Transforming walls and communities

We’ve passed a milestone in our partnership between AkzoNobel and global peace movement MasterPeace:  We’ve created 95 Let’s Colour Walls of Connection! Launched in March, the joint campaign aims to bring together artists and local communities to paint 100 walls in 40 cities.

As we get closer to achieving our goal, we spoke to Stephanie Kraneveld, Global Color Training and Knowledge Manager, Decorative Paints Consumer Marketing; and Céline van Dormalen, Regional Director Europe – Global Partnerships MasterPeace, to find out what the experience has been like and what they’ve learned so far.
What has been your favorite moment of Let’s Colour Walls of Connection?

Stephanie: The kick-off event at the Albeda College in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was my favorite moment. The artists, students, our own AkzoNobel employees and people from the local community all enjoyed transforming a huge wall into a nice, colorful piece of art. You could feel the energy, mutual respect and pride among those involved.

Céline: My favorite moment was working in London together with the AkzoNobel global team and the amazing local artist Siddiqa Juma. It was very crowded at the venue, but Siddiqa still managed to make time for an inspirational, professional art lesson in the heart of London. That's capacity building in communities! 

Transforming walls and communities

How did the project impact you personally, and what have you learned?

Stephanie: For me it was an eye opener that Let’s Colour Walls of Connection really brings people together that would not normally get the opportunity to connect. So with a little bit of paint, we are able to change behavior and make a difference in people’s lives.

Working with a global grassroots non-profit organization like MasterPeace was a new experience for me. Although AkzoNobel and MasterPeace come from two different worlds, Walls of Connection brought us together with the common goal of adding color to people’s lives. Being part of that has been a great gift for me personally.

Céline: I also didn't know that this project would have such an impact on my personal life. It has invited me to listen to people’s stories, see the resilience of the local people, be inspired by their hopes and make more meaningful connections.

What challenges did you face?

Stephanie: We are well on track to achieving our goal, but it hasn’t been easy. One of our main challenges (apart from the weather) was managing the local stakeholders. But working together with the global MasterPeace team, we managed to find a way to make the most of our strengths. With a global network of local partners, MasterPeace has experience in mobilizing communities. And AkzoNobel has paint expertise and global reach, as well as experience in implementing Let's Colour community programs.

Céline: That’s a good point. What I think the world needs is more co-creation between creatives, policy-makers, civil society, local governments and businesses. But a true co-creation between a global corporate leader and a grassroots organization can be challenging to achieve. Nevertheless, my colleague Raghda El-Halawany and our global team created a solid foundation for this strategic, value-based partnership. I hope many more similar partnerships will follow.

What are the essential factors for a successful project?

Stephanie: On a practical level, all the people involved are essential to a project’s success. For Walls of Connection, they were the MasterPeace partners, the community members, the local artists designing the wall and the AkzoNobel employees supplying the paint and volunteering during the event. Everyone’s dedication and enthusiasm has been amazing. I was surprised to see that thousands of people care about this initiative to be so involved!

Céline: In addition to the people, these projects require flexibility, teamwork and one mutual goal. A partnership between different stakeholders like this never works according to a plan. But while working together, we become part of something much bigger, and it all starts with some paint and a magnificent design.

What was the response from local communities?

Stephanie: People definitely enjoyed participating and many were surprised by the positive impact that paint and color can have. After every paint event, we did a small survey among people from the local community. The results demonstrated that people now feel proud of their neighborhood and care more about things that happen there. They also said they have more regular contact with their neighbors and the community.

Céline: On that note, during the painting of the Walls of Connection in London, I approached a community member who told me this was the first time in her two years living in London that she really felt the connection with the city. That showed me that this kind of project is the best way to get to know a city and its people. 

How did Let’s Colour Walls of Connection impact the community?

Stephanie: Walls of Connection brought together people in diverse and complex communities around the world and helped them transform their neighborhoods into more colorful, liveable and enjoyable places to live – places they feel proud of.

It also brought together two very different organizations with complementing expertise and networks. By forming such partnerships, these kinds of projects will help to ensure a more sustainable and liveable future and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Céline: What’s great is that the impact is all about local ownership. Once the community has participated in Walls of Connection, their world is more vibrant, liveable and friendly. That's the power of color.