Introducing The Collective

Introducing The Collective

Radically reimagining how the university collaborates outside of itself

A Press Release from Incite

Recent student-led protests and demands have exposed long-standing fractures and crises of trust both within and outside the university. In the last months, Incite Institute’s partners and staff have identified significant sites of friction, where Columbia’s structure and financial arrangements are misaligned with the missions of our staff and partners’ values and change-making work.

In our collaborations with artists, activists, and organizers, Incite has demonstrated how institutions like Columbia can work with collaborators outside the university. Taking seriously Columbia’s stated fourth purpose to create societal impact through knowledge, we have resisted one-directional transmission of expertise, attitudes, and concerns. Our engagements have led to dozens of partnerships and brought hundreds of people into Columbia’s orbit. In doing so, we have centered our partners so that their ideas—with our support—can change the world.

Today, consistent with these efforts, Incite is launching The Collective, a place that aims to identify new financial, governance, and operational structures that align with our partners’ needs and values. The Collective is a hub for networks of people with a diversity of lived and academic expertises to learn from each other through doing and creating.

This effort represents a significant expansion of Incite’s mission, shifting our focus to include not just how we move knowledge to action, but also how action shapes and moves knowledge. This has been demonstrated in our recent work—building an interdisciplinary studio on the Lower East Side, providing financial support and a platform for farmers and workers organizing in the Philippines, and funding a collective of unhoused people to tell their stories on their terms.

“We have been building a new type of university in real time. For a few years, we have worked outside Columbia’s walls to support co-created and collective learning, deeply committing ourselves to the knowledge, expertise, and needs of our partners,” said Executive Director michael falco-felderman, who will step away from Incite’s day-to-day operations on July 1, 2024, to organize The Collective and associated projects. “This initiative cultivates space and capacity to radically reimagine accountability within institutions like Columbia and to reconfigure ourselves to center people ahead of profits. Collective action is a potent force for the knowledge and change needed to address the profound issues of our time.”

The founding activities of The Collective will be producing Logic(s) magazine, supporting our Queerly initiative, and working with other partners, faculty, and staff within and outside Incite who share an interest in radically reimagining universities. This year alone, these programs have backed 300+ individual contributors and dozens of partners, distributed 7,500 magazines, commissioned nine creative works involving 100 artists and performers, and attracted 1,500 attendees at live events.

Building on Incite’s current activities, The Collective will provide expanded forms of support to meet essential project needs of time, space, money, and connections. The Collective will also platform and seriously engage the demands of justice-oriented organizers, knowing that protest is an essential site for thinking, learning, and necessary transformation. The Collective necessarily supports and surfaces new kinds of governance structures for itself and for institutions like universities to carve out a rare site for free expression for public intellectuals and thinkers who have been systematically marginalized.

“This is a very public and important moment of reckoning with these institutions. Resistance is important, but our imagination must extend to also imagine what different sets of institutions could look like,” said J. Khadijah Abdurahman, editor in chief of Logic(s) and senior advisor to The Collective. “The Collective is a serious effort to decouple ourselves from those things that undermine our mission. Logic(s) has already been prototyping an alternate mode of producing public scholarship with different governance structures and mechanisms of accountability than the university—and we are ready to join with others who share these commitments.”

In keeping with existing projects, The Collective will demonstrate alternative models for advancing work and learning. It will advocate and demonstrate financial processes that favor transparency and value-aligned investments. Importantly, it will retain independence, as with all Incite initiatives, to freely and expansively explore new configurations that advance it and the university’s interest in knowledge production.

“These have been standout initiatives at Incite. We are very proud of all they have accomplished and the vision that has brought them to this place,” said Incite director Peter Bearman. “The Collective reflects our deep engagement with and support for work that centers our core values, for assembly, for innovative ideas, and for movements that contribute to the change needed to advance justice and equity. We recognize the importance of ensuring that our community partners, who have greatly contributed to the life of both the university and Incite, have a voice in decisions that implicate their work and their people.”

The Collective’s initiatives will develop and expand throughout the 2024–25 academic year.

This piece appears in Logic's upcoming issue 21, "Medicine and the Body." Subscribe today to receive the issue as part of a subscription, or preorder at our store in print or digital formats.