations to happen, that creativity allows freedom of expression. There weren’t just words spoken in that space, or creative expressions being documented beautifully and diversely and fluidly on paper. There were thoughts, there were emotions, there were sentient interactions that we all went away with that aren’t always describable or tangible in terms of physical evidence.

Our very nature is to navigate the world and understand it through our senses and I think one of the best ways for this type of ‘happening’ to happen is by mere interactions that aren’t focused on a process of steps forward strategically mapped out, merely a meandering exploration of what lies in front of us at any given moment in time and in a space. Creativity is a way of life that allows those ‘happenings’ to happen in the freest of terms. A song, a poem, a painting, a dance, any creative piece of work contains more feelings and emotions than it ever does information, its unspoken connections are far more powerful and understandable to me.

So, let’s try and continue to make those connections with a means of connection that in my opinion reveals so much more than the documents that record these ‘happenings’ we become entangled within. Let’s not lose the most natural and organic experiences in life to mere data and results. Let’s also feel the very thing that sits inside us that tells us so much more in the form of empathy and unspoken insight. To play is to experience and experience yields understanding.

This is not the most eloquently or intelligently composed piece of writing that I’ve undertaken recently and my dyslexia doesn’t always allow a flow that makes sense to everyone when they read it back but that’s my very point I think, because inside of me I feel every word with the most sincerest of souls.

The creative process is all about social engagement with people, something as simple as a space and gathering can connect people in such an extraordinary and at times unpredictable way and generate far more meaning and value for social change than any questionnaire you could place in someone’s hands. Connections through conversations, empathy through understanding and emotions through social exchanges are the way forward if we want change to happen and adapt to the needs of its community.

I had a brief conversation with another Systems Changers training who said, ‘we forget as adults how to make friends’. That then inspired this entire ramble from myself after reflecting on the very nature of human interaction, and how creative practice and social engagement are so important in producing those all-important connections and the understanding that evolves from these moments that time and space allows us to experience.

It’s only from these free-flowing spaces that we truly begin to learn and understand a community in my humble opinion and access a realistic reflection of a society.



Lankelly Chase

We are a charitable foundation focused on tackling severe and multiple disadvantage. We’re using this blog to share learning from our Place Action Inquiry.