Foto: Mats Bäcker

Circus Transfer

Circus as social entrepreneurship

We all carry our various fears with us, but to cope with the challenges of our time, we must take our fears by the hand and do exactly what we dare not do. Like a circus artist.

Havfruen. Foto: Mattias Edwall
00:00 Foto: Ester Sorri
Cirkör Event. Foto: Erik Eriksen

What a circus!

We use this expression to describe something chaotic. Chaos is an intrinsic part of all creative processes, but once on stage, circus is all about discipline and controlled, deliberate risk-taking. Anything can happen while bungee jumping from a hot air balloon, like in Cirkör's show PUST, or when you find yourself 30 m ft (10 meters) up in the air without a safety line. This is life and death art. The lessons of the circus can be applied to society, worklife and life in general – by exploring the limits of what it means to be human. We call this Circus Transfer.

Becoming a more creative boss

“As a manager, you have to be a fiend at juggling and balancing, at being present, here and now. That’s what circus teaches me,” one of the managers with whom Cirkör collaborates explains. "We hired Cirkör to enhance creativity and the importance of leadership in innovation processes," recounts the global company Pinault Ricard, which documented this process in the book Leadership of Creative Business Workbook.

Their experiences clearly illustrate the degree to which leadership is an art of its own, where actions, plans and processes are constantly adapted to the needs of the specific context, assignment and team and where problem-solving works best when it is a co-creative process with clear steps: divergence (opening up and saying “yes”), emergence (remaining in chaos) and convergence (funneling insights, concepts and ideas). This is circus as opposed to linear thinking. By testing and practicing the disciplines and leadership dimensions of circus – and reflecting on the insights acquired – Pinault Ricard was able to improve their performance and results.

Changing society through the art of circus

In Landskrona and Järfälla municipalities, Cirkör's educators have supported children who use wheelchairs in going where they have never gone before, for example up on a rope. Moreover, some circus projects evolved into gender projects once it became clear that the girls participating initially felt they “were not allowed to be” or would not allow themselves to be physical.

The city of Malmö has begun introducing circus as part of an educational experience for both city employees and citizens. The main objective here is to use mental and physical circus exercises to make visible and begin to employ the many capabilities of civil servants and indirectly also of citizens. Important target groups are children and seniors in underserved areas that the municipality has difficulty reaching through other programs.

Management groups from three of Malmö’s municipal administrations have invested in Cirkör's concept “Teeter Trust”, among other reasons because their services rely on trust-based governance both internally and vis-à-vis citizens. Which way of working, which attitudes and approaches generate maximum trust in society?

Non-verbal, embodied knowledge

With the help of educators and coaches from Cirkör, school principals used physical exercises to embody knowledge about leadership. Once they dared to try this, the playfulness involved helped them learn to fail together and through this to grow stronger together. The knowledge gained through circus is often non-verbal. According to those who participated, holding the experience in one’s body is key to success. Afterwards, they asked themselves, “What flips do I do in my daily life?” Something happens when the body holds experiences of balancing slightly above the ground, or after a simple exercise in partner acrobatics based on cooperation between two people. This makes it easier to transfer that knowledge to the office.

Come join the Cirkör!

For 25 years we have worked with a great many teachers, students, children, young people, seniors, managers and employees. We give inspirational lectures, interactive presentations, hold workshops, take over schools and shape leadership programs. Circus educators, artists and coaches are often told that we are both tender and bold. We have faith in your ability to make the impossible possible. Regardless of who you are, we know that you are curious about using this art form to better understand what you need to grow as an individual and in a group. As one of the managers in our network put it: "I’ve had too much intellectual fodder”. Circus goes straight to the heart and does not shy away from our biggest challenges.

If we push inner and outer boundaries together – Cirkör's artistic vision – we can create social change.

Join us in Circus Transfer.