SDGs and cultural institutions
For ThinkPlace, the Sustainable Development Goals are a framework to think about how we achieve public value and why. While arts and culture are not explicitly declared among the Goals, they are critical to achieving many (arguably all) of them.
We don’t need a specific goal for culture, rather we need to understand the role that arts and culture play in ThinkPlace’s overall goal: accelerating change towards vibrant communities, strong economies, sustainable environments and trusted institutions.
Representation, expression, and reflection are all necessary to achieve these aims. And all are at the core of our arts and cultural sectors.
At ThinkPlace, we start with the knowledge that if you are doing good, you are working towards one of the 17 goals. We then draw out the link between the projects we choose to work on, their broader strategic context and their public value.
To empower others to better understand this link, we have developed Cards Against Neutrality, a game that encourages exploration about how arts and cultural organizations might leverage the Goals.
Through playfully exploring a serious challenge, players are able to put aside the baggage of what is considered possible or viable and discover unexpected new connections. They may even see ways that the Goals can benefit arts and cultural organizations and their missions.
We developed the cards in the only way we know how – through collaborative design and constant testing. Our first prototype was a half-formed idea. Over two months we threw around concepts then tested and developed the best with arts and cultural sector colleagues.
Often this meant iterating the game as people gave us feedback then having them try it again on the spot.
By combining cards in the deck, our game steps you through a process of building your own cultural organization via randomly selected parameters – the type of organization, a location, a community and a Sustainable Development Goal. What would the mission of this organization look like?
To help first-timers using the cards, we created a board that acts as a roadmap. This version encourages players to become their own ‘star-chitect’, designing what their cultural organization might look like inside and out to best meet the mission and community needs.
Players then put their fictional organization into action. By selecting a Provocation Card, players explore how to respond to real-world challenges. While players initially labor over their mission statement, by the time they are responding to provocations their plans have taken unexpected and hilarious turns.
From surprises and laughter emerge intriguing ideas and a new commitment to the Goals. Players are then primed to reflect on how the Goals might apply to their own organization. A pack of these cards also contains a set of Sustainable Development Goals that can be taken back to colleagues to start new conversations…
One of the biggest challenges we had while making the game was setting the parameters for Community Cards. We wrestled with the balance between specificity and flexibility. Eventually, we hit on the solution and built up a suite of Community Cards by taking inspiration from the many cultural sites we’ve visited around the world. These cards are inspired by real life museums!
This process emphasized that culture really does happen everywhere, from gas stations and elevator shafts to street corners and residential homes. From caves and river bends to tents in deserts and the tops of skyscrapers. Our team has been to museums in all of these places!
Working outwards from the Sustainable Development Goals can be a daunting task. This game steps players through the challenge by building on the inherent power of arts and cultural organizations and leaning into the benefits of taking a position for public value.
At ThinkPlace, we value the human impact of our arts and cultural sectors and their unique ability to shift cultural perceptions and values that are vital to progressing our sustainable future.
This game is our gift to our arts and culture sectors globally.
Our first print run of this game has now run out! It's currently in Beta version, and we received wonderful feedback so that we can further improve it. Thanks to the very positive response, the game will soon be going to every continent and is set for a bright future. Stay tuned for updates and to express interest in the next print run.
To find out about the next release, join our Community for Innovation and Public Impact then email Sarah Craig or Alli Burness