IDEAS xLab
Leveraging the power of arts, culture, and the creative industries to frame, seed, and scale innovation in health and wellbeing.
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Our work: HEAL Community Approach

Our vision - a creative society where everyone has a fair chance to become their best self.

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Mission: Leverage the power of community creativity and culture to transform people’s lives.

Vision: A healthy, just, and hopeful society.

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Are you hopeful?

o I set goals for myself that are in the future, where the outcome is uncertain.

o I can envision multiple pathways (path A, path B, etc.) to achieve my goals.

o I have the grit and ability to rally the resources necessary to achieve my goals (agency).

We’ve all seen how hope - understood as Goals, Pathways, and Agency - can be transformational! And from the science, we know hope is a leading indicator of health and wellbeing. (Learn more about Hope Theory)

That is why hope is a core element of our work at IDEAS xLab - where our artist-led team focuses on leveraging the power of community creativity and culture to transform people's lives in support of a more healthy, just, and hopeful society.

You can imagine our engagement with communities like a transportation roundabout. We know each community is in a unique place in their health journey. As a facilitator, capacity builder, and strategic partner, IDEAS xLab can enter at different points along the route to support them through our HEAL Community Approach, using arts and culture interventions to identify priorities and goals for the future, and an action plan for positive change.

A process evaluation by University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky outlined that our HEAL Community Approached supported:
•       Collective Identity Development
•       Capacity building
•       Sense of community
•       Community engagement (reduced social isolation)
•       Cultivation of Hope

And, over the past few years, we’ve seen that young people become hopeful when they are part of the solution. Artists and students at Meyzeek Middle School explored how they could make a difference in environmental health and created a Hero+Shero Journeys comic book. Through artist-led after school programming, students had a demonstrated change from 6.3 to 9 on a 10-point scale in their ability to advocate for themselves and for others after their first year of the Justice League.

Out in the community, Smoketown stakeholders came together through arts-based engagements, building on existing data, identifying priorities including a laundromat and place-based jobs. The Smoketown Hopebox is being co-developed out of these priorities on the site of an old liquor store – and has the ten-year goal of bringing the neighborhood up to the Louisville-average when it comes to things like income and education. That could mean $8.6 million more in annual income for residents.

In 2019, we’re embarking on a two-year co-creation project with artists and young people from Louisville Youth Group, Justice League, and Bates Kingdom Academy to measurably cultivate hope and positively impact emotional wellbeing through a research partnership with UofL’s Center for Creative Placehealing.

IDEAS xLab's HEAL Community Approach leverages:

  • Arts-based Tools: Storytelling, trust building, qualitative data collection using tools including Mads Libs style poetry templates, mobile apps (video, photo) and arts-based interventions,

  • Cultural Development and Strategic Cultural Communications including: Priority and Opportunity identification, Cross-sector network building, Setting goals, identifying pathways for change, activating community agency, translating across sectors,

  • Science: Measuring positive impact on collective hope/trust/belonging through our HEAL Community Approach + Supporting community identified outcomes.


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Through the HEAL Community Approach in Louisville, KY’s Smoketown neighborhood, we deployed a series of arts and culture-based activities and tools, which led to the creation of the Smoketown HOPEBOX - based on the priorities identified by the community. These included a laundromat and incubator for employee-owned co-ops, along with community gathering space, and a Compassion Clinic – all made possible by multi-sector partnerships and continued leadership by the community.