Working with People :: Workshops

“Working with People” workshops help groups, organizations, and classes collectively define core values and better articulate what ideas like “community,” “collaboration,” and “power” mean for their work. We facilitate new kinds of conversations that make clear what’s at stake and create strong foundations for building future projects. Contact us to book a workshop for your organization.

“Community,” “collaboration,” and “empathy” are words often emphasized in community-engaged projects–from universities to cultural institutions. But what do they really mean to the people taking part in these projects? What do these buzz words mean to community collaborators? Is everyone using these words to mean the same thing? Making space for open and honest discussions on the multiple understandings of core ideas is crucial for building a strong foundation on which future collaboration can grow.

We’ve taught workshops for many kinds of educational institutions, community organizations, and community-engaged cultural organizations including:

  • Center for Urban Pedagogy
  • The Laundromat Project
  • More Art
  • The Watson Foundation
  • Asian American Writers Workshop
  • Fourth Arts Block (FAB)

How did Working with People start?

“Working with People” began in 2009 when project leaders Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani and Shana Agid identified the lack of critical resources for faculty, students, artists and organizations doing projects “with communities,” (and with universities). “Civic engagement,” “design for social change,” “community-engaged art”, “social practice” and other types of “engaged” artistic, design, and pedagogical practices are flourishing, but too often when we talk about collaborations between communities and universities, as well as between communities and artists, some powerful words are ill-defined; other critical words are conspicuously absent. This project and this online resource hopes to foster challenging collisions between different understandings of crucial keywords to build a more nuanced way of working with people.

The project began by interviewing faculty members at the New School about the ways they do civic engagement, and soon grew to include students, community collaborators, and colleagues across fields of community-engaged practice. We are always adding new interviews, as participants in WWP workshops add their own voices and definitions. We ask participants to choose two keywords and to define what these two words mean to them in their work. 

We have both opportunities and responsibilities for critical teaching and learning about collaborative practices and contexts. This is especially important when, as is often the case, the people and groups of “the community” are regarded as societal “others” and issues of sensitivity and translation across cultures or other real or perceived divides can become a challenge.

What is the curriculum?

The WWP curriculum builds a foundation for reciprocal relationship-building through student and faculty interactions with community-based groups and non-profit organizations by exploring the complex contexts in which students, communities, and organizations live and work. The curriculum can be used in two ways :

  • To complement classes that in some way collaborate with community partners, or address real-world concerns, presented here as a framework format.
  • As a stand-alone short-course in preparation for later partnerships.

Shana & Gabrielle on their keywords

WWP :: in public

Working with People was a partner on “The Ship’s First Shape Was a Raft” project – a two-year collaboration between the New School, Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS), and the Fortune Society. Students used WWP throughout their co-design process, and created media and interviews that added their voices to WWP itself. This project was supported by the New School Collaboratory / the Rockefeller Foundation.


Public Programs

Working with People at Design Futures Forum
University of Minnesota, 2017

Working with People at “Communities of _____”
Aronson Gallery, Sheila Johnson Design Center, The New School, 2012

Working with People: Pedagogical Tools for Engaging Issues of Power and Difference in Community-University Courses and Partnerships, Organized by: Shana Agid & Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, The New School, April 19, 2012

Working with People: A conference on Keywords & Contested Meanings
Organized by: Shana Agid & Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, The New School, April 7, 2012

Developing critical conversations around “civic engagement” and the pedagogy and politics of teaching “with communities.” The conversations fostered challenging collisions between different understandings of six crucial keywords—community + collaboration; politics + citizenship; and representation + human—as we considered even the most seemingly familiar terms and concepts from new perspectives. Participants included:

  • Judy Pryor-Ramirez, Director of Civic Engagement & Social Justice, Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts
  • Lisa Yun Lee, Director, The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
  • Jeffrey Hou, Chair of Landscape Architecture, University of Washington
  • Ari Wohlfeiler, Activist, Critical Resistance
  • Deva Woodly, Assistant Professor of Politics, The New School for Social Research
  • Hettie Jones, Poet, The New School for Public Engagement & former chair of the PEN Prison Writing Committee
  • Jack Tchen, Prof of APA Studies, NYU & co-founder of the Museum of Chinese in America
  • Caitlin Cahill, The Public Science Project & co-founder of the Mestizo Arts & Cultural Collective

Working with People has been supported by the New School’s Fund for Innovations in Education, the New School University Civic Engagement Committee, the New School Collaboratory, and the Rockefeller Foundation.