theSpace – Social-Studio as Generative Institutional Innovation
Author: John Verdun, Ottawa.
The future is packed full of wicked problems, and of course key to this, are all those elements related to ongoing human survival, in a world facing environmental and social transformation. It’s not just climate change that we must grapple with. As fundamental as climate change is – we only have to imagine that somehow we’ve solved it – and will that then mean we’ve solved the problems of living together, on a globe where change continues?
Inherent to solving the problems of climate change is the challenge of finding better ways to actualize the flourishing of humankind, in ways that inspire our continued evolution and motivate social engagement. And while the currently popular term for dealing with our relationship with our environments, is to enact ‘sustainable’ approaches – is this term adequate to our social situation – to our social relationships and institutions?
Would we proudly announce to a loved one, that our relationship was merely sustainable? Rather, at the very least, we would ‘want’ to talk of love and creative generativity, as the core tenant of our most important relationships. What this means, ultimately, is that the attainment of a successful future, requires bolder ideas and approaches than those simply focused on sustaining what was. After all, evolution never sleeps – even as it blindly enacts complex co-creative change.
To this end – I want to describe one effort I’m involved with, to implement some new form of institutional innovation.
I’m a retired parent of a young adult with Autism Spectrum intellectual disabilities. I’m not alone – there are many parents like me – and we are all concerned about what will happen to our children when we are gone.
The question emerges from a deep and pervasive worry for our children, because yesterday’s institutional answers have proven profoundly inadequate. Also salient is the anxiety arising from accelerating change and the apparent inability of our institutions to innovate in a way that could, at minimum, adapt to change. These concerns, amongst many others, contribute to a sense of pervasive uncertainty. In this context, it is challenging for all parents as answer the basic question: “How to I prepare my child for the future?”
There is no easy answer to this question, but there are some key elements that must be an integral part of our children’s future, if they are to ever find a place in the world and flourish. As a futurist, I also know that the nature of work is fundamentally transforming, (and whatever can be automated – will be).
Two principles for thinking about institutional innovation are key: The need to foster a context of community that supports individual individuation and belonging, as well as the need for each individual to find a creative, generative drive that will motivate their life-long curiosity and learning.
Community provides us with support, belonging, care, engagement, and a place to contribute value – all helping us to create an identity, which, with the right conditions, will enable us to grow and evolve as a person. The paradox of individuation, however, is that the more connected we are, the more individual we can be.
Finding and developing our creative curiosity – gives us all the internal drive to continue the pursuit of learning. In the world of accelerating change – learning is vital to all of us. In a context of accelerating change and the automation of everything that can be automated, trying to generate a sense of self in terms of a job-occupation, is a challenge inviting continual displacement and loss. Even with a focus on job-occupation, the future looms with eternal challenges that will require a constant capacity to create and to learn just to stay in the same place. However, nurturing a true passion, an interest-trajectory of creative curiosity – provides a person with a core to generative self-development that embraces learning. A creative interest-drive provides a person with a scaffold for the life-long development of a sense of identity that embraces learning and evolution – an identity more robust in the face of change than one shaped around a job or simple occupation.
In my own experience I’ve seen this. When my daughter was young she loved to watch anime – I encouraged her to write little stories of her favourite characters – fan-fiction. I really never thought she would learn to read and write. But she began to love her stories. Now she writes everyday – she considers herself a writer and writes forty page ‘chapters’ in an ongoing story. Recently she has undertaken writing a script. Now to be clear – she will not likely become a best-selling author, but her writing has continued to improve and has become engaging – inciting a curiosity about what’s going to happen next. Her narratives continue to become more complex – and she solves narrative ‘dead-ends’ in very surprising ways. Her love of writing has led her to overcome huge difficulties in learning, and has given her a core for a confidence in facing many other challenges – including the use of public transit and shopping.
The next challenge for my daughter is enabling her to find a social space for meeting, socializing, creating, contributing. A place where she can create with others and continue a learning journey. A place to nurture a sense of community that can help provide a way to ensure she is safe and healthy. Enabling community is but one aspect of this challenge; while fostering a space for nurturing the evolution of creative self-generation, is another.
- It is this challenge that I want to bring to all readers today, in order that you might consider supporting an effort to implement a very important social-institutional innovation.
I’ve joined forces with a team of local, and largely Ottawa-based community and family members, advocates and academics, to support the opening of theSpace, a truly ground-breaking community hub and social-studio gathering place for adults with Autism and Intellectual disabilities. This effort is hoping to find the necessary start-up funds through a ‘Kickstarter’ campaign. theSpace aims to support the ‘social nature’ of creative learning and increased self-efficacy – to fill a gap in generative community engagement – and to provide richer opportunities for both younger and older adults with Autism—across their life course.
theSpace will enact a type of ‘storefront’ or a safe third space—neither work nor play– where those who are too often isolated or relegated to the fringes, could, quite literally, drop in and find the ready opportunity to create, connect with others, feel a sense of belonging, membership and genuine personal agency—and learn through doing! Doing-learning where work is play and play is work.
Please consider supporting the initiative – it is both a prototype for those with cognitive disabilities but also anticipates a more general transformation of both social and creative community spaces. The Kickstarter Campaign webpage is here
And here is theSpace’s website
Bio: John Verdon suffers an undisciplined mind as education in psychology, anthropology, sociology and philosophy suggests. A free-range thinker he forages in many domains including foresight, economics, complexity and technology. His current project is a book ‘The Wealth of People” – exploring theory and philosophy for flourishing human capital in the 21st Century