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Practicing Futures

A Civic Imagination Action Handbook


Gabriel Peters-Lazaro and Sangita Shresthova

The real world is full of challenges and the sheer weight of problems facing us can stifle the genius of our collective human creativity at exactly the time when we desperately need imaginative and innovative solutions. Responding to this, Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Action Handbook harnesses our connections to popular culture and taps the boundless potential of human imagination to break free of assumptions that might otherwise trap us in repetitive cycles of alienation. Utopias and dystopias have long been used to pose questions, provoke discussions, and inspire next steps and are helpful because they encourage long view perspectives. Building on the work of the Civic Imagination Project at the University of Southern California, the Handbook is a practical guide for community leaders, educators, creative professionals, and change-makers who want to encourage creative, participatory, and playful approaches to thinking about the future. This book shares examples and models from the authors’ work in diverse communities. It also provides a step-by-step guide to their workshops with the objective of making their approach accessible to all interested practitioners. The tools are adaptable to a variety of local contexts and can serve multiple purposes from community and network building to idea generation and media campaign design by harnessing the expansive capacity for imagination within all of us.

List of Figures – Foreword: The Work of Imagining Communities by Henry Jenkins – Overview – About Practicing Futures – Section Two: Practice Chronicles – Fantasy Can Help Us Breathe—Muslim Youth Group, Los Angeles – Bringing Imagination to Activism—Freedom School, Los Angeles – Mind Blown! Grown Ups Freaking Out—Digital Media and Learning Conference, Boston – Em/power Love: Building Empathy and Solidarity with Each Other—Salzburg Global Seminar – Turning the Chairs to Face the Table—Bowling Green, Kentucky – Future of Faith?—Fayetteville, Arkansas – Pakistan, from the Heart: Civic Imagination in Context of Violent Extremism – Imagination in the Classroom—New Media for Social Change – Of Two Faced Bunnies in the Woods—Brussels, Belgium – Section Three: The Practice Guidebook – General Notes About Facilitation – Workshop: Origin Stories—Imagining Ourselves as Civic Agents – Workshop: Infinite Hope—Imagining a Better World – Workshop: Step into the Looking Glass—Imagining Our Social Connections with a Larger Community – Workshop: Monuments from the Future—Bringing Imaginative Dimensions to Our Real World Spaces and Places – Workshop: Remixing Stories—Forging Solidarity with Others with Different Experiences Than Our Own – Workshop: Creating an Action Plan—Imagining the Process of Change – Stories from the Field – Final Thoughts – Recommended Readings – Author Biographies – Index.