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Celebration of Imagination


Imagine Chicago hosted its first international Imagination Celebration in September 2002, in conjunction with its 10-year anniversary. The six-day event connected intergenerational Imagine project teams, ranging in age from 17 to 91, from Chile, England, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, Kenya, Serbia, South Africa, Israel, Nepal, India, Singapore, Australia, Canada and the U.S. Participants shared tools and approaches that create hopeful futures for organizations and communities, and experienced new ways of building fruitful global-local learning exchanges.


The Celebration consisted of five inter-connected learning opportunities: an open space exchange, a gala celebration, a history and storytelling workshop, neighborhood site visits, and private consultation with Imagine Chicago.


Learning principles embedded in the conference design included:

  • Learning is contextual; the specific place, time, environment and people involved are very important.We incorporated a range of sites and learning partners, hosting the conference within museums dedicated to cultrual understanding, and neighborhoods committed to expanding citizen leadership.
  • Learning happens socially and cooperatively. Constructive experiences of difference open up new areas of the mind, heart and spirit. We therefore encouraged the participation of highly diverse intergenerational teams, providing scholarships for young people and those who otherwise could not have come.
  • Among and within us are a diversity of learning interests, styles, intelligences, needs and aspirations. We provided a range of formal and informal learning opportunities, and a mix of small and large group settings. Participants were invite d and expected to take charge of their own and of the larger group’s learning. Their questions, enthusiasm, inclination, curiosity, determination and energy drove the conference. Using Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technology, conference participants shared their stories and images, gained insights into their challenges and struggles, and generated new questions and possibilities. There were no ‘experts’ at the conference; rather, everyone was a ‘learning activist’. The celebration incorporated a diversity of learning styles, with the active inclusion of artistic expression, like painting, dancing, music-making, theater, and photography, as well as time focused on ‘practical’ skills: project management, fundraising, volunteer engagement, creative partnerships, etc.
  • Learning happens when we are having fun, so ample time was devoted to relaxing, laughing, and enjoying Chicago and each other. Many new friendships resulted.



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