The connection between the government and it’s residents has to change, and it is. From political performance art of Ai WeiWei, or the Women’s March, to voting in a midterm election, people are realizing the power of their individual and collective voices. In this toxic political climate, we are understanding the immense importance of civic engagement beyond just voting once every four years. Democracy flourishes when citizens are active and work together in harmony with institutions that share the same ideals. The definition of civic engagement from The State of Service-Related Research consists of behaviors, attitudes, and actions that reflect concerned and active membership in a community. For example, this could encompass activities, such as voting, serving on school boards, as well as less traditional forms of political participation, such as community organizing and social activism. Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a population to make meaningful contributions to decision-making, and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities. Participation from citizens are vital as it’s a part of the checks and balances system that keeps the elite equal and accountable. As a step in the right directionon January 26th, The Design Studio For Social Intervention (DS4SI) hosted their first ever New Strategies Lab. I felt so fortunate that I was able to attend this breakthrough event. DS4SI is “An artistic research and development outfit for the improvement of civil society and everyday life. The Design Studio for Social Intervention is dedicated to changing how social justice is imagined, developed and deployed here in the United States. Situated at the intersections of design thinking and practice, social justice and activism, public art and social practice and civic / popular engagement, we design and test social interventions with and on behalf of marginalized populations, controversies and ways of life.” The New Strategies For New Atmospheres event was hosted in Upham’s Corner, Boston. This event was free and open to the public for the whole week. The goal of the workshop series was to test interventions to build a world we hope to see. They wanted to create a space for addressing the new shocking reality that is repression, hatred and state violence. The weekly activities included printmaking, scenic politics, life sized light projection, social healing and dance for social justice. One of my favorite activities we did was we paired off into groups and received a design thinking worksheet that had us collectively generate social intervention ideas. This allowed us to quickly produce random ideas without consequence. We first listed a bunch of places that were familiar to us, some in Rhode Island, Washington D.C. or Boston. Artists and community organizers came from far and wide for this event. In the next column, we picked an atmosphere word out of a hat and then had to come up with an intervention based on those two word prompts. It was great to combine two unlikely phrases! We came up with social interventions such as a kiss cam in the capital building, a snuggy checkout in the mall, or even a train car that is beach themed. The point though wasn’t necessarily in this case about its product but rather rapid idea generation.
“ds4si.” ds4si, www.ds4si.org/#work-section.
“The Definition of Civic Engagement.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 July 2003, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/ref/college/collegespecial2/coll_aascu_defi.html?pagewanted=all.
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