Insights to Impact

The Latest from Brooklyn Community Foundation

Meet the Artist, Organizer, and Activist Leading Our Neighborhood Strength Initiative

Hi, I’m Piper Anderson, the founder Create Forward, a social enterprise committed to delivering strategies that activate the collective imagination in ways that catalyze social change. I’m proud to be joining Brooklyn Community Foundation’s team to use our “creative inquiry” driven approach to community engagement to enhance the next phase of its Neighborhood Strength initiative.

I’m really looking forward to helping community members in Crown Heights and Sunset Park work together to affect social change. Launched last year in Crown Heights, Neighborhood Strength is an innovative resident-led grantmaking model. With this next stage and the expansion to Sunset Park, we’re going to focus on developing a shared community vision within each neighborhood. It’s so exciting that the Foundation is going to support and fund each community’s vision.

I’ve spent a large portion of my professional life living and working in Brooklyn—it will always feel like home for me. It’s a place where I have thrived as a community artist and educator, partnering with nonprofits and schools in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Crown Heights, and Bedford Stuyvesant.

With Create Forward, I’m now bringing my experience as an artist and educator into my work with communities who want to employ creative strategies to social change.

So what does the creative inquiry process look like?

Last year, I worked with 651 Arts to facilitate a creative “think tank” exploring the question, “How do we love in the time of Brooklyn?” This prompt led participants to investigate themes of belonging, displacement, community, and the future of Brooklyn. The think tank model is inspired by the work of Marc Bamuthi Joseph and the Yerba Buena Cultural Center.

I find a lot inspiration for my community organizing within the world of art and design. Our creative inquiry approach is grounded in the pedagogical principles of “design thinking.” Design thinking challenges participants to reframe problems as open-ended questions for exploration. They then go through a rapid ideation process where they generate and categorize more ideas without censoring for practicality. Finally, they hone in on and begin to develop the ideas that are most aligned with their shared vision. We also incorporate art-making practices such as collage making and guided visualization to spark new and imaginative ideas.

I’ll be introducing design thinking and the tools of art-making into the Neighborhood Strength process to help residents in Crown Heights and Sunset Park envision ways to create sustainable impact in their communities.

I can’t wait to get started. I’m also really excited that the Foundation has created a Neighborhood Strength Fellowship to more deeply engage local residents as leaders in the process.  If you want to join us, apply by August 5th for Crown Heights or September 1st for Sunset Park.

And stay tuned to both the Insights to Impact blog and the Foundation’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to follow our work and to watch as creativity ignites a collective vision for our communities!

Piper Anderson

Founder, Create Forward
"I’ll be introducing design thinking and the tools of art-making into the Neighborhood Strength process to help residents in Crown Heights and Sunset Park envision ways to create sustainable impact in their communities."