Collective Reimagining

Just because you’ve never seen it before — or maybe no one has seen it before — doesn’t make something impossible.

My perfect storm of inspiration this week came from reading Rob Hopkins’ From What Is to What If on the same day that Kamala Harris became Vice-President Elect of the United States. In her victory speech, she called for people to “…dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

Achieving the American Dream and/or realizing the dream of having a woman of colour in the White House may be ambitions people have imagined for generations. But for many of us in these times, articulating the dream itself may be the hardest part. We may be suffering as much from a deficit of imagination as a lack of resources or opportunities to achieve our goals.

Writing before the pandemic, Hopkins argues that we live in a time bereft of positive stories. It’s easier for us to imagine dystopian scenarios than their opposite. He calls for a collective reimagining of what the future could be and points to “What if…?” questions and compelling stories as pathways to get us there. He writes,

“Maybe it’s time to recognize that at the heart of our work is the need for those around us to be able to imagine a better world, to tell stories about it, to long for its realization. If we can imagine it, desire it, dream about it, it is so much more likely that we will put our energy and determination into making it reality.” (p. 8)

It’s easy to gloss over grand statements like this and nod in agreement, but what if we actually had to define our “better world” in detail?

That’s what many of the community leaders I work with are doing by their actions every day, but rarely do they stop to articulate and co-create a rich picture of the future they’re working towards. If we can see it in our mind’s eye, we are far more likely to be able to create it.

“What do you want?”

How easily can you answer that not-so-simple question? It’s my hope that we would all get better at having a detailed answer at the ready.

And if you need a bit of inspiration, what could you do that would make an entire city cheer?

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