Winter 2012 Providence

Video from the presentations from the symposium are available here.

Dear participants,

We are glad to welcome you to the upcoming Urban Cultural Heritage & Creative Practice symposium that we will be hosting at the John Nicholas Brown Center (JNBC) at Brown University on Friday  27 January 2012 (357 Benefit Street – map here). It will be an exciting day of talks, discussion, food and art, and while we have been busily getting things set up on our end, the most important (and key part) is yet to arrive – you!
We have a very special role for all of you to play in the second half of our day (see the note on preparation at the end of the mail), so please read to the end of the email for full details.

The schedule for the day is fairly straightforward:

BREAKFAST 9-930 – at the JNBC

930-945 – Introduction
945-1120 – Panel presentations from each of our distinguished international guests with questions
1120-1140 – artist talk by Betsey Biggs regarding discussing her new commission – “The Providence Postcard Project”
1140-1200 – Discussion

LUNCH – 1200-100 – at the JNBC

100-330 – Open Space Meeting (more information below)
330-400 – Final discussion
530-730 – Opening reception for “The Providence Postcard Project” at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts (154 Angell Street – map here)

In the spirit of free and open discourse and because the concepts, ideologies and issues relating to urban studies, cultural heritage and creative practice require diverse skill sets and collaborative thinking and working, we will be participating in an Open Space meeting for the second half of our day.

Open Space is a meeting format that is based on the principle of self-organization. This means that, you, as participants, set the meeting agenda and determine the outcomes. This occurs through an initial facilitated discussion that will set the agenda of issues and the schedule/location of discussion sessions. Participants will then be free to attend and take part in whichever sessions they feel they can contribute to or learn from.

The reason for choosing the Open Space format is that it is designed to address:
  • a real issue of concern, something worth talking about
  • a high level of complexity, such that no single person or small group fully understands or can solve the issue
  • a high level of diversity, in terms of the skills and people required for a successful resolution
  • real or potential conflict, which implies that people genuinely care about the issue
  • a high level urgency, meaning the time for decisions and action was “yesterday”
We propose that suggesting a practical relationship between cultural heritage and creative practice within urban scenarios meets these conditions. Also, we acknowledge that each of you has taken a day from your busy lives to come together with us to think and discuss these issues and ideas. We know many of you have important experiences and insights, and we hope that you will be prompted to share these with the group to help us all come to a better understanding, together, of this new and expanding area of creativity in cultural practice.

To start us off, the theme we propose for our Open Space meeting is:
  • What is unique, challenging, urgent and problematic in undertaking creative practice as a part of cultural heritage work in urban scenarios?
The format of the meeting will be:
  • A brief introduction of the theme and an explanation of the “self-organizing” process
  • A group posting session where participants create the agenda
  • Individuals write and post the issues they would like to address in breakout sessions (they become convenors)
  • Breakout sessions occur as dictated by the self-organized agenda (notes are taken by convenors)
  • Final outcomes and discussions (convenors and participants write reports on their sessions and share with the group)
Self-organizing principle
The self-organizing principle of Open Space, while seemingly unstructured and unfocused, actually ensures that:
  • The issues that are most important to people will get discussed
  • The issues raised will be addressed by the participants best capable of getting something done about them.
  • All of the most important ideas, recommendations, discussions, and next steps will be documented in a report.
  • When sufficient time is allowed, the report contents will be prioritized by the group.
  • Participants will feel engaged and energized by the process.
The only rules
There are very few rules that govern the meeting. They can be best summed up as follows:
  1. Whoever comes is the right people …reminds participants that they don’t need the CEO and 100 people to get something done, you need people who care. And, absent the direction or control exerted in a traditional meeting, that’s who shows up in the various breakout sessions of an open-space meeting.
  2. Whenever it starts is the right time …reminds participants that “spirit and creativity do not run on the clock.”
  3. Wherever it happens is the right place. …reminds participants that space is opening everywhere all the time.
  4. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have …reminds participants that once something has happened, it’s done—and no amount of fretting, complaining or otherwise rehashing can change that. Move on.
  5. When it’s over, it’s over …reminds participants that we never know how long it will take to resolve an issue, once raised, but that whenever the issue or work or conversation is finished, move on to the next thing. Don’t keep rehashing just because there’s 30 minutes left in the session. Do the work, not the time.
What would help greatly in the next few days before the meeting is if each of you would think over and perhaps sketch out a few issues that you feel these themes address. Those who are most motivated and willing, it would be wonderful if you would be prepared to act as conveners and propose your issue as a session for the afternoon. If anyone has questions regarding this, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Thank you once again for your participation. We look forward to welcoming you to the JNBC and to learning from your diverse perspectives, skills, insights and experiences this Friday.

Best wishes,

Ian & Jess (and the rest of the UCHCP team)