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Practicing Futures

A Civic Imagination Action Handbook

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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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Chapter Seven Future of Faith?—Fayetteville, Arkansas

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Future of Faith?—Fayetteville, Arkansas

Our workshop at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas explored how imagination intersects with faith and spirituality. In this particular session, consensus around progressive Christian values led to a clearer articulation of aspirational future worlds rooted in a commitment to social justice. Building on this, the participants strategized how the insights gained could move them forward in cultivating more sustained productive collaborations with other aligned communities, leading to an effort that eventually contributed to the forming of the New Sactuary Coalition of Northwest Arkansas.

“The story begins in the not so distant future. An orange haired demon has taken over the world. He is in charge of everything and has made the world an evil place. In a mutiny, he is overcome by angels of virtue who surround him and implant a heart shaped rock, changing his world view. He shifts towards being more accountable, more generous.”

An “orange haired demon” and “angels of virtue” were the central characters in one of the performances created by participants in a future world workshop we ran at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 27, 2017. As the performance reached its climax and the demon was transformed into a kinder being, other workshop participants applauded enthusiastically to express their approval for this barely masked political critique and Christian-themed happy ending.

For us, the Fayetteville workshop offered an opportunity to work with a religious Christian...

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