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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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Chapter Eighteen Stories from the Field


Stories from the Field

Here we share two brief accounts of civic imagination in action. Our hope is for this book and the tools herein to spark ideas and actions in all kinds of different communities and contexts. The first account is from Jimmeka Anderson about her experience piloting our workshops in North Carolina. As we were finishing our book we enlisted the help of several people around the country to take our instructions as written, run the workshops in their own communities, and report back to us about the experience. This process helped us ensure that we were getting the right points across and that our structures and flow were clear. We were extremely gratified not only for the useful feedback we got, but also by reports of excitement and enjoyment from our pilot facilitators and their participants. We decided to share one such account here to give a sense of how other people are already adapting and using these workshops in their own communities.

In the second account, Emilia Yang and Rogelio Alejandro Lopez (members of the Civic Paths Research group at USC) describe an art installation project that grew out of a site-specific action at the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana. This example provides a very different illustration of the kinds of work that can be launched from a basis in civic imagination. Rather than recounting a workshop experience, this piece describes a collaboration between university students on opposite sides of...

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