In a growing world of complexity and change, we are all being challenged to imagine new solutions for the collective problems facing us, and even develop new definitions for what it means to be part of a civil society where civic discourse is encouraged and celebrated.
A global shift is making space for a new creative democracy and economy of ideas marked by open spaces for collaboration for all humans. The technological revolution has been part of these open platforms for some time, but we are now seeing these platforms being used to encourage social interaction and conversation at a new level. The primal desire for human connection and idea sharing is leading to a systemic movement of creative ideas and innovation.
The basic human capacity we all possess to imagine something that does not yet exist, formulate the spark of an idea, and experiment with that idea to refine and generate the idea with the most value, defines the creative process, according to education and creativity author, Sir Ken Robinson. Taking those top, vetted ideas of greatest value into implementation leads to both innovation and entrepreneurship. Imagination and creativity are capacities all humans are born with, and therefore all have the potential for immense idea creation and innovation, if properly encouraged and nurtured under the right environmental conditions.
In thriving cities and towns across the globe, images of the lone creative genius or entrepreneur in an incubator focused solely on product development or quick financial turnaround, are giving way to a more collaborative entrepreneurship movement with focus on open inquiry and process, and not just the end game, or the final product. As these ideators and their collaborative environments are recognized and supported, additional open spaces grow, and entire communities, cities and regions are transformed by coming together to share their imaginings, concepts, and ideas for change.
In the central US state of Oklahoma, the Creative Communities pilot program was launched one year ago in eight small towns through a competitive application process, to help grow supportive, collaborative environments to facilitate unleashing and growing the creative capacities of the citizens of each town. With joint leadership of Duane Wilson, Director of Continuous Improvement at the University of Notre Dame, trained facilitators utilize a research-based framework for helping groups of individuals creatively come up with new solutions. A diverse group of local community leaders come together monthly in repurposed community spaces, to study and discuss the strengths and challenges of their economic and social issues.
Over time, the groups of citizens utilize a six-step methodology to:
- Explore the Vision – identify the goal, wish or challenge;
- Gather Data – Identify data to enable a clear understanding of the challenge
- Formulate Challenges – Identify the real challenges that invite solutions
- Explore Ideas – Generate ideas that answer the challenging questions
- Formulate Solutions – Move from ideas to solutions, evaluation, strengthening, and selecting solutions
- Formulate a Plan – Explore acceptance and identify resources and action steps.
The process has yielded some of the most extraordinary ideas from ordinary citizens who have been given permission and encouraged to create a new reality for their towns from their own collective ideas. New relationships have been forged between young and old, knowledge has been shared and group intelligence is growing, the entrepreneurial spirit has been ignited, and hope has been restored.
The transformation of eight small Oklahoma towns is witness to the power of the human imagination and framework for societal change that is possible anywhere.