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Morgan Ness

She/Her

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About The Imagination for Action Framework

What if there was a way to build empathy, define the future, and actively engage with social issues all at once? What if, by making art, we could actually make change? That is the goal of this project--to use art-making as a vector to propel social change in some of the most important social issues of our time.

The Imagination for Action framework is designed to enable everyday people to engage with new social issues in order to inspire them to make tangible action in these areas. The framework is employed through a workshop where participants learned about a relevant social issue and then used designerly tools and activities to imagine the future. This framework can be translated across all disciplines and social issues, allowing everyday people the power to use art as a change-making tool.

Organizers have full access to a suite of tools and resources designed to help them run sessions of the Imagination for Action framework on their own. From example scripts, to powerpoints and activities, this framework is completely open-source. Read the full case study and download the toolkit by clicking below.

Introduction

In an increasingly individualistic and complex world, how do we get people to care about social issues?

In an attempt to answer this question, this case study will follow the creation and execution of an art-making session designed to enable participants to engage with new social issues and inspire them to take tangible action in these areas. Using the Imagination for Action framework, during the session participants will learn about a relevant social issue (the climate crisis), use designerly tools and activities to imagine the future, and use their art-making skills to create this future. As a result of the session, participants will:

  1. Engage with social issues that are new to them

  2. Build empathy and creative confidence

  3. Imagine and influence their futures

  4. Create tangible change in their own lives

While the pilot session focused primarily on the issue of the climate crisis, the Imagination for Action framework and its related activities are applicable to any social issue. At its core, this framework is meant to be used as a collaborative change-making tool across multiple disciplines and subject areas.

Overview

This art-making session was designed to work within a one hour timeframe. During this time, there are three important elements that participants should engage with:

  • An introduction to the social issue being addressed (What do participants need to know about the issue, assuming they have zero background information?)

  • A vector for framing the present (What are the participants’ experiences with the issue?)

  • A vector for imagining and visualizing the future of the issue (What do participants wish, believe, dream the future to be like?)

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The introduction

The introduction or background information section is crucial to capturing the attention of participants who may not have any background information about the social issue at hand. Additionally, providing background information on the topic also ensures that participants have a fresh perspective on the issue; they are being forced to face the issue right in front of them. This section of the session ensures that everyone is on the same page, navigating the session with the same perspective, and shares a common interest with other participants.

Informing the participants can be done in a variety of ways, from a simple presentation to the audience overviewing basic facts to a more elaborate setup. For the pilot session, I have chosen to include a short presentation outlining key details about the climate crisis, both because of time restrictions and for ease of access.

Framing the present

A key phase in actively changing the way people think is providing them a way to process their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the present. By framing the present, participants are able to look at the issue from their unique perspectives and navigate it in real time. They become familiar through what has already been done and what is currently happening through the introduction section, then are allowed to process and explore through framing the present.

Again, like the introduction section, there are multiple avenues to enable participants to frame the present. In the pilot session, I created the “Dear Planet” activity. The key is that participants are able to articulate and understand their present as well as the overall issue.

Imagining the future

The goal of this section is to provide a space for participants to envision a future that is better or different than our current reality; hopefully one where the current social issue is solved or its effects lessened. This is where participants will use art-making as a vector to conceptualize and visualize their unique vision of the future. In the pilot session, I utilized a DIY postcard activity.

Activities

Dear Planet

Participants are given various postcards with facts about the social issue on the front. On the back is a MadLib-esque fill-in-the-blank letter to the planet. Participants will describe what is currently happening in the present, as well as ideate on some possible solutions happening right now. Through language and verbiage, participants also feel a sense of obligation and connection to the issue. In the pilot session, this was achieved through participants speaking to the planet as if they were old friends.

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DIY Postcards

Participants were given two blank postcards on which to create their visions of the future. Participants were encouraged to draw, write, and visually express their ideas through whatever medium they chose or had on hand. After the activity, participants were encouraged to send their postcards to their representatives. This activity is challenging for participants, as imagining the future can be quite abstract. Expect a variety in image-making skill, content, and final product.

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Visuals

It is highly recommended that visuals are incorporated into the session, especially in virtual spaces. Participants need visual reinforcement of ideas, concepts, and directions. It is also paramount to have written and verbal directions for those with processing difficulties and various learning styles. Providing participants a simple powerpoint will help guide them through the session as well as serve as a reference for the facilitator. You can download a full-resolution version of this presentation here.

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