Veterans Imagination Project

It takes six to thirteen weeks for an enlisted military recruit to become a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their years of active duty are marked by months of formal vocational education and constant on-the-job training. But at the end of their enlistment contract, they have just days to learn the skills and cultural competencies to make a successful transition back to civilian life. The abrupt culture shock of reintegration is compounded by the immediate need to secure gainful post-service employment, and further complicated by employers who lack understanding of their veteran workforce.

A successful veterans’ transition requires imagination. Without the opportunity to imagine different futures for themselves, highly trained men and women are relegated to unfulfilling jobs unsuited to their experience and abilities, leading to an array of negative impacts, from lost wages to depression. And by failing to imagine a veteran’s potential, employers and the public at large do a disservice to those who volunteered to serve our nation.

Through the Veterans Imagination Project from the Center for Science and the Imagination (CSI), we aim to bridge this divide, empowering veterans in transition by training them to imagine and create visions of desired future careers. Building on traditional transition services like career counseling and art therapy and infusing them with future-oriented insights, this project will leverage the resources of ASU to create a holistic intervention for career-readiness. Participants will spend six weeks discovering diverse and possible futures through foresight, interviews, speculative storytelling, and collaborative imagination. Equipped with these skills, participants will work with professional mentors and concept artists to explore and create informed visions of positive workplace futures and their places in them.

Understanding that self-authored work can be both personally meaningful, socially significant, and improve notions of self-efficacy, we will study the impacts of our intervention on this community. Based on these findings, we will develop a train-the-trainer module for VSOs, libraries, and other organizations seeking new ways to aid veterans.

At the culmination of this project, we will share participants’ future visions through publications, online platforms, in-person exhibitions, and special events. These narratives and the training module will serve veterans struggling to imagine positive, meaningful futures and inspire a richer understanding of their challenges and aspirations among employers, local communities, and the general public.

The Veterans Imagination Project builds upon CSI’s success across several efforts that leverage speculative fiction as a tool for fostering imagination and developing greater self-efficacy. In partnership with NASA, the World Bank, Google, and others, we have asked scientists, artists, and executives to step outside of their defined roles and envision technically grounded, optimistic narratives about world-changing technologies and governance. Led and inspired by the post-service experience of co-PI and Marine Corps veteran Bob Beard, this project applies the same methods to individual challenges, catalyzing personal transformation and civic engagement in both veterans and their communities by inviting them to participate as active agents in the futures they imagine.

Learn how you can support our work with veterans and military family members in transition:

For more information, contact Bob Beard.