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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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Final Thoughts


that we might share, we see many examples in the worlds of popular culture and politics that affirm these needs and perhaps mark a larger shift towards creative visions of hope as vital forms of civic engagement. From the imaginative social movements inspired by the release of the Black Panther film in 2018 to a 2019 animated video called “A message from the future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” that envisions a more equitable and environmentally sustainable future, we see ample evidence that others recognize that we need to bring active imagination to our individual and collective civic lives. Whether it is an invitation to “dream Wakanda” or recognizing that the “first step [towards our desired future] was just closing our eyes and imagining it” (Alexandra Ocasio Cortez), such efforts center imagination as a key aspect of our ability to engage with others as we advocate for changing our circumstances. It is our hope that the workshops we share here can support others in their efforts to bring the imagination to their civic lives.

With that in mind, we felt it would be helpful to share a few final thoughts about some themes that emerged from the Imagine2040 symposium of 2017 (an ←159 | 160→event that we touch upon in the introduction to this book). As we reviewed them two years later, these three themes stuck out to us as an enduring and useful place to conclude our book and extend an invitation to our readers to engage with our...

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