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Imagining Ourselves as Civic Agents

We connect the imagination to personal and social identities and the ways people think about their own capacities for social action.

This activity can be run as a workshop or completed as an individual process of reflection and creative writing. Much of the civic imagination is about looking forward and shaping a vision of  the future. An important starting place for this work is often in our own pasts.


In this activity, participants are guided to identify a memory object; something tangible and personally evocative from another time and place in their lives. It might be something that was transient or permanent, something they still have with them or that was lost. The key is that it becomes a totem of memory, opening up a connection between the world of yesterday and today. After an object has been identified and described, participants work individually or in groups to begin an analysis of these rich and evocative objects, identifying how they connect to themes such as sentimentality, nostalgia, family, community, labor, loss and so forth. This work helps people connect with parts of themselves that they do not always conjure or bring forth in the daily flows of their lives and public identities. It gives people a chance to get to know each other in new ways, and sets them up to enter a reflective, receptive and creative mode that is conducive to the work ahead. Participants then use their memory objects to fashion origin stories from their own pasts.


Sharing memory objects and their stories with each other creates a degree of intimacy and vulnerability among the workshop participants; it enables trust as people talk about stuff that is at the core of our common humanity. This intimacy can them be used as the starting point for many creative and civic endeavors.

Download the Practicing Futures Handbook and specific workshop instructions here.

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