The Imagination Sundial
Version 1.0 (June 2020)
Can you imagine a time when we are all thriving in the safe and just space of the Doughnut? How about your neighbours, your colleagues, your local politicians...?
The Imagination Sundial is a design tool for those who wish to intentionally cultivate the collective imaginative capacity of people, organisations or nations towards the safe and just space of the Doughnut.
The Sundial four main areas: space, place, practices and pacts, that each contain 6 elements, each with a title and short description. This page contains a brief overview of the four main areas, a pdf of the Sundial that you can download and some examples of the areas in practice, to which I invite you to share your examples in the comments at the bottom of this page.
- Read here the blog Rob Hopkins and I wrote introducing the Imagination Sundial in June 2020.
- Read here about how CoLab Dudley is using the Imagination Sundial in their work to reimagine the high street of Dudley, UK.
“It is precisely here, in our agency of imagination, where new possibilities arise, where we can see afresh, think differently, and create another relationship to each other and the world around us... waking us up and reconnecting to our senses” Eva Bakkeslett, Playing for Time (2015)
The mental and emotional space that expands our capacity to imagine
Space is foundational to imagination. Busy and stressful lives riddled with fear and anxiety inhibit our potential for imagining, so space is about how we can slow down, open up and connect with others and the natural world to rekindle this capacity. It’s also about how we feel welcome and safe to participate when we gather together and give ourselves permission when we’re scared of getting things ‘wrong’. Space fluctuates day by day. We can have good days and bad days. Moments where we’re more imaginative and moments where we struggle. Space is like the soil of imagination. The more we cultivate the soil, the better the imagination grows.
Gathering places that provide platforms for collective imagining
What mental and emotional space is for the mind and soul of an individual, so place is for the mind and soul of a community. These are places to dwell and enjoy without having to buy or pay anything. Places designed for connection, creation, collaboration and chance encounter. Places that are welcoming and inviting to a rich diversity of people. And perhaps most importantly, the best places are those that you leave with your sense of what the future could be having changed, even by a small amount. But places like these where you don’t have to buy or pay anything have reduced in number as former public commons have been enclosed by private ownership. If we’re to rebuild the collective imagination, we need to start reclaiming and rebuilding the commons at every scale of community, from the street to central civic places and the wild natural places around us.
Practices that connect us and change our frame of possibility
Whilst space and place set the foundations for imagination, practices is where the magic really happens. Practices are the things we can do together that take us out of our rational thinking minds into something altogether different, breaking down our internal constraints and societal norms to open up a greater sense of what is possible. A good practice creates bridges between the real and imagined, the known and unknown, inviting us into the liminal space where things begin to shift. This can happen through play, through making and through stories. It can happen through the use of limits and through exploratory language like ‘yes, and’ and ‘what if?’. Great practices also cultivate mental and emotional space and some even create places in the process, thereby ticking all the boxes for imagination.
Pacts of collaboration that catalyse imagination into action
One of the best catalysts for the imagination is action. Action instills belief, and belief inspires further action, and a great way to bring about action is with pacts. A pact is an agreement that recognises multiple actors in a place have to come together to make things work. They are the result of collaborative and cooperative relationships cultivated between public authorities and citizens, along with local business, knowledge institutions (like universities) and civil society organisations. A part of this is the role of the catalyst, the individual or organisation that performs the skillful act of inviting, convening and offering the initial vision. Everyone plays a part in the pact. And rather than compete, the strengths of each actor is combined with the others, meaning pacts have a truly transformative potential for translating the collective imagination of all actors into action.
Examples in practice
Please share your examples in the comments below.
- Reimagining the Civic Commons, US
- Civic Square, Birmingham, UK
- Public Plaza Project, Bogota, Colombia
- The Rebuild Foundation, Chicago, US
- Margaret Mahy Family Playground, Christchurch, NZ
- The Glade, Devon, UK
- École Domaine du Possible, Arles, France
- The design of the Imagination Sundial originated as part of my Masters dissertation at Schumacher College.
- Huge thanks Rob Hopkins and Ruth Ben-Tovim for being the inspiration behind, and contributors to this research.
- Visit Rob Hopkins' website here to learn more about his book From What is to What if? Unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want, as well as his ongoing podcast From What If to What Next? each episode, exploring a new 'What if?' question with guests.
- The Imagination Sundial was created using the open source vector graphics software Inkscape.