Project Info


In the summer of 2020, the death of George Floyd inspired the world to understand & speak out against systemic racism. The Smithsonian partnered with DME and MERGE design agency to launch Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past, a multi-media initiative created to engage every American in conversations and help build a more equitable future.

Our Challenge

Each potential participant brings their own unique perspective and background to these discussions. Many people who should be participating in this conversation aren’t for various reasons—from apathy and ignorance, to simple self-consciousness and fear. Those who are involved often feel fatigued, frustrated and potentially critical of newcomers and their intentions. To meaningfully engage these audiences, we had to understand their outlooks.


If we created a private intimate space with the potential audience, we could speak frankly about a deeply sensitive and emotional topic to better understand the hopes that trigger their engagement and the fears that create withdrawal.


  1. We designed an in-depth qualitative study
  2. Recruited everyday Americans as well as Experts and Advocates already working in the space
  3. Analyzed insights across both groups
  4. Facilitated a workshop to develop features of our initiative
  5. Created a Customer journey map of our participants experience understanding race


  1. We analyzed the results of our study and found 5 distinctly motivated groups who were invested in the subject and had close relationships with those who were most apathetic to these issues
  2. We advised the Smithsonian to use their platform to elevate voices already working in the space to increase trust in the brand's participation.
  3. Interviewees found the process of our study cathartic and thanked us for providing a safe space for them to tell their stories. They found it much easier to approach the subject with people who seem apathetic.
Overview of the personas developed from our qualitative study

More About Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past

Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past offers a space for dialogue about race. It provides a safe and collaborative place where anyone can share experiences and increase their understanding of the legacy of race and racism.

Drawing on the breadth of the Smithsonian's expertise, research, and collections, our goal is to help advance the work of others. Race and Our Shared Future provides an ecosystem of resources and experiences, both digital and live, featuring real conversations from local communities to national events.

Confronting race and racism is difficult, but necessary work. The Smithsonian strives to amplify your voices in our commitment to building a more equitable path toward our shared future.

An initial analysis of audience engagement on the topic of race and racism.
A customer journey mapping a participants journey from ignorance of the impacts of racism to actively trying to dismantle it
Overview of the personas developed from our qualitative study
We created a persona based on ouor most passionate participants called Revolutionary Caregivers
We created a persona based on participants who were eager to learn called Contemplative Teamplayers
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