Cultivating Imagination in Leadership with Dr. Gillian Judson & Dr. Meaghan Dougherty

March 24, 2023

Cultivating Imagination in Leadership: Transforming Schools and Communities, a new publication by Drs. Gillian Judson and Meaghan Dougherty, provides a theoretical understanding of how imagination contributes to effective leadership, as well as practical tools that all educational leaders can employ to cultivate their imaginations and the imaginations of others in their communities.

To support these goals, the book chapters offer multiple perspectives on what imagination is, why it is essential for educational leaders, and how it can be developed. We spoke with the authors to find out what inspired this project and the process of working with various authors, including those from SFU (Drs. Laurie Anderson, Sean Blenkinsop, Lynn Fels, Mark Fettes, and Daniel Laitsch).

Q: Can you tell us about your new book and what inspired this project? 

A: In 2019, as part of our MEd in Imaginative Leadership cohort, we explored what it would mean to bring imagination to the heart of education.  That led to the Imaginative Schools Symposium (ISS) Series, where we brought together established and emerging leaders who were committed to imaginative approaches. We had a positive and generative experience collaborating with these leaders and felt inspired by the possibilities created through this dialogue.  

The palpable energy and inspiration from that experience provided us momentum to further explore imagination in leadership in this project. Drawing upon Kieran Egan's theory of Imaginative Education (IE) we explored what using cognitive tools might allow in educational leadership."

Q: How is the book organized? 

A: The book is organized into three themes: exploring possibilities, poetics of memory, and imagination's role in social justice and equity. These themes emerged from the contributing authors. Some authors fully interrogated and explored conceptualizations of imagination and the possibilities imagination presents in educational leadership. Some authors offered specific applications of imaginative processes, and some highlighted the connection between imagination, possibility, and pushing beyond the status quo to promote social justice and equity. Together, these themes provide a scaffolded approach to understanding imagination, how we can cultivate it in ourselves and others, and how it can open up new futures for schools and communities. 

Each section of the book starts with a leadership story from a practicing leader that exemplifies the theme. In order to make this book really useful in cultivating imagination, each chapter is followed by a page entitled “Cultivating Curiosity, Conversation, and Imagination” which poses questions for discussion and outlines a cognitive-tool focused inquiry question for readers to apply to their own practice.

Q: How was the experience of working with various authors and collaborating on this project?

A: It was a wonderful experience to see how different scholars and leaders are taking up the concept of imagination and how these complement one another. It is exciting to see the future directions for research and how we can continue to take this work forward collaboratively.

Q: Did you encounter any challenges while working on this project, and how did you overcome them? 

A: We knew going into the project that it would take time, but we are so honoured and grateful to be part of a community of people who are committed to promoting imaginative approaches in educational leadership.  We hope to continue to develop that network of like-minded individuals through the webinar series after the book is released.