START AN OUTPOST

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How do you bring the USDAC to your community? Start a USDAC Outpost!

There are many ways for individuals to take part in the USDAC, but there’s something to be said for strength in numbers. Get a few allies together and you multiply your capacity to learn, plan, engage others, and make real impact. USDAC Outposts make that easy for you. Read on, and if this sounds like something that would work for you, fill out the form below to apply.

A USDAC Outpost is a group of four or more individuals committed to enacting USDAC values in their community. Outposts may focus on learning, relationship-building, and/or taking action through USDAC National Actions and your own local value-aligned projects and campaigns.

The USDAC provides each Outpost:

  • A start-up toolkit with resources, information, and ideas to help you build involvement, such as discussion guides for structured local conversations that help to create a learning and action community rooted in USDAC values. Plus, we’ll send a small batch of swag!
  • Support in taking part in USDAC National Actions such as the People’s State of the Union.
  • A listing on the USDAC website.
  • Support from a Regional Envoy, Cultural Agent, or member of the Office of Instigation in formulating your plans.
  • Regular online video calls connecting Outposts with each other and with experienced USDAC organizers.

In return, Outposts:

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  • Take part in USDAC National Actions in ways that match  local needs and resources.
  • Enact and promote USDAC values through local projects or campaigns.
  • Keep the USDAC informed of your activities so we can help promote them.
  • Take part in video calls to stay connected with the USDAC network

Once an Outpost has been active for at least 6 months, members can apply to take things to the next level by opening a Field Office. Field Offices don’t need a physical office, just a core of local USDAC folks and allies. As local networks committed to ongoing organizing, they receive additional strategic assistance, opportunities to apply for funding, access to a suite of powerful digital organizing tools, support with documentation and storytelling, and more.


BEFORE YOU APPLY

This “Before You Apply” guide will give you ideas for how to introduce the USDAC in your community, a sample agenda for a founding meeting, the USDAC’s Working Agreements, and more to help you consider applying to form an Outpost.



WHAT MIGHT YOUR OUTPOST DO? A MENU OF POSSIBILITIES

BE A LEARNING AND ACTION COMMUNITY: How can people learn together in ways that lead to action?

  • Start a reading and discussion group around art and social and environmental justice. We’d be glad to recommend relevant readings to share, discuss, and consider as guides to your work.
  • Invite a USDAC guest speaker to your community to lead a workshop, teach and lead Story Circles, or offer talks.
  • Create participatory learning events. Especially if people don’t have time for an ongoing learning group, start with a one-off workshop, a salon, or a series of evening programs.

THE USDAC AS A CONNECTOR. The USDAC can be a bridge to other sectors and interests in your community.

  • Offer the USDAC’s National Actions as arts-based ways to engage people from many backgrounds and identities in working on issues of equity, environment, or other aspects of social justice. For example, people who have not used creative storytelling before are likely to be impressed with the way People’s State of the Union Story Circles build participation and relationship.
  • Integrate a USDAC presence in local festivals and other public events. If a local festival has devolved into a stroll with snacks, leaving people hungry to create and interact, use that opportunity. Set up a table or booth, offer participatory art experiences, enlist Citizen Artists. Check out the USDAC HI-LI Database and National Action Toolkits for ideas!
  • Bridge institutional boundaries through USDAC initiatives. Is yours a college community? Is it rare to see campus-community collaboration? Or are their cultural institutions that say they want to serve the whole community, but are widely perceived as belonging to a privileged few? Design a program that invites the larger community into an institutional setting in new ways. For example, read Cultural Agent Betty Yu’s blog for an account of the USDAC New York Field Office’s daylong event at the Brooklyn Museum, “City of Justice.”

SHARE YOUR ARTS-BASED SKILLS. Think of your Outpost as a repository of arts-based skills and approaches.

  • Enliven Planning Efforts. Are people in your community contemplating new programs or initiatives? Arts-based planning can easily be more exciting and often more effective than the conventional kind. Consult the USDAC for ideas: hello@usdac.us.
  • Sponsor a Design Lab or Hackathon. Partner with other groups to convene a Design Lab or Hackathon to generate ideas about how to build awareness and action on an issue.
  • Conduct participatory arts action research projects. Action research is learning by doing. For example, use arts-based methods to elicit opinions and observations about a local issue, documenting via photography or video and text. Then feed the results back to the community through an exhibit, website, or forum.

MOUNT A POLICY INITIATIVE. Standing for Cultural Democracy: The USDAC’s Policy and Action Platform includes 10 powerful, visionary, and practical ideas for new policies needed to nurture cultural democracy.

  • Does your community need a Policy on Belonging? With immigration status and identity so contested, people may easily feel unwelcome in their own communities. Public agencies and other institutions may adopt policies or design projects that exacerbate the problem. The USDAC’s Policy on Belonging is a powerful tool that shows exactly how to review public or private actions for their impact on creating a culture of belonging—or its opposite. What impact would it have on your community if an official Policy on Belonging was in place?
  • Have you heard of a Cultural Impact Statement? For decades, an environmental impact study has been required prior to approving interventions that might affect endangered plants or animals. Right now, there is no comparable standing in law or policy for human community, human cultural fabric. Often decisions are made that displace the residents of longstanding neighborhoods—rezoning, or tearing down a block to build a new stadium—without any consideration of the damage to social fabric. What would it take for your community to pass a Cultural Impact Study requirement? And how would things be different?

AND MORE...What else might you imagine doing?