This is part of “The Big Bang of Collective Action”, a nonlinear list essay by me, Jason Wyman, Impact Producer for The Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. It captures in its simple complexity the breadth of The Alliance’s Youth Media Collective Action Initiative.
Each “bullet” in the list contains both a visual code and a story. Some stories are metaphor. Some are poetry. Others are summaries. And even one is a worksheet. It is my humble attempt to synthesize the collective and manifest its wisdom in the form that works best for that collective wisdom.
“The Big Bang of Collective Action” is meant to be read in whatever manner moves you. At the end of this post is a visual table of contents. Click whichever CODE catches your eye or makes you want to click.
And please know, “ The Big Bang of Collective Action” is also a tool. It is meant to be used. So please interact with it by clicking links, leaving a comment, sharing it with a friend, sketching an idea, recording a video response, and/ or writing your own post.
For the Youth Media Collective Action Initiative, we started with the question, “What are our desired futures?” This future-focused question helped bring people of all backgrounds, geographies, identities, practices, and ages together because by looking forward, the conversation did not get trapped in explaining histories. Instead, it moved people to the prophetic and prescient, and it is in this larger space that unknown desires can be named free from the bounds of both lived and imagined roots / ties.
This question was asked during Dinner Parties in localities across the United States. From Whitesburg, Virginia, to Portland, Oregon, to Austin, Texas, people of all ages gathered around a shared meal and with creativity and conversation explored the central question. Each Dinner Party was unique and molded to the individual culture of the region and hosts.
The commonality of each dinner, though, was that it was focused on bringing people of all ages together over a shared meal and central question.
Each host was given a toolkit to ground the dinner. Then, hosts registered their dinner and received individualized support from me in how to leverage the assets of their communities to meet both the needs of the community itself AND the needs of The Alliance’s Youth Media Collective Action Initiative. In this manner, the Dinner Parties became local relationship building mechanisms that created a more level conversational stage for people of varying age.
And that shift for participating organizations was significant. During post-event phone calls, hosts reported that dinner went better than expected and brought people together to have deep, meaningful conversations. For about half the participating hosts, dinner opened up possibilities for continuing to both convene across age and using food as a convener and conversation starter. Many already had practices that included gathering community and sharing a meal, but the nuances of examining how a single Dinner Party could benefit both personal and collective aims through more care and intention in planning unlocked myriads of possibilities.
Through this unlocking, hosts found their own connections between dinner and other local aims. As an example, in New Orleans, NOVAC partnered with a local youth culinary-arts organization to co-host the dinner. This partnership had been an idea before the introduction to The Alliance’s Youth Media Collective Action Initiative. Thanks to The Alliance inspiring a single dinner, the partnership was given an opportunity to test itself out. The dinner was a success, and NOVAC and the youth culinary arts program are continuing conversations.
And in Salt Lake City, UT, Spy Hop partnered with the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to host a dinner party as part of UMFA’s Art. Community. Museum. Education. (ACME) Initiative. The dinner was held at the Glendale Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library. This innovative partnership was the first time Spy Hop and UMFA collaborated. And by bringing the dinner to a branch of the public library both organizations reached new audiences.
“What are our desired futures,” is more than just a question asked at dinner. It is an opportunity to model the future we want in the here and now, a future that invites inquiry, curiosity, active listening, meaningful relationship-building, storytelling, and creativity. And this future is present at tables across this country.