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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.

“From the global pandemic to climate change, looming crises urge us to pause and take an opportunity to imagine and then create a better world. But how do we take that first step of imagining a world that truly breaks free into a possible future? With advice both practical and inspirational, Practicing Futures shows us how.” —Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Executive Director of the National Writing Project

“Motivating communities to imagine a just future is a powerful act of building solidarity. And yet, it is hard work to create intentional spaces for collaborative play and visioning, to bring people together to engage in deep listening and ideation on the path to shaping a better world. In Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Action Handbook, authors Sangita Shresthova and Gabriel Peters-Lazaro beautifully bring to life the hard work involved in inspiring collective civic imagination, taking us along on journeys of dreaming and discovery, letting us in on the ‘why’ and ‘how to’ details of fueling social change through the radical process of finding creative communion with our fellow humans.” —Caty Borum Chattoo, Executive Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact; Author of Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change, and Co-author of A Comedian and an Activist Walk Into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice

“It is all too rare to find a book this widely researched, richly theorized, and immensely practical for all of us who seek to imagine together what our shared world can be. I can’t think of a more timely or crucial contribution to civic life and learning.”—Lissa Soep, Executive Producer of Journalism + Innovation Lab and Founding Director at YRMedia