A Future Workshop is a method for planning and forming a vision of the future. Workshops help define aims and identify problems.
Future workshops incorporate a three phase process, sometimes preceded by presentations which outline the workshop objectives:
- Critical analysis phase involving detailed analysis of the situation/technology
- Visionary phase where future visions are built upon the analysis in the first phase; these are then subject to a reality check.
- Implementation phase where the visions are turned into actions
Following the completion of the workshop the action plan should be monitored and if necessary adjusted with more workshops planned. A future workshop can last for a few hours to a few days. One of the most common model involves a one day workshop where the critical phase takes place in the morning, the visionary phase takes place in the early afternoon and the implementation takes place in the second half of the afternoon.
*the scenario workshop method is a more developed version of the future workshop method grounded on the same key principles. Scenario workshops are based scenarios of the future formed in advanced. Participants’ experiences and critiques of these scenarios form the basis for future visions and action plans. Its aims are similar to the future workshop as well as also seeking to gather knowledge about barriers and participants experiences and visions on the topic. The scenario workshop works with 25-30 participants and includes other people from the community such as politicians, civil servants, technical experts, private sector and civil society organisations.
The purpose of a future workshop method is to formulate concrete solutions and action proposals with a group of participants based on their own experiences. Future Workshops are usually held on a local issue or challenge or in connection with the planning of a local action concerning a particular development.
A Future Workshop usually involves 15-25 participants. Usually these workshops are open to all with some targeted selection. The aim is to involve participants who are directly affected by a problem and are in a position to remedy it.
Low to medium
Approximate time expense
From 1 to 3 months planning. The workshops themselves are likely to be held over 1-2 days.
When to use
The future workshop method is particularly suited to assessing technological issues at the local level, and usually takes place to assess the local applicability of a given technology. The results of a future workshop may be included in a report, but most importantly they should lead to action and /or the creation of a new interest group. The idea is to work towards action proposals the participants can implement themselves.
- Can be helpful in integrating a citizen-led perspective into local decision making
- Can help participants overcome their own bias in relation to a specific technology and encourage them to hypothesise future forms and uses of a technology.
- Can empower usually marginalised groups
- Sometimes group dynamics can affect the outcome of a deliberative process
- Participants may spend too much time on one issue, for example the technology, failing to fully evaluate social, economic and political implications of associated sector changes.
- Workshop evaluations have a tendency to overestimate potential for action.
- Scenario Workshops are not suitable for narrow issues.
- Additionally, organizing participants from across the community can be difficult, because it requires a good amount of planning to ensure diversity of participants and a rewarding workshop session.
- Group dynamics can affect the outcome of the deliberative process. For instance, different exercises will have similar results.
- The ‘opacity of context’ is another issue confronted by scenario workshops when participants become focused on particular aspects of a certain sector, such as technology, but do not fully evaluate the social, economic and political implications of the associated sector changes.
This method has been developed by the Danish Board of Technology.
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