Project Summary: Andrew Slack is an experienced performer and social organizer who started the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) as a first step toward harnessing the energy of a popular story toward activism and civic engagement. Ready to take his unique model of fan activism to the next level, “Imagine Better” goes far beyond the Harry Potter series, organizing fans of multiple popular books, TV shows, and movies to become the heroes they aspire to be by taking action in the real world.
At her Harvard commencement speech, JK Rowling said "We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
By harnessing the imagination of those who dare to imagine themselves as the heroes in their favorite stories, Imagine Better will help create an empowered citizenry of fan activists prepared to innovate solutions around the complex problems of systemic poverty, human rights atrocities, and social inequality. This unprecedented coalition of fan activism will enable us to get beyond the technocratic details that make activism inaccessible with respect to how we as human beings communicate: through story.
Context: In today’s society popular books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have brought together millions of fans from around the world, the Harry Potter Alliance's Accio Books campaign is the flagship book drive that allows fans to share their love of reading and highlight the importance of books in their lives. HPA's first campaign in 2009 was able to generate about 14,000 books. In 2010, HPA expanded its efforts by engaging a larger fan coalition that goes far beyond Harry Potter and donated over 41,000 books.
Imagine Better will coordinate this cross-fandom collaboration, the fan-based book drive started by the HPA will soon be raising over 100,000 books annually. Imagine Better will build a vibrant online community that is regularly engaged with its audience and allows for faster mobilization with deeper impact and longer-term engagement.
Provocative Proposition: Fans that dare to imagine themselves as the heroes in our most popular books, TV shows, and movies have the power to apply an unparalleled level of creativity and enthusiasm, community and stamina essential to addressing our world’s most pressing issues.
Bio: As a performer, Andrew Slack grew disenchanted when he discovered that while he could attract the attention of 1,000 students with a comedy show, a human rights group on the same campus would be lucky to get 5. The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) was his first step in harnessing the energy of popular culture toward civic engagement and social activism.
Under Andrew’s leadership, the HPA has inspired a network of over 1 million fans, created 130 chapters internationally, sent 5 cargo planes with supplies to Haiti, built libraries across the world, and continues to advocate for equality, media reform, and human rights.
His ideas have spread: USC has called Andrew’s approach “a premier model for civic engagement for the 21st century.” He’s written for the LA Times and CNN, been featured by NPR, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, Forbes.com, and has been applauded by JK Rowling in Time Magazine. He’s spoken at TEDx Rome and San Diego, served as keynote speaker at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and headlined an event with Mohammed Yunus.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University, Andrew is now prepared to take his work to the next level by going beyond Harry Potter, empowering fans across popular culture in an unprecedented movement where fantasy is no longer an escape from our world, but an invitation to change it for the better.