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Why I’m writing a book about imagination

March 21, 2017

Today I want to tell you about a change to my role, and to what I will be doing for the next 12 months.  As we celebrate 10 years of Transition Network, I am fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to take a part-time sabbatical (3 days per week) in order to research and write a new book.  I’m not vanishing altogether from the world of Transition, I will still be working a day a week for Transition Network, and will be writing for the website, although less than I do at present.

The reason is that I am planning to write a book about imagination.  It struck me recently that much of what we do in Transition is about imagination, how to stimulate it, how to create places where people can come together to reimagine in order to then set about rebuilding.

But it increasingly feels to me that our collective imagination, our ability to ask “what if?” and to imagine something other than what we currently have, is a much under-used muscle at a time when we really need it at full strength.  As David Fleming put it:

“If the mature market economy is to have a sequel … , it will be the work, substantially, of imagination”.

And yet I look around, and I don’t see much imagining happening, indeed it looks to me to be being driven out of schools, universities, workplaces, families.  While there is much written about creativity, there is much less written about imagination.  I am particularly moved by this, from Ursula Le Guin:

“In the market place, the word creativity has come to mean the generation of ideas applicable to practical strategies to make larger profits.  This reduction has gone on so long that the word ‘creative’ can hardly be degraded further.  I don’t use it any more, yielding it to capitalists  and academics to abuse as they like.  But they can’t have imagination.  Imagination is not a means of making money.  It has no place in the vocabulary of profit making”.

So I want to take some time to dive deep, to take a road trip through the places in our culture (Transition being one of them) where imagination is still valued, cherished and celebrated.  I want to meet some of the people to whom we entrust our imaginations, the authors, artists and filmmakers who imagine professionally, as it were. I want to find the people who are creating the spaces in which people come together to imagine as communities, in groups.  And I want to reflect on what it might look like if we decided that we need a national crash programme of imagination rebuilding.  What would happen?  Who would do what?  How might it unfold? Because if there were ever a time in our history when we needed our imaginations fully-charged, it is now, as we face a perfect storm of challenges.

It’s a journey I’d like you to accompany me on, to tell me what you think, to share interesting things I’ve come across, to point me to things I might not have spotted before, to give me feedback as the whole thing evolves.  That’s why I’ve created this website, and thanks for following me here.  Have a look around at the first few things I’ve posted.  This will evolve and be added to pretty thick and fast.  You can sign up, should you wish to, for notifications when anything is posted.

I will be taking on less speaking engagements on behalf of Transition Network, but can still be booked in my own personal capacity as a speaker.  Get in touch if you want to discuss anything like that.  As I say, this is a year-long change.  I hope that my journey into the imagination, my imagination road trip, is something that you might accompany me on.  I think it’s going to be fascinating.

Originally posted at Rob Hopkins.