From Indy Community Innovation Lab Emerges “New Music”

What is the Community Innovation Lab and why is KI involved?

The lab will bring divergent voices across sectors together periodically over the next 18 months to dig deeper around a specific community issue.

IMG_4179The lab is a collaborative effort between EmcArts – a nonprofit art consulting organization based in New York – and local conveners: Spirit & Place, Groundwork Indy, and the Kheprw Institute. The Lab seeks to uncover and advance strategies toward creating more inclusive and sustainable economies for those who are too frequently pushed aside by traditional systems, with a particular interest in youth and formerly incarcerated people.

Community Innovation Labs, a program of EmcArts, is a model to engage artists to support communities to unpack complex systemic challenges, build community capacity and develop original strategies. To find out more about Community Innovation Labs including examples of other labs around the nation, please visit EmcArts.

We’re involved because Spirit and Place, a long time partner of ours, asked us to participate. For the last two years, our partnership has focused on monthly community conversations on the themes of gentrification and equity. These conversations have brought people together from across the city to share diverse perspectives and learn from one another.

To be honest, KI was hesitant about engaging in a project that initially struck us as traditional in nature. Too often, collaborations include only like-minded individuals and/or institutions that yield the same outcomes that lead to the same failed results. However, the project’s leadership from EmcArts came to town, and we had the opportunity to converse and learn more. After engaging the leadership, some of the ideas resonated with our team, in particular the idea of bringing people across sectors together. The value of bringing people from different philosophies together is that it provides the opportunity for tension to be created that potentially leads to new ideas and solutions.


In addition, the core themes of the project focused on process over outcome. What we also found intriguing was the concept of emergence as a means of identifying new solutions to complex social challenges.

The concept of emergence operates through people coming together to address issues that need attention and work at that time. From the outside looking in, the ‘process’ appears to be chaotic, similar to improvisational jazz, when people play different instruments with the hope of creating new music. In this project, community members and artists are bringing forth their perspectives, or “instruments,” and focusing on the process of collaboration to combat systemic challenges. Through that process of involvement and collaboration, new ideas and solutions emerge.  The Kheprw Institute’s organizational cultural model leans heavily on this style of improvisation for being, doing and creating change and new systems.

It is our hope that participation in this project will bring together divergent voices and perspectives that will yield “new music” and lead to more creative, impactful solutions than what currently exist.

The current community crises of our times demands it.

IMG_4310What does art have to do with this process?

Artists often can see, act and be outside of current worldviews. Their unique ways of experiencing the world often help us create new realities and new ways of being that are not shackled to our current paradigms.

Any effort to redefine the present and create a new future that’s not imprisoned by current modes of thought must involve and include artists at all stages of the creative process.

How can community expect to engage in this process in the near future?

A calendar for activities and ways to be engaged will be posted online in the next couple of weeks to this page:

Stay tuned.