Notes from the #lote4 session on Learning to learn about futures thinking

Host: Nadia El-Imam

Notes contributed by: Caroline Paulick-Thiel, Annemarie Naylor,…

The participants of this session explained in a short introduction why they came to attend the meeting. The motivation differed quite a bit, and included ideas about

• using the future as a projection surface to enable people to do something different or

• how to unpack underlying assumptions of our surroundings to understand how to transmit innovation as well as

• being interested in a different way of thinking from the future into the present rather than thinking into the future based on concepts of the past.

Before starting to build possible future scenarios, we discussed concepts that are important to us to agree on one topic that would serve as the basis for our work in smaller groups. The group compiled different aspects of interest:

• over predictions of present, privacy law, data protection

• better measurement on the present, better analysis

• can overexposure of the present lead to the future of being less free, maneuvering space

• ways of working and emerging roles

• future of playing and playfulness, experimentation

• how to think about future future

• climate stewarding natural assets and digital assest and timeframes, time horizons

• collaborative spaces, in between spaces, third space (first family, second work)

• big organizations have difficulties spotting the seeds if of the future, how much taxpayers money is investing in a need, controlled futures, how do you talk about these futures that don’t fit in a project document, how do you talk about Edgeryders

Together we decided, that the challenge between present paradigms and future scenarios could be best examined by concentrating on the concept of persuasion. Our question was: What does persuasion look like from 20 years from now?

In groups of three, we brainstormed briefly basic ideas of possible futures scenarios.

Group 1: This group was thinking about how the collaboration of Edgeryders and the UN could look like in ten years.

Mili explained that 90% of the funds that UN will work with within the next ten years are already spend. Her interest was how to access the left over 10% to collaborate with experimental players that bring something new concerning a dialogue between commoners and governors, understanding better what people really need. What she was looking for a „sales pitch“ that would enable her to include a network like Edgeryders in future UN activities. Although we did not develop a sales pitch, we came up with a basis for two different scenarios:

  1. Based on preserving the present and assuming, that the UN would not change in their organizational structure and focus of activities, one could try to scale the value of the work and innovation that a network like Edgeryders is able to come up with.

  2. If trying to practice future thinking, can an organization like the UN still exist like it does today or will it have to adapt, change and possibly reorganize? Next to sustaining the current structures, we agreed that a foresight process within the organization for the organization would be needed to understand more about the impact, legitimacy and need of their work.

Group 2: We talked about the future of ‘persuasion’ - in particular, how to persuade people to try/do different

We identified the current model as something of a ‘cookie cutter’ approach – whereby people in institutions are limited to doing what they already think/know works and roll it out at scale – because of their approach to ‘risk’ (specifically, to the extent that they are stewards of ‘public money’ and prioritise the interests of private or corporate interests). We asked how that could change over the course of a 30 year period and came up with a number of scenarios – from pessimistic to optimistic; we agreed that what’s needed are ALT approaches to ‘risk’.

So, our scenarios included:

(1) no change;

(2) distancing or ‘out-sourcing’ of risk-taking to facilitate innovation using public monies (e.g. through endowments to organisations like NESTA – which, we felt, could themselves work better in relation to risk);

(3) social collaboration or in–sourcing of risk to facilitate innovation (e.g. developing platforms to work across sectors as per Spot the Future); and

(4) sharing risk through increased transparency for accountability and cloud funding for finance (I.E. the state says we want to spend x% of tax payers funding on R&D but will only spend that on things that citizens match-fund – so, crowd-source inputs to risk-taking where it involves public monies); and

(5) state turns risk-taker and develops R&D departments in-house unashamedly – as per:

NB: we didn’t agree which were the more/less (most/least) pessimistic and optimistic outcomes!