By Dudley Cocke, Roadside Theater

Cultural organizing is characterized by a willingness to reexamine basic assumptions and test hypotheses through repeating cycles of posing questions and trying to answer them. A humble curiosity, an openness to simple questions and unexpected answers, a willingness not to know the answers – these are the qualities of the learner that cultural organizing cultivates.

Cultivation of this culture of intentional learning is a defining characteristic of cultural organizing. Such intentional learning is demonstrated by collective governance and consensual practice in the articulate pursuit of three questions. What are we trying to change, and why is that important? How are we trying to make this change, and why is that the best strategy? How will we know we are making the change; what data will provide us evidence, so we can improve the work and we can demonstrate its accomplishment to others?

Cultural organizing begins its programs and projects with all stakeholders present for partnership. A locus for program design is determined by defining the problem, separating what is known from what is unknown, and discerning the difference between causes and effects, root and branch. Having located an authentic point of departure, the partners can proceed in an orderly fashion, relying on manageable cycles of action and assessment in order to learn together.

If the cycles of action and assessment are producing learning (generating knowledge, developing skills, altering attitudes, changing behaviors), the partners can expect that the plan of work will evolve as the work proceeds. Flexibility is an important value. This flexibility does not absolve the partners of accountability to outside audiences, or of the important need to develop and follow strategic road maps. But there should be a willingness, indeed a desire, to improve the road maps as new evidence is uncovered and new ideas are generated.

Cite This

Dudley Cocke, Roadside Theater. “General Theory of Cultural Organizing.” https://roadside.org. April 30, 2014. https://roadside.org/asset/general-theory-cultural-organizing.

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