Activate the Question Campaign

April 22, 2014 1 Comment

Ceasar McDowell, President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and Professor of the Practice of Community Development at MIT brings the concept of a “Question Campaign” to our emerging work on Cities.


The question campaign is anchored by the premise that  “asking questions invites people into conversation, rather than shutting down discussion by giving only answers.”  Question campaigns “generate dialogue as a crucial first step in creating actual change on the ground.”

As described by “Engage the Power

The process of empowering the question provides opportunity for the world to see the questions of people not often included in the democratic process.  By sharing the questions and knowledge of people often excluded from public dialogue, we are both giving them another vision of themselves and their thinking, plus we are creating opportunity for the broader public to learn from them and see them in a different light.

When a process revolves around questions, the “doer” inside each of us, the “closer” who needs a clear conclusion, rightfully stirs with discomfort.  I can think of three ways to address this dissonance:

  • Process is “doing”

Reflecting on what we want, understanding our shared aspirations, is an integral part of actually attaining our goals.  When we skip this part of the process we tend to do what we’ve always done.  Nothing new happens.

  • The power of the public square

It is by coming together that we move from “the story of I” to “the story of Us.”  Foreclosure can be experience as a shameful event by a family losing their home or it can be experienced as a systemic agression by a large group of people realizing they have become the chips in a global banking casinos.  Coming together gets us in touch with our shared story.

  • Cre-Action and the Scientific Method

We don’t have to come together and come up with a master plan allowing us to address critical questions.  Planning gets big, unwieldy and boring relatively quickly.  What we can do is identify a diversity of smaller experiments.  Experiments within a range that allows for failure, and learning from failure.  It’s about taking small, smart, iterative steps towards our desired future.  It is about learning by doing.

A question campaign that is linked to these ideas can become a more effective way to create the future in the context of complexity.


1 Comment

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