Launch Announcement


Today, the Civic Imagination Project at the University of Southern California is excited to announce the launch of its Civic Imagination Incubator, with the first iteration of this Incubator having a regional, place-based focus, in partnership with Western Kentucky University's Potter College of Arts & Letters, and the Innovation Campus at WKU. This partnership was facilitated by the Bowling Green, Kentucky, based nonprofit AccelerateKY.

The Civic Imagination Incubator is an 8-month program that combines worldbuilding, storytelling, and the civic imagination to help creatives develop impactful story worlds and media projects that engage participatory practices. This first place-based Incubator class will be open to nominations of fellows that draw from states that follow the Central and Southern Appalachian trail (although folks themselves may not necessarily be from Appalachian portions of those states): West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

This inaugural Civic Imagination Incubator will be operated virtually (and in-person at kickoff and conclusion) by the USC Civic Imagination Project, in partnership with WKU Potter College. WKU’s Innovation Campus will act as the base of operations for the Incubator, providing space for fellows to gather and work on creative projects in the Innovation Campus’ new 30,000-square foot Collaborative SmartSpace. 

The USC Civic Imagination Project defines “civic imagination” as the capacity to imagine:

  • social change (including the ability to envision a better world)

  • the process of change which might achieve it

  • the shared interests of an imagined/imagining community

  • one’s own civic agency

  • the perspectives of others, and

  • for the most oppressed, opportunities for freedom and equality that have not yet been experienced.


The initial term of the incubator for a cohort will span 8 months, during which time 5 creatives (folks) will move through the collaborative process of ideating, planning, prototyping, devising participatory strategies, and exploring funding possibilities for their projects through monthly meetings and sessions with creative guests and advisors. The process will tap civic imagination and worldbuilding methodologies, as well as ‘by any media necessary’ approaches to creating media.

The real world is full of challenges, and the sheer weight of problems facing all of us can stifle the genius of our human creativity at exactly the time when we desperately need radical and innovative solutions. Utopias and dystopias have long been used to pose questions, provoke discussions, and inspire next steps, helpful because they break contemporary frames and encourage long-view perspectives. Tapping into examples and models from around the world where shared storyworlds are being deployed in service of social impact, the Incubator will help all participants reflect on best practices and emerging models of civic imagination and world-building for social impact.

About the Folks

The Civic Imagination Incubator seeks recommendations for folks for the initiative’s first cohort. These folks will be creatives who work through a range of media and who see their work within a broader social and cultural context. They will be collaborative in spirit and need to be excited about being part of something new. Instead of following traditional storytelling models centered on a single author producing individual creative works, civic imagination and worldbuilding focuses on harnessing the creative energies of invested groups to conjure shared visions of complete worlds–then empowering them to find and share stories within those worlds. The creatives’ visions might take multiple different forms - novels, comics, games, virtual reality, audio dramas, etc. - but will all draw on the common lore engendered by the creative community.

The Incubator expects to send invitations to five folks to join by June 2022, with a launch in September 2022 at the WKU Innovation Campus.

If you have a nomination for someone who would be a good member of this initial cohort of folks, please contact us.