2019 Othering & Belonging Conference Report

Integrative Features: New Ancillary Programming

Integrative Features: New Ancillary Programming 

The 2019 Othering & Belonging Conference created space for three new offerings that aligned with the conference goals: an interactive installation and station developed by and featuring the work of the inaugural Haas Institute Artist in Residence; the Coffeehouse Conversations sessions; and a new set of Haas Institute curricula.

Belonging in the SF Bay: Artist in Residence Christine Wong Yap

The deep integration of arts and culture is an essential part of the work of the Haas Institute and to further that work the Haas Institute created its first Artist in Residence position, which was awarded to artist Christine Wong Yap. Her culminating project, "Belonging in the Bay," was an exhibition and interactive installation at the conference. The exhibit was based on Yap’s The Belonging Project, which shared pivotal places, communities, and experiences that shape Bay Area residents’ connectedness to a neighborhood. As part of the project, Yap developed a set of workshops for participants to share their stories of belonging and those places were commemorated with handmade certificates. At Yap’s installation at the conference, attendees could view photos of Bay Area "places of belonging" and purchase her new book with maps and contributors’ stories. Attendees were also invited to share their own place of belonging in a collective mapping installation created especially for the conference.

Coffeehouse Conversations 

Recognizing that one of the essential components of bridging is through dialogue and opening oneself up to alternative perspectives, at O&B 2019 we consciously made space for these type of interactions with our first Othering & Belonging Coffeehouse. The Coffeehouse (a version of which we first participated in at the Six Degrees conference in Toronto)—was a highly-interactive, carefully planned and facilitated space of robust and critical dialogue. Its design, led by culturemaker Abdul-Rehman Malik of Yale University, aimed to engage conference participants in a set of questions and thematics that connected with the overall agenda of Othering & Belonging. Participants had the opportunity to engage in deep discussions on provocative and even uncomfortable topics related to the conference frameworks and topical matters. The Coffeehouse served as a temperature check and interactive feedback loop for the conference at large, helping ground the conference in a sense of community and illuminate places of alignment as well as divergence among perspectives. 

The session had participants engage in roundtable discussions around topics such as ideological purity; emergence of the interfamily—racially, ethnically, culturally, religiously mixed families; cultural production its ability to shift politics and change societies; and more.

The Coffeehouse received rave reviews from participants. "The Coffeehouse conversations were essential to my enjoyment of this conference," one attendee said. "I rarely get to hold conversations about race, poverty, and equity with people who actually do that work. The conversations were in depth and engaging; I walked away with thoughts and questions unanswered and I am okay with that."

Coffeehouse Conversations session from the first day; Christine Wong Yap’s Belonging in the Bay project installation in the main lobby space of the conference

Curriculum

Another key goal of the conference was to equip participants with models, tools, and strategies for operationalizing belonging, and the Othering & Belonging curriculum was a key step towards that end. The curriculum offerings (see Resources on p. 7) are a series of robust, integrated engagements tools that serve as a blueprint of creative exploration into core concepts such as Bridging and Breaking, The Circle of Human Concern, and Targeted Universalism.

Over 300 people attended the Coffeehouse Conversations at this year’s conference, a new feature of the 2019 event. A number of curated provocations informed this highly-interactive session and a set of "Big Ideas" were generated by participants.