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Curriculum Review: Building Community Power

November 1, 2018 / By Amy Fidler

A few weeks ago, I used the Building Community Power curriculum materials with one section of my junior-level interactive design students at Bowling Green State University. When I found out about this curriculum and opportunity, I knew I wanted to at least try it with my students, even if we didn’t have as much time as I would have preferred (due to my courses already being tightly planned). I was able to free up a class session and utilized this curriculum as a small, one-class experimental small-group exercise. While the visual results were mixed (the students didn’t have a lot of time for refinement in a one-class experience), their thinking and discussions were valuable and robust. I brought in letraset to encourage immediate, physical experimentation and also allowed the teams to work digitally. The Instructor Resource that was provided with the curriculum helped me hit the ground running on this topic, and provided valuable prompts to get the discussion flowing. The graphics created by these students are being shared around campus to encourage voting, but I think most importantly, will reinforce their own conviction to vote (and or inspire those design students to vote who were maybe going to give it a miss this time around)— and that might be the most valuable lesson of all. —Amy Fidler

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From curriculum co-creator Anne Berry: Given the divisiveness of the 2016 election, along with the issues that are currently at the forefront of our national concerns and conversation, including healthcare, immigration, and the environment, it has been clear for some time that the 2018 midterm election would be important. So, my colleagues and I were already interested in identifying opportunities to get students involved in voter registration and/or get out the vote (GOTV) efforts. Jenn Visocky O’Grady connected us with Design for Democracy Co-Chair Rich Hollant, and after an initial conversation we offered to develop an assignment that design educators could use in their classrooms. 

The existing Building Community Power materials served as a valuable foundation for developing the curriculum. The challenge, however, was figuring out how to engage students in a topic that—at least statistically—has held relatively little interest. Millennials and Generation Z make up a significant portion of the voting population and yet have traditionally not exercised their right to vote. 

Our primary objective with the D4D Voting Engagement Campaign was to create a useful educational tool, but I think we also understood that apathy, confusion, and misconceptions about voting were genuine obstacles for our students. As a result, the Instructor Resource Guide became a necessary step beyond just providing a project prompt, in order to facilitate a deeper level of participation. Before introducing the assignment in my class, I asked students to reflect on their attitudes around voting/elections, to make note of the issues they care about most, i.e., issues that most affect them on a daily basis, and to share a bit about the communities they represent. I can’t say (yet) whether or not the conversations that followed improved attitudes. At the very least though, I hope students have come to see a clearer relationship between elections/voting and the direct impact it has on them, whether in the short-term or long-term. 

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From curriculum co-creator Sarah Rutherford: I used the Building Community Power assignment as a short exercise lasting two weeks. To begin the assignment, we did an in-class affinity diagram exercise using the prompts on the instructor resource: “What are the barriers to registering to vote?” and “What are the barriers to voting?” Students were able to choose the target audience segment they wished to engage based on the assignment sheet. Most students chose to target Millenials and Gen-Z, broadly (Kalinowska), but several students opted for audience subsets like non-English speakers (Meza and McClinton), the LGBT community (Mowry), or Millenial women, in particular (Miller).

Share the Vote by Marta Kalinowska

Ok Ladies by Ayssa Miller

Los Malos Oficiales (animated gif) by Alejandro Meza

Vote with Pride by Kaitlin Mowry

Your Voice Matters by Erika McClinton

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We will continue to update this post with additional feedback and insights. Did you use this curriculum with your students? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

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