PDFs of these reports may be requested by completing the online publication request form.

Imagine IMPACT: An emerging strategy to strengthen the arts, culture, and conflict transformation ecosystem

Developed by Armine Avetisyan, Cynthia Cohen, Emily Forsyth Queen and Toni Shapiro-Phim

April 2019

Cover of IMPACT reportGreetings!

Welcome to the Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT), a worldwide, values-driven collaboration to design and activate strategies to strengthen the arts, culture and conflict transformation ecosystem (acct). This ecosystem includes individuals and organizations working on the international stage and in local neighborhoods - sometimes at great risk - creating festivals and crafting policies, documenting practices and developing theories, enlivening communities and building bridges across differences. In this ecosystem, we imagine and embody a more just, more vibrant, less violent world.

The grand challenges confronting humanity – climate change, growing inequalities, wars and legacies of past wars, displacement, the rise of authoritarian regimes, political and social polarization, and more - call for urgent creative attention beyond the linear, rational approaches that have proved insufficient and often counter-productive. The acct ecosystem addresses these challenges in distinct, constructive, transformative ways. With investment and support, this ecosystem could be even more effective.

As IMPACT's writing team, we invite you to explore this report, which is grounded in real world examples and:

  • makes the case for the power of arts and culture to transform conflict
  • summarizes learning from exchanges — with hundreds of artists, peacebuilders, scholars, funders,policymakers, and others — about the strengths of the acct ecosystem and the challenges it faces
  • advocates for a platform to support the acct ecosystem
  • proposes an emerging platform: a web of teams crafting virtual and in person spaces where knowledge can be shared, ethical dilemmas can receive sustained attention, advocacy strategies can be developed and advanced, risks of harm can be minimized, and relationships of reciprocity can be formed

Based on the sense of urgency and commitment of diverse and remarkable leaders directly involved with IMPACT, we are experimenting with a platform designed for distributed leadership and coherence, flexibility and stability, accountability and credibility.

However you are connected to the ecosystem, whether as an artist, cultural worker, scholar, conflict transformation practitioner, educator, diplomat, activist, policymaker, funder, or friend, we hope that this report engages your imagination and inspires action. IMPACT is still very much in process, attuned to emerging possibilities. We are eager for your suggestions, participation, and support.

Armine, Cindy, Emily, and Toni
The Imagine IMPACT Writing Team

The report overview is available in different languages via the online publications form:

  • Imagine IMPACT: ھي استراتیجیة ناشئة لتعزیز النظام البیئي للفنون والثقافة وتحویل الصراع (Overview in Arabic) 
  • Imagine IMPACT: Une stratégie émergente pour renforcer l'écosystème de transformation des arts, de la culture et des conflits (Overview in French)
  • Воображая IMPACT: Зарождающаяся стратегия по укреплению экосистемы искусства, культуры и трансформации конфликтов (Overview in Russian)
  • Imagine IMPACT: Una estrategia emergente para fortalecer el ecosistema de las artes, la cultura y la transformación de conflictos (Overview in Spanish)
Planning for Youth Leadership in the Emerging IMPACT Platform

Developed by Emily Forsyth Queen

February 2019

Students in the Design LabTop: Youth Design Lab participants, Bottom: Aviva Davis, Design Lab participant.
Credit: IMPACT, Ethics Center

Recognizing the importance of the voice and leadership of young people, one IMPACT working group facilitated a collaborative space for youth to design strategies to support young people in the arts, culture, and conflict transformation (ACCT) ecosystem.

Drawing on human-centered design techniques, a youth-focused design lab in November and December 2018 engaged young people around the world in assessing the particular strengths and needs of young people in the ACCT ecosystem. Then, through a "Creativity, Arts, and Social Transformation" (CAST) course at Brandeis University, students developed strategies IMPACT could adopt in order to leverage these strengths and address the needs articulated by young people:

"Virtual Platform" — A platform for ACCT that incorporates many different social media elements, including: spotlights of human experiences in ACCT, networking, digital marketplace, mapping and highlighting ACCT efforts, telethons, ability to categorize and use many languages.

"Inclusive Learning Spaces" — University-based yearly conferences that rotate among regions and aim to reduce divisions between people in the ACCT ecosystem through reciprocity, homestays, and access to university resources.

"Transformative Consciousness" — A weeklong, holistic retreat/festival that rotates among regions, is live-streamed, and plans for follow-up small-scale local replications.

The Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation Field Summarizing IMPACT research through an emerging story

Developed by Armine Avetisyan, Cynthia Cohen, Emily Forsyth Queen, LaShawn Simmons, Polly Walker, and Toni Shapiro-Phim

August 2018The Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation Field report cover

Since September 2017, IMPACT has been composing a picture of the field: its assets and needs, its internal differences and points of consensus, the opportunities that are emerging and the limitations on its efficacy. This process has surfaced some preliminary findings about the field, presented here as one starting point for conversation.

Sources for this emerging picture include:

  • Results of a 2011 survey and notes from IMPACT meetings
  • Interviews and online research with 160 entities from every continent
  • Three in-person and virtual learning exchanges involving over 150 people from across our ecosystem
  • Conversations with thought leaders from inside and outside the ACCT field

As we had hoped, the IMPACT planning process itself began to strengthen ACCT by raising awareness of the field, actively engaging more people with it, and surfacing potential leaders for future structures and processes.