At a time of mounting crises and intractable global problems, social change advocates need savvy communicators and strategists to help turn the tide. Events like Memefest, a “festival of socially responsive communication and art,” are grooming the next generation of artists, designers and campaigners to apply their talents for the common good.
In the corporate realm, countless advertising and public relations festivals reward “creatives” yearly for their clever approaches to the challenge of selling more toothpaste or making accountants look hip. Now in its 13th year, Memefest is one of the only global venues that evaluates and celebrates creative and strategic work in support of social and environmental activism. As a web-based showcase, submissions are accepted from around the world and open to students, activists and professionals alike.
The “memes” sought by Memefest are not well-executed kitten videos but rather the activist communications tactic of packaging radical thinking into tight conceptual frames that travel through public discussions like a virus. The manner in which Occupy Wall Street served as a focal point for action on economic inequality illustrates this perfectly. Memefest aims to help activist communicators learn the art of meme-crafting and in this way unleash many more to help shift global consciousness.
In real space, the annual Memefest workshop hosted in Melbourne, Australia will go beyond high-flying communications theory to address real-world social movements and their challenges. For the past three years, Memefest has worked with local activist groups such as the Brisbane Aboriginal-Sovereign Embassy and Grandmothers Against Removals to direct the creative energy assembled by the festival towards supporting Aboriginal struggles for respect and self-determination in Australia.
This fall, Memefest is opening up the scope of its competition to include campaign strategy and approaches under its new mobilization category. Activists of all stripes are invited to submit write-ups of innovative campaigns they have planned or worked on and multimedia content samples when possible. A large proportion of all entries will be chosen for public evaluation and will receive feedback from an experienced panel of international curators. [Disclosure: I have helped memefest with international outreach from its inception.]
Perhaps the most rewarding experience for budding world-changers is participating in the week-long Memefest workshop, shoulder to shoulder with activists from around the world. As an incentive to draw submissions, the festival promises to fly the participants who submit winning entries to Melbourne and provides accommodation for the length of the event.
Those interested in participating in this year’s Memefest should have a look at the submission guidelines for visual communication and critical writing as well as those for the new mobilization section.
The deadline for all entries is Sep. 20.