Have you ever tried explaining your work to somebody, but when you do, their eyes glaze over and they suddenly spot someone they need to say hi to?
Those of us involved in social change, especially those who have been in the field for many years, can get bogged down in the day-to-day details of work, like the precise wording of a policy document, or the insider politics around a hot-button issue. We focus on figuring out what’s realistically possible given the present circumstances, but lose touch with the “impossible” visions of a better world that originally inspired us. And we wonder why we’re always preaching to the choir.
How do we tap into these “impossible” dreams? How do we make them visible for others to see and buy into?
In order to change the world we live in, we need to be able to imagine the world we desire. In order to get others to join us, we need to be able to share our visions and dreams. Sometimes we forget that we didn’t get into this field because we read a research report or white paper. Something happened that made us feel anger, outrage, or a sense of possibility.
How do we tap into these “impossible” dreams? How do we make them visible for others to see and buy into? Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert of the Center for Artistic Activism and I will be talking about just that at our breakout session, Making the Impossible Possible – the Art of Activism, at COMMUNICATION MATTERS, the Communication Network’s 2014 Conference.
You’ll hear about new tactics and strategies that activists around the world are using to mobilize people, or make them sit up and take notice. For example, take the work of architect Alfredo Jaar. Jaar designed and built an art gallery in Skoghall, Sweden, and had it opened with great fanfare by the mayor, only to burn it down 24 hours later – all to inspire the residents of this company town to come together and organize to do something for themselves. Or the gay men in Kenya, who, tired of experiencing discrimination and poor treatment at a local health facility, turned up on a weekend to clean the clinic and thus transform the doctors’ and nurses’ view of them.
You’ll also get to do a brainstorming exercise where you will get to reconnect with the impossible, ‘Utopian’ visions that once inspired you, and then start to figure out how to make those dreams come true.
Brett Davidson is director of the Health Media Initiative, at the Open Society Foundations. Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, Davidson worked as a radio journalist and producer in South Africa, and as a media consultant assisting nongovernmental organizations to develop advocacy strategies. Follow him on Twitter @brettdav.