Future workshop

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Summary

The Future Workshop is a technique developed by the future researchers Robert `jungk, Rüdiger Lutz and Norbert Müllert. It is used to identify new ideas and solutions for social problems in participatory and strategy development processes and in the context of organisational development. Therefore, the method is perfectly applicable for finding new ways to minimise discrimination and maximise the organisation’s inclusiveness.

An optimal setting is from 15 people up to a few hundred people working together for 1–2 days.

Goal/Learning Objective/Expected Output

Formulation of energising plans of action to change the organisation, multiple creative ideas to address given problems, creating ownership for change processes.

Way/level of dealing with subject at stake

In-depth conceptualising, visioning, planning.

Application in moderation cycle

Opening up, finding feasible solutions.

Duration

0.5–2 days

Group Size

15–300 people

Level of difficulty

Medium

Facilitator

Ideally external, as they can more easily remove thought barriers in the fantasy phase and check for feasibility in the realisation phase through their external view. Due to the complexity of the process, especially for larger groups, it makes sense for a facilitator to have participated in a Future Workshop previously. If the group is larger than 30 people, it is advisable for there to be more than one facilitator.

Materials needed

  • Flip-charts
  • Facilitation cards

Optional: creative material and sticky dots.

Process description

Critique Phase

This phase is used to identify the current problems. It gives the opportunity to get rid of negative feelings and to ‘let off steam’. Critiques and negative experiences are brought into the group by brainstorming on cards (it is important that critiques are as precise as possible). It makes sense to let the participants start off on their own to write down their criticisms.

Then people get together in small groups of 3–4 people to share what they have come up with. Eventually, the small groups present their cards to the entirety of the participants. All the collected cards are then clustered into sub-topics by the group.

If there are many different sub-topics, you can prioritise the problems to be looked at more closely in the next phase. For that, give each participant the opportunity to mark, with a pen or sticky dot, the three sub-topics they find most relevant.

Count the marks and choose a reasonable number of sub-topics on which you want to focus (3–5 subtopics would be a good amount).

Fantasy Phase

In this phase wishes and ideas are collected, free of factual constraints and thinking barriers. The phase can be catalysed by creativity (painting, play, card decks with metaphorical pictures as stimuli etc.) and relaxation exercises (dancing and movement, meditation etc.). In small groups, people brainstorm and then develop utopias and visions regarding the topic. These ideas are presented creatively and visually for the whole group. The more creative and enjoyable this phase is, the better the results and the connection between participants.

It might help to reiterate that constraints do not exist in this phase, which might be supported by throwing in questions such as ‘if you had an unlimited amount of money, what would you do?’.

Realisation Phase

In the third phase the full spectrum of ideas is combined and checked for feasibility. The whole group comes together and discusses which approaches they would like to develop further together. Now, the utopias are contrasted with realities, and adjustments are made so that they can become possible. By formulating goals and objectives a connection between the current problem and the positive vision is made. This can happen in thematic working groups (possibly with facilitation by external experts). An action plan is crafted, which describes the next steps (as concretely as possible – what, by whom, by when, what needs to be considered etc.). The action plan is discussed and decided upon within the whole group at the end of the Future Workshop.

Debriefing options

Get together with all participants after the process and ask yourself:

  • How helpful was the separation of the problem (critique phase) and the utopias (fantasy phase)?
  • Could such a separation be applied to other problems you face?

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