Six Word Story

Modeled after the Hemmingway’s Six Word Story Contest, this engagement strategy asks participants to distill their experience in a community down to six words. The stories give participants a chance to be creative and evocative, while reflecting on all of their experiences. This strategy is a great way to start a meeting or event, as it opens up the participant’s creativity and reminds them of their connection and memories of the place, bringing them back to the personal nature of how one’s community affects their life. The very brief snapshots show what the participant feels is the most important sentiment about their overall experience, which can be very telling and provocative statements.

Ping Pong Conversation

Mix exercise, competition, and community dialogue all at once! What do you think are the essential questions that need to be asked? Write it on a ping-pong ball and put it in a bowl full of other people’s ping-pong questions. Then randomly pull out a ball and discuss with your playing partner the thoughts that ball poses. We used chalkboards to gather responses and results from the ping pong conversations we hosted.

Bus Stop Theatre

Bus Stop Theater explores the medium of theater to simultaneously provide information to an audience and elicit responses to inform the city planning process. The audience moves from scene to scene using public transportation, engaging with the environment, transit system, and community the subject matter is addressing. Included here are excerpts from the Penn Avenue Bus Stop Theater experience created in partnership with the Capri Theater. The script was written by Capri Playwright/Director, Greta Oglesby, based on questions and responses gathered during Creative CityMaking.

Playwright/Director: Greta Oglesby
Facilitator: Jennifer Whitlock
Actors: Tyrone Gill, Zaria Graham, R.J. Richardson and Amir Trotter

Read MetroTransit’s blog post about Bus Stop Theatre

CityMaking Jeopardy

Everyone loves to play games! CityMaking Jeopardy is a mobile gameboard that draws participants in with its spectacle nature. Asking someone if they want to play Jeopardy instead of asking them if they want to participate in city planning has a much a different attraction while getting at the same information. Four categories related to the planning process are listed on the top of the board. The questions on the board are selected from a list generated by other community members during previous engagements. Participants are asked to select a category that they are drawn to. All of the questions listed under that category are read aloud and the participant is asked to select the question that resonates with them. A conversation is had based on the question to get to the core of the issue, solution or answer. This is then recorded on a chalkboard with a photo. Participants receive a sticker that says “This is our City” or “I am a Creative CityMaker” in exchange for their participation.

Happy Hour

Instead of asking community members to come to you, find them where they are! Happy Hour engagement places table tents and coasters in bars and restaurants around the neighborhood to ask community members “if you could change one thing about your neighborhood, what would it be?” As people are waiting for their friends, drink or food, they have a moment to engage with the planning process.

The coasters are the more “low-tech” version, where participants can write their response on the back and leave it with their server. The table tent gives participants the option of texting, tweeting, or emailing their response. Once they have engaged via text, they are entered in a database and questions can be sent to them on a weekly or monthly basis as a form of ongoing dialogue with the planning process. Both of these strategies also inspire conversation about the community at the bar or restaurant between strangers and friends.

Community Think Tank

These are a diverse, non-hierarchical group of people from the community that come together to discuss issues important to that community. Rather than a panel of “experts” it is comprised of folks that normally may not be invited to be part of a community process, such as a teenager, a person experiencing homelessness, a recent immigrant or anyone who feels disenfranchised in some way. A key question in the city making process is finding a way to get people to the table that normally would not be there. The group discusses issues in an organic manner without a leader or agenda, in a way that works for the group.

The Create Place team partnered with the Breakfast Club, a weekly gathering of community members that results in organic, in-depth, personal, and open, community-led discussion. Topics range weekly and have included subjects such as racism, activism, relationships, the arts, violence, religion,  money, work, and substance abuse. It is not unusual for a natural evolution of drumming, music, or spoken word to occur. The Breakfast Club gathers every Saturday. All are welcome.

Third Place Pop-Up Gallery

Bored by community meetings? How about going to one that is fun, engaging, and still productive? Perhaps by taking over an empty storefront and stocking it with performances by local artists and ping pong! The “third place” is a sociological term used in the concept of community building. The first place is home and second is the workplace. Third places are anchors of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.

The Create Place team’s pop-up galleries combined many of the other engagement strategies, but also added a few things: an informal drop-in structure, live performances by local musicians, and projected photos of other responses that participants could react to. How can you convert your community meeting into a true third place?

Many thanks to the musicians that helped bring our pop-up gallery to life:
Storyteller Jamela Pettiford
Pianist Peter Moua
The Other Country Ensemble: Scott Niemen (Greek bouzouki/bass bouzouki), David Stenshoel, (violin), Stephen Spaise (ethnic percussion)

The Pen(n) Project

Create Place artists ask participants to contribute a response to a question posed in the Pen(n) Project notebook. Once they write their response, they are encouraged to write a question that they would like to ask someone else in their community. The Create Place artists take the notebook to another individual and ask them to respond to the question that was posed by the last person to write in the notebook – acting as a written community dialogue.

Traveling Chalkboard

What are the essential questions and what are your answers to those questions? Create Place artists used a chalkboard to find out, with a process adapted from Wing’s public art project (2010), “The University Avenue Project” in St. Paul where he photographed hundreds of people in various circumstances holding chalkboards on which revealing statements are hand-written.

With the Creative CityMaking Project, Wing and Ashley gave chalkboards to community organizations and individual citizens to find out what are the important questions and answers in a series of Chalk Talk Workshops and Street Engagements. Participants photographed themselves with their questions and answers. The team also gave chalkboards to community members who were interested in this process so they could use the tool and send photos of the responses they gathered back to the team.


Organizations: Cleveland Neighborhood Organization


Photographers: Faro Jones