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The role of artists in evidence-based policymaking

SEPTEMBER 26, 2019
Earlier this year, we gave a presentation at The Mowat NFP’s Innovations in Evidence conference at the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The presentation was enthusiastically received by participants, including federal government, sector-specific policy leads, researchers, and service delivery organizations.

Ultimately, the presentation was a discussion of many ways that artists can help in ‘the search for What Works’ (a reference to current interest in What Work Centres). Real-life examples were given for roles that artists have played in sense making, exploration and data collection, analysis and sense making, testing proposals, listening, reflecting and understanding, and disseminating and communicating results and findings.

The presentation called attention to the problem of creating “a monoculture of thought” (a reference to an article in The New York Times on systemic problems in Silicon Valley), and ended by calling for more artists and greater moral imagination in policymaking.

If the moral imagination lies within us as a doorman seed of potential, and this seed holds the key to breaking cycles of [unresolved] conflict, then our challenge is how to invoke the growth of this kind of imagination as an integral part of developing innovative professionals.

There is a growing sense that if we are to invoke the moral imagination, we must incite and excite the artist within us.”


-John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace
© Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence
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