Notes on a Cultural Strategy for Belonging


1. Grounding—20 min

a. Start with a short meditation. This creates a break with whatever you/the group were just doing and can signal a shift in how you approach this process. If you are the facilitator or doing this alone, here is a sample script to guide your meditation:

“Take a moment to clear out your hands, close your computer, put away your food. If you’re able, place both feet flat on the ground and sit up, bringing your back away from your chair. If you’re comfortable with it, close your eyes. Now bring your attention to your breathing, just observing it come and go. You might notice your shoulders rising, or your belly expanding, short in-breaths or longer out-breaths. Just observe without trying to change it at all….now bring your attention to your nose and observe your breath as it comes in and out. Pay close attention to the difference in the in-breaths and out-breaths, maybe one is warmer or colder, shorter or longer, more forceful. Take a few moments to do this silently [After giving time for people to do this you can invite people to take three breaths together]…With eyes still closed, now reflect on a value that you learned from your community, your family, through a relationship and think about how you learned that value. What is the story of how you learned that value?” b. Invite people to share their value, how they learned it, their name and pronouns.

*Facilitator Note* - depending on group size or timing, this can be done in pairs or you can solicit 3-4 values from the group.

2. Setting the project context—10 minutes a. Invite people to reflect on the project/campaign/issue you are currently working on. If they are in a group where other people are working on the same issue, they should work with a partner. On the worksheet, complete the following: i. Identify three challenges (these can be external or internal to the work) ii. Identify three goals of the project (what needs are you seeking to fulfill?) 1. *Facilitator’s Note: Use the worksheet here* b. Ask the group to circle two things that really excite them about the work from the list that they just compiled.

3. Identifying relevant cultural strategy attributes—10 minutes

a. Ask the pairs to review the 12 attributes of cultural strategy (don’t worry about reviewing the case studies yet). Start with the titles, and when the peak your interest, read the longer description of them.

Facilitator’s Note *Use the 12 attributes handout here*

b. Reflecting on the challenges, goals and exciting things about the work, identify two of the attributes that could benefit your work in some way. You may want to build on something that excites you, or you may want to find a way to address a challenge. Note these in your worksheet.

4. Analyzing case studies —20 min

a. Read through the case studies for these two attributes. 

*Facilitators Note: Use Case Studies handouts here, people can also share, so that you don’t need to print every page for everyone in the workshop unless you want people to have them as a future resource.*

b. Of the six case studies you have just read, choose two that you are excited about or seem especially relevant to your work. Don’t get caught up with the issue the case study focuses on when choosing your two case studies, think more about how the case study works.

c. With your partner analyze the case studies:

- What do you like about it?
- Does the case study build power, shift narrative, illuminate new understandings, activate people or something else?
- How does it use art or culture to shift to do the above? 1. *Facilitator’s Note: Depending on your group and timeframe, this can be a written analysis on the worksheet, drawn, spoken or you can ask people to act out their interpretation of the work

5. Impossible ideas—15 min

a. Three minutes - By yourself, write down 5 impossible art or cultural strategy projects that relate to your project, and specifically the goal or challenge that you identified earlier as particularly exciting or important. Don’t worry about funds or other constraints here and allow yourself to just write down whatever comes to mind, stream of conscious style. Chances are you won’t be impossible enough to start, and sometimes your last idea is your best!

*Facilitator’s Note: People can sometimes get intimidated here. Encourage them by noting that these are “throwaway” and “draft” ideas. The goal is not to have a perfect idea, but just to get a lot of stuff on the page at first.*

b. Share these with your partner and between the two of you circle your four favorite out of the ten total. c. Then underline two of those four that you really like. d. Now choose the one to work with for today and write that on a notecard. e. Take 3-4 examples from the larger group to share back.

6. Remix and Rework—20 min

a. Many of the case studies come out of histories of mashing together different practices, elements and tools—hip-hop, jazz, rasquachismo and on. Pulling on that, we are going to now take aspects from the case studies and integrate them in your impossible projects.

b. On post-its, identify which aspects of the case study you want to integrate in your project and how they would adjust your project.

c. On post-its, reflect on how the value you shared in the beginning is showing up in the project. If it isn’t, how can it be better integrated somehow?

d. Are there ways this can move from the realm of the impossible to the possible? How would it need to change? i. For example, if your idea was to redesign the basketball jerseys of NBA players to include “Black Lives Matter”, maybe your “realm of the possible” is targeted distribution of Black Lives Matter t-shirts to players who wear them during their has already happened! e. On a blank sheet, write/draw/diagram your new project idea. Tape this below your first idea and post-it notes.

7. Initial reflection on your idea—15 min

a. Gallery walk (5 min)–walk around the room to review the other project ideas and their development.

b. Move into groups of four based on projects that are related to each other in some way (this isn’t necessary, but helps create synergy). Ask each pair to provide feedback on the following questions:

-What stakeholder assessment and relationships with cultural producers are needed?
- Who might be impacted negatively by this project?
- What worldview is this project reinforcing, amplifying or disrupting?

8. Large group–10 min

a. Group discussion: how can we see this coming into our work now and/or in the future?

b. Share a reflection on what aspect of the workshop was most challenging for you. Which was most generative?

Workshop acknowledgments: This workshop is informed by numerous projects and collaborations. In particular, the reflection on values comes from work developed with Pacita Rudder at Power California. The “impossible ideas” prompt is based on a workshop prompt that I learned from the Center for Artistic Activism.