What is a manifesto?
A personal manifesto is the Swiss Army Knife of self-awareness. Your manifesto can give you the confidence to take risks that are important to you and be persistent about pursuing goals you actually care about. You can use it to synthesize new ideas and knowledge, react to change with coherence and consistency, inform your intentions, be authentic with others, and avoid situations that lead to regret. Your manifesto can be the life raft you build to keep your head above the waters of change, travel the oceans of new technology and complexity, and work your work a little wiser every day.
Why do you need one?
You need tools to navigate the sea of change. You need the advice of a teacher, the hard-won knowledge of your own experience, the wisdom of a guru, the challenge of a goal. Some compass to carry with you on the crowded path of living. You need a manifesto to recruit yourself into exercising your power as a creator and change maker. To filter the signal from the noise. To know—not just what you can do, but what you should do, what you must do, and how to do it.
In You Need a Manifesto: How to Craft Your Convictions and Put Them to Work Charlotte Burgess-Auburn demonstrates how to use the tools of design to create your own manifesto. She outlines a five-step process for crafting a manifesto that is both “a statement of purpose and a script for action”:
- Commence- begin by actively examining your values and beliefs.
- Consider- become familiar with your goals, values, ethics, and biases.
- Collect- deliberately look for manifestos, guidance, prescriptions, and other texts written by people who have gone through their own process to distill wisdom out of their experiences.
- Curate- explore different frameworks and formats to organize collected statements into a manifesto.
- Cultivate- turn your manifesto momentum into a bridge for your community.
Developing a manifesto is a deeply personal process that begins with intentional and deliberate self-reflection. You have to commit to examining our goals, values, and beliefs before you begin to craft your personal statement. Collecting and curating are also invitations to reflect as you identify what resonates with you and why. Although the first four steps are completely individually, step five opens the many possibilities for manifesto creation to move from the individual to the community.
Not only would developing a manifesto be a powerful activity for teacher teams and staffs to undertake to establish shared beliefs, values, understandings, and opportunities for learning, there are many possibilities for adapting this for the classroom:
- launching it as a getting-to-know-you and community-building activity at the beginning of the year
- practicing using mentor texts by noticing and naming specific qualities and characteristics of manifestos gathered during the collection process and then articulating how the mentors informed the process and final product
- establishing a practice of using a writer’s notebook as a tool for collecting and curating by capturing and writing beside the manifestos gathered for inspiration
- engaging in partner, small-group, and whole-class discussing throughout the process to share what worked, what didn’t, new discoveries, next steps, etc.
- annotating the final product by responding to prompts such as: Why did I choose this format and content? What examples informed my manifesto and why? What does the manifesto reflect about me? What did I learn about myself in the process?
- self-reflecting over time by considering: How is my manifesto guiding me as a learner? How is it reflected in my actions, interactions, and the work I create? As my values, beliefs, and goals evolve, do I need to update my manifesto?
You can find lots of manifestos online, but here are a few to get you started:
How to Craft a Brand Manifesto (Guide + 10 Examples
How to Create Your Own Manifesto: With 3 Gorgeous Examples to Inspire You
The Agile Manifesto
The Expert Enough Manifesto from Coding with Empathy
How to Live by Charles Harper Webb
Like the other titles I’ve explored in this series of Stanford d. school guides, You Need a Manifesto is readable, colorful, beautifully designed, and inspiring. You can read my review of Design for Belonging by Susie Wise here.