Learning to create group culture that reflects your group values

SVA Masters in Design for Social Innovation, Fundamentals course

THE CHALLENGE: Even though a group is committed to positive change, its culture may replicate harmful patterns such as dishonesty, avoidance and micro-aggressions.

We can learn ways of working that make culture practical, using each interaction as a place to practice embodying a better world. This starts by asking, “What values do we want to live into?” Then we design rituals, roles and artifacts that might support us in living out our values in moments when it is important to do so, but our old habits get in the way.

This work of creating culture is made more real as we use methods from theatre, mindfulness and design to help students practice different ways of being. Students practice being present and open. They practice communicating honestly when It is difficult to do so, like owning mistakes and sharing what you feel and need. They practice handling difficult aspects of collaboration, like acknowledging discomfort and working through conflict together. 

“The most important lessons were how to communicate non-violently, how to be honest, and now not to be afraid of being vulnerable.”
– Student 

“By creating spaces like this, we are practicing how we want the world to be on a small level, which can be applied to the big picture.” – Student 

“Before this class I believed that an argument is something to be won. This class helps me engage better with those who holds different views to mine. It is essential for me to be more compassionate and empathetic, to suspend my own judgement, to be more curious about why people see the world in the way they do. No one is disposable, everyone has a role, everyone has value.” – Student