The Community Connections Conference
Submitted by Craig Harris
February 19, 2020
In the January ACW Newsletter I reported on the development of the Art to Change the World Ambassador Program. I attended Minneapolis’ We Count 2020 – Community Connections Conference on February 1, 2020 to explore how the ACW Ambassador Program might realize its potential. By design the program addresses two significant questions:
- How can Art to Change the World support its members to achieve their goals?
- How can Art to Change the World extend its reach to amplify its global impact?
The Community Connections Conference is an annual free event that fosters connections between the residents of Minneapolis, community groups, neighborhoods and local government. In 2019, 885 people participated. The conference features important information, networking opportunities, panels, speakers, performances, free food and over 100 exhibitors spaces. This year’s event was well attended, and included a diverse, multicultural assembly of people and participating organizations. There was a strong focus on the 2020 census, especially identifying marginalized communities to communicate the importance of everyone’s participation to be counted.
While I wasn’t attending the event as a presenter, I was able to share information about Art to Change the World, and to highlight some of our goals and activities in casual exchanges with participants. This was a good opportunity to raise the profile of the organization, and to inform people about the goals of social practice art. I also gained some insights into how the ACW Ambassador Program might best respond to the questions above, like what kinds of situations provide effective opportunities to advance both member and ACW goals, and what kind of advance work should be done to prepare a member Ambassador to best serve their dual roles.
I attended a workshop entitled “Use Storytelling to Educate, Empower & Build Empathy Across Difference,” conducted by Green Card Voices Program Manager Julie Vang. Green Card Voices is a Minneapolis-based social enterprise that records and shares first person narratives of America’s immigrants to facilitate a better understanding between immigrants and their communities. Their work has extended to several states in the USA.
The goal of the breakout session was to engage participants in an activity that helps to confront individual bias and build empathy so all people can contribute and thrive. Everyone in the room participated in Story Stitch, a card game where people share their stories, build upon stories with shared experiences, and engage with each other using storytelling as the “stitching” device.
The game provided a diverse group of people, none of whom knew each other, with a process to safely share stories and insights. I can see how this kind of activity could be used in a variety of circumstances to quickly break down traditional barriers to communication, and to learn about the experiences and concerns of people with whom I might not ordinarily meet.
Explore these links to find out more information about this organization and the Story Stitch project:
We are working on the ACW Ambassador Program process and application, and we look forward to officially launching the program.