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Structures of Support Survey V 2.0

For nearly two years, our ongoing project “Structures of Support” has explored the notion of support. The essential question we raise is about the structure of support at the scale of the individual, a network of resources — obvious and unseen — which contribute to a particular quality of life. What exactly are the complicated webs of familial, social, and institutional forces that provide robust, redundant support for some while leaving others at a loss? In an effort to better develop frameworks for individual and collective support, we continue this project through qualitative research, public visualizations, and participatory conversations and workshop. We created a survey, asked you what you thought support was, and then displayed the results of that survey at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota and at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia. We shared our own ideas and experiences of support in a series of blog posts, and we hosted workshops at The University of the Arts, Open Engagement, and Youngstown State University.

Through all of this, we have gained more clarity about the attributes and impact of structures of support. It is the power of relationships, the need for institutional safety nets, the value of public spaces, and the importance of self-awareness around our own personal supports that can create a richness of life. After reflecting on the data gathered to date, we have now revised the original Structures of Support survey, both condensing it and focusing it more on non-monetary factors. We’re using this moment of revision to share the project and survey with new audiences in the hope of continuing to collect new insights about support. We need you to help us by taking this survey. Even if you have already engaged with the project, this version focuses more on sharing stories and deep reflection, which we have found to be meaningful for those participating in our workshops and conversations. Responses will not be identified by individual, and all responses will be compiled together and analysed as a group. It should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Follow this link to complete the survey.

Structures of Support – We need your help!


No one makes it through life entirely on her own. Holding up each of us is a structure of support that helps us maintain and nourish our quality of life. Some people have a robust, healthy support structure — so healthy that they are almost unaware of it. Others’ support structures are weak, unhealthy, even non-existent, and that lack of support often puts them at risk.

We want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future. We also want to break the mythology of bootstrapping that is so prevalent today and so embedded in the dominant narrative of our culture. In pursuing these questions, we need your help.

Based on our recent research and thinking, we have developed a survey which explores support structures — both personal and institutional. As the first step in a multi-phase project, this survey will provide us a baseline of data and stories. We imagine this information laying the groundwork for future workshops, visualizations, and conversations that probe our structures of support. In the survey we ask questions in four categories: Self Support, Space & Place, Others in your Life, and Quality of Life. Help us by taking fifteen minutes to share your story. All responses are voluntary and will be kept confidential.

To complete the Structures of Support survey, please follow this link.

We Are The Think Tank that has yet to be named

Over the last year, we have spent a considerable amount of time mining our history and discussing the possible futures of our collaboration. This website redesign and a reinvigorated practice are the results of that exploration. We are excited to begin working on new projects that continue to investigate complex sociopolitical issues through research, conversations, and actions.

This new website is also a nod to our past. The Think Tank began in 2006, and though our concerns have remained somewhat constant, the working structure and membership of the Think Tank has varied over our 6+ years. With this redesign we have removed the directorship titles, allowing visibility of our past collaborators in a way that we hope honors the challenging and enlightening perspectives they brought to our practice.

We can’t wait to share our developing projects with you. Take a look around. Join our mailing list. We hope you’ll be in touch.