Futures Literacy Know Labs

How does it work ?

Image by Miguel A. Amutio

Future studies as a discipline exists since many decades, and provided us with a rich toolbox of future foresight methods ever since. 

 

A more recent format are 'Futures Literacy Labs' (FLL) that use a mix of these methods, in changing constellations according to the specific context and anatomy of every foresight project.

The main objective in FLLs is to identify expected, preferred and alternative futures. FLL make use of different foresight methods but also add their own layer and perspective to the process.

 

Futures Literacy Labs

A  Futures Literacy Lab typically follows the following phases: 

fll phases.png

A 4th 'Redo' phase is often added to the process as the best FLLs are those where participants engage in real action following the lab's learnings. 

What makes a good FFL ?
  • An FLL should start with one or more strong and carefully chosen questions as the value of the outcome is directly linked to the quality of those question(s).
     

  • Every single stakeholder, every single point of view should be represented in an FLL in order to maximise the use of collective intelligence and imagination.
     

  • FFLs can last from a one day workshop to a several months process.
     

  • An FLL should be based on real dialogue, where everybody has an equal voice, bypassing existing hierarchies.
     

  • The process of FFLs should be inspired by inclusive and collaborative facilitation methods like The Art of Hosting, Open Space, World Café and Appreciative Inquiry.
     

  • Also, the particularity of an FLL is that it explores expected, preferred and alternative futures ("outside the box"), to stimulate imagination and creativity, based on existing and emerging anticipatory assumptions, questioning them, thereby going further than some of the more traditional foresight methods that only operate within the current system.
     

  • An FLL should also embrace playfulness where possible, to make it a gratifying and engaging experience for all participants.
     

  • FLLs have to be carefully planned and skilfully moderated.
     

  • FFLs also are a discursive way for investigating the future as opposed to more normative ways for investigating the future.
     

  • Different below mentioned Future Studies Methods will be used during an FLL based on the project's specificity, scope, anatomy and context.

Future studies methods

Some commonly used frameworks in future studies and foresight science are :

  • Trend analysis

  • Scenario Planning

  • Visioning

  • Indicators

  • Delphi method

  • Horizon Scanning

  • Systems analysis

  • Futures wheel

  • Singularities

  • Cross Impact

  • Theme tree

  • Roadmaps

  • Robust decision making

  • Weak signals

  • Futures triangle

  • 3 Horizons

  • Casual Layered Analysis

  • Backcasting

  • and others.

Some of these frameworks overlap in their scope and methodology, but also have their own perspective as a starting point. The art of futurizing includes the ability to choose the right mix of methods for every foresight project.

The right method is chosen along the nature of future exploration to be undertaken:

  • Anticipating what is next

  • Discern implications of emerging issues

  • Create different scenarios of the future

  • Adapt culture to needed deep transformations

  • Better communicate the future

  • Putting a vision into action

Methods can also be classified along the following criteria:

 

  • the level of expert knowledge required for applying the framework,

  • the considered time horizon for each foresight project, 

  • whether the method can be used outside of the considered system or whether it requires an interaction with that system

  • whether the method uses rules to steer the system or whether new systems can emerge

They therefore also differ in their ability to imagine something completely new, often referred to as preferred and even alternative futures, as compared to the mere expected futures. And that again is the main added value of a Futures Literacy Lab as it broadens the space of possibilities for futures.