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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.

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Section Two Practice Chronicles



This section of the Handbook recounts how we developed our approach to the civic imagination. A series of community engagements stretching back to 2013 honed our workshop toolkit. We learned that every community context is unique and that successful creative collaborations require careful listening, diligent research and preparation, and a real openness to surprising discoveries within even the most familiar activities. Even in cases where we ran and re-ran the same basic workshop structures again and again, our learning outcomes and creative discoveries varied in profound ways. We share these recollections so the curious practitioner can understand our process and the learning we did along the way. Our process journey offers valuable lessons and perspectives to anyone hoping to bring civic imagination into their own communities, whether they will be working with familiar people or bringing that practice into new and unfamiliar contexts. Each chronicle includes a key learnings section that summarizes why this particular community engagement was important to developing the civic imagination approach and workshops.

The other thing we learned and demonstrate here, is that for all the variability and diversity we experienced taking these workshops around the world, the underlying human principles of caring and creativity are universal. As much as possible, we included details, not only about the specific backgrounds and contexts of the people and organizations we worked with, but also about the stories they made ←23 | 24→and the insights they shared. There are some wild imaginings contained...

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