About Imagine Chicago

The Imagine Practice: Moving from Idea to Action

Imagine Chicago develops transformational networks among people who share a common mission and want to work together. We design, teach and facilitate creative frameworks to understand, imagine and create projects that build community. Each initiative connects the participants’ hopes and learning aspirations to the development of the communities of which they are a part- their family, their organization, or their city.


The core approach moves from the past, through the future, to the present. 


Projects begin with designing and asking open ended, constructive questions that draw out the best of the past and build on that foundation to design and create a more vital future; this includes mapping individual and collective assets, strengths and experiences that can be leveraged and connected for community benefit. Appreciative dialogue across cultural, racial, economic and generational boundaries opens up new ways of seeing. In a community change initiative, for example, one might ask, “When were you part of a great community project where people working together on small changes made a big difference? What did the group accomplish? What strengths and skills were you able to contribute? What did you learn about how change happens?” Grassroots leaders discussing what they have helped change on their block inspires others to try and make a difference too. Young parents sharing stories of good ways they are caring for their children leads others to consider effective parenting practices they can try.


The process moves from the trusted past into the future. Hearing trustworthy stories about what has already been lived, one can readily imagine even greater transformation and innovation. Visualizing that newly imagined future, and looking around from that perspective, activates many new ideas and possibilities. It is a domain of freedom, in which new arrangements are possible. 


Having imagined an inspiring future, one asks “Now what”? For imagination to lead to change, one must act in ways that are practical and visible.  Needed actions, roles, tasks and responsibilities must be determined and undertaken to build the bridge from the future to the present. Students creating exhibits, that enable other students to learn about a topic, become teachers of their peers.  When parents teach their children something they have just learned about their city, a culture of learning is created in the home. By acting in concert with others, large-scale change becomes possible.

The promise of intergenerational work