This project was based on a study of local governance in Sagaing Township in Mandalay, with specific reference to constituent feedback on effectiveness, rule of law, public engagement, transparency and accountability, and equality. Reports of this type tend to be dominated by technical language, statistics, and graphs, while leaving out the human element that comprises people’s relationship to politics. Pyae Sone Aung, a social scientist researcher, was used to compiling reports of this nature until he participated in workshop about the power of creative collaborations to influence and shape advocacy. As part of an exercise at the workshop in which researchers tried out creative methods of communication and engagement, Pyae wrote and delivered a poetic soliloquy about social, economic, political, and ecological impacts on the Irawaddy River from its perspective.
Inspired by learning how research and arts can combine to strengthen to advocacy, Pyae went on to collaborate with a graphic designer and artist to render the report on local governance in Mandalay using visuals. The result was a series of watercolours, integrated into the written report, which were used at local meetings and events, and had the effect of creating more positive engagement amongst political leaders with the report findings. The watercolours were also exhibited at the Ahnu Thutaythana Festival in December 2019 in Yangon, as part of the ‘Reducing inequalities in public engagement in Myanmar’ project, where Pyae participated in panel discussions on the integration of art and research. He also contributed a chapter to an edited book examining the pursuit of arts and research for advocacy, and reported that his organisation Yone Kyi Yar will move forward with this interdisciplinary approach across its other programmes and activities in the future.