Open call: Creative collaboration and collective imagination research - RSA

Open call: Creative collaboration and collective imagination research


  • Community and place-based action
  • Design

On Friday 4 March, as part of our UNBOXED: Collective Futures project, we launched an ‘open call’ inviting people from around the world to submit examples of what they are doing to help shape better futures for people and planet.

Firstly, here is a reminder of what the project is all about.

What we’re doing

The RSA is working with UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK on an exciting new project exploring our collective futures . As part of this work, we’ll be examining the power of collaboration across different perspectives and backgrounds on a global scale; from those with lived experiences through to those with deepened subject specialisms and beyond. We’re keen to glimpse at what might be possible when we work creatively and collectively in search of better futures for people and planet.

Respond to the open call

Learn more about the open call, what is involved and how you can make a submission

Why we think it’s important

We won’t reach the kind of futures we need to live well by working in the same ways we always have. The usual extractive approaches that take from places, people and their practices are unsustainable. Historic and dominant systems will only continue to pull us apart and without seeking to actively address them, we continue to build on the structural inequalities that exist.

From the way in which national policies are designed, through to different ways of working in the communities we live, we need to create changes in the present to help shape better futures for ourselves, the wider ecology in which we live and for generations to come.

To do this, we need new ways of addressing deep power imbalances and systems of oppression. We know that this will require massive shifts across all layers of systems and within our own organisations. Rather than prescribe a single approach to these emerging futures, we’re keen to engage and find out about work happening globally that challenges the status quo and is:


All too often decisions are made for people rather than with them. We are interested in learning the ways groups come together across divides in conversation and through action to make positive decisions with a view to the long term.

This is about more than consultation. We want to understand how meaningful participation among diverse groups can work to redress power dynamics in decision-making. We're interested in centring groups who have traditionally experienced exclusion and those who have been making active attempts to change this.

Futures focused:

In a context of deep uncertainty, we need different approaches to decision-making and new behaviours that are appropriate to the complexity of the world we live in. When combined these can offer us radically different alternatives for the future. A one-size-fits-all approach is not sufficient, and when we can't draw from a set of best practices, the only thing to do is to experiment and get creative by blending old approaches and shaping new ones to see what might happen.

This is where our creativity, storytelling and the use of different art forms might help shift us out of our comfort zones. This could help us create the spaces needed to think outside the box, and into places where alternatives are possible. We want to explore where imagining the impossible might unlock new knowledge that could be useful to us all.

For people and planet:

No one person, organisation or idea will move us towards the futures that meet all our societal or ecological needs. Instead, we should work with and learn from each other to harness our collective understanding and collaborate on solutions that best service complex incentives and needs. We are interested in examples of collaboration that go beyond a single organisation, sector or place and instead think about how collaboration can work in more expansive ways to create better futures for people and planet.

Why we want to hear from you

Across the globe there is work addressing these challenges, using creative and imaginative approaches that place marginalised groups at the heart of shaping better futures for people and planet.

You might be working in this way, wanting to work in this way or know of somewhere or someone who already is. We’re interested in hearing more about this work from across the globe to understand better why this work is being done, how it is being designed and delivered and what change it brings.

By looking to global examples, we aim to highlight the rich diversity that exists in the ways we can collectively work to challenge the status quo in service of our longer-term futures and inspire others to think and act differently. We also hope to create new spaces where we can learn from each other and champion practices that could help shape better futures for a greater number of people.

What we will be doing

A specific focus of our work will be placed on listening to stories and surfacing examples of work that are led by, or that actively seek to centre voices that are not historically well heard, or which tend to be marginalised by dominant structures of power.

To be marginalised is to be socially excluded. Those that are socially excluded, rarely have their voices heard. People can be marginalised due to many different factors such as age, disability, gender or sexual identity, sexuality, race, nationality, religion, beliefs and much more. We appreciate that marginalisation is both contextual and subjective and means different things to different people.

Once the open call is closed, we’ll reach out to a small number of people who have submitted examples, to undertake a series of conversations and create storytelling spaces.

Findings will be taken into exploratory workshops where we can collectively learn and understand how we might foster the conditions needed to enable this type of collaborative and creative working practice.

Keep an eye on our UNBOXED: Collective Futures webpage for regular updates from the project team on our progress.

How to get in touch

If you have a project that is helping shape better futures for people and planet by working creatively and collaboratively, or if you’d like to share ideas, we’d love to hear from you. Email our project team at [email protected].

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related articles

  • Super-nature: shaping how cities feel


    Tamsin Hanke Sash Scott

    Super-nature was one of 10 commissions to feature in the 2022 global exploration research project, Collective Futures. Learn about the work and its outputs in this field note.

  • Out of this world


    John Peto

    Unboxed's Our Place in Space project convened astronauts, academics, artists, authors and engineers to bring the universe to thrilling life for schoolchildren across the UK.

  • About us: our language has saved us once before


    Natasha Ryan

    Our partnership with Unboxed featured 10 major commissions across science, tech, engineering, arts and maths About Us was one of those commissions. Learn more.