Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oregon + Imagination = ?

On Tuesday October 4th, I attended an event called The Oregon Imagination Conversation!  OoooOOOooooooo....

The event was held in the auditorium at Ziba design in NW Portland and is part of a nationwide effort put forth by the Lincoln Center For the Performing Arts to help reintroduce imagination into society in order to help solve the issues we face. Over the course of this effort, each of the 50 states will have its own Imagination Conversation.

Our conversation was moderated by Frances Bronet, the Dean of the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts. She led us through a series of five questions pertaining to the state of imagination in Oregon and what issues and opportunities we saw. 

For each question, we conversed in small groups for 10 minutes then had 10 minutes to discuss with the entire room before moving on to the next. The conversations were lively and after reporting just once as an entire room, it was clear that trends, regarding where imagination was needed and who needed it the most, were beginning to take shape. 

What exactly does imagination mean in this context?

For many at this event, it meant the Arts and the need for more art classes in elementary and high schools. For others it meant the need for Oregonians to be able to shake mental models and imagine new ways of doing things, like for instance, finally admitting to ourselves that our tax structure really doesn't work, so that we can move the hell on on and imagine something better (not my words).

The second question asked was, "what issues do we see and what opportunities are before us?"

One issue staring everyone in the face that afternoon was the lack of diversity in the room, both cultural and generational. In my opinion, this may be the biggest single issue holding Oregon,  specifically Portland back from real change. (I'm consciously not touching on the rest of the state as that is a topic near and dear to me and deserves it's own post.)

What I perceive a big part of this issue to be is a lack of connectivity and solid outlets to plug into for the local minority population and the population of young people moving to Portland in droves. Every Portland-centric talk I've been been to in the past few months has referred to the need to connect with "that population living past 82nd ave" and "all these young people moving to Portland who are underemployed."

With every great issue comes great opportunity. Right?

What I see here is an opportunity to bring a city with a strong sense of place, an ability to allow people a good quality of life, and a strong natural resource and creative economy together to help imagine what Portland could be. How can we use the collective intelligence of these communities?

How can we build a system that brings imagination together with resources, connections, and the ability to execute? What would this look like?

The final question that everyone was asking at the end of the event was "how can we keep this momentum, how can we turn this in to action?"

The Oregon Imagination Conversation, like many good conversations, left me with more questions than answers and I hope to report back soon on what happens next.

For more information on the Oregon Imagination Conversation and to track what happens next: 

You can visit the facebook page and follow the conversation on twitter with #imagconv

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Interesting post, and very interesting/exciting to hear about this Imagination conversation.

I find it curious that the issue of ethnic and age diversity often comes up at these types of events in the PNW. It is certainly something worth reflecting and acting on. Instead of thinking about about how to bring diversity in, perhaps go out to where the "diversity" is. You may be surprised, inspired and excited by the level of imagination you find out there. In turn that may lead you to connect the dots in new and exciting ways...