Imagination Infrastructures at Anticipation Conference
“A unique, radically interdisciplinary conference for exploring how ideas of the future inform action in the present.”
I was doing a talk in the policy track sharing work on seeding and growing Imagination Infrastructures in a UK context. My slides are here — and cover the following —
- Some of the context of why and where the work started. Many of these slides will be familiar to people.
- Some of my thoughts about where there are gaps in other connected practices and the opportunities for collective imagination practices to offer something complimentary and additional.
- The seeding of the Imagination Infrastructures ideas through 2020’s Emerging Futures Fund and sharing some of the different initiatives and practices that were developed from that fund. For this presentation I grouped them into examples at a municipal and City level, a neighbourhood level, a rural town, a distributed fund, a UK-wide tour, and a focus on the Black Imagination— showing the different kinds of sites and lens’ of experimentation.
- I also shared details of the field-building work we’ve been undertaking and that is upcoming. And by field-building we mean the practices of engagement, coordination, bringing in new opportunities and partnerships, facilitating collective sense-making, assembling and sharing knowledge, shaping narratives, advancing policy, directing funding to the field, unlocking its potential and building capacity across the ecosystem. This has included forming a partnership with the RSA’s Student Design awards, setting up a Community of Practice, creating funding programmes, curating events, building academic partnerships etc.
It’s the final section of the talk that I wanted to go into in a bit more detail though because these are thoughts that I’ve not shared so publicly. They are definitely still emerging and are in response to people’s question – “What do I mean by Imagination Infrastructure?”
The slide below was me trying to share more about the common ‘materials’ I see collective imagination practitioners drawing on. And these are being drawn on to inspire, ignite, re-wild and expand people’s imaginations, as well as to help people remember, connect, unlearn, embody and perceive in new ways.
Often collective imagination practitioners are using many of these materials within a ‘container’ of practice.
The second slide was me setting out the kinds of infrastructures that make up Imagination Infrastructures.
I think Imagination Infrastructures need —
Infrastructure for sense-making because what gets imagined needs collectively interpreting and translating.
Infrastructure for content creation because what gets imagined and then interpreted and translated needs documenting, visualising, socialising. Practices also need documenting and sharing into a commons.
Infrastructure for developing practices for collective imagination, like the Community of Practice we’ve created.
Infrastructure for sites of practice. We have town halls and community centres and forests and public parks — how can our social infrastructures and our natural world infrastructures be used for collective imagination activities. The Centre for Collective Imagination is one of the sites we are trying this at a neighbourhood level.
Relational infrastructure because we need people and communities taking part and becoming the practitioners themselves, who grow their capacity to imagine together over time and draw on that to shape their futures.
Archive infrastructure because gathering the content of people’s collective imagination over time, and archiving it well, will mean it can be drawn on over time, again and again. For me this is one of the ways that collective wisdom and perpetual participation in a community could be developed and how to avoid multiple one-off engagements, deliberations or worse still, ‘consultations.’ It was interesting to come across this blog by DemSoc last month who talk about something similar for Democratic Infrastructure — though I think we need the imaginative work to be happening in the soil, further upstream from deliberative work.
Resource infrastructure that brings in all the resources needed for all of the above to happen.
For me this is one of the ways that collective wisdom and perpetual participation in a community could be developed and how to avoid multiple one-off engagements, deliberations or worse still, ‘consultations.’
All of the above needs to happen over time — that is the point of infrastructuring. It’s a long-term investment — it creates capacity, connects activity and people up as the work grows — and strengthens it over time. It’s a commitment for the long-haul.
A lot of this work also depends on the feedback loops into decision-makers and resource-holders.
This is work that I’m primarily developing with JRF at the moment, though it builds on this too. I’d love to hear from people about what resonates, what’s missing and other ways we might think about this idea of Imagination Infrastructure.
Always grateful to Indy Johar, as it was in a conversation with him in early 2020 that the phrase ‘imagination infrastructures’ came up.