Conceptual Prototyping with Futures Action Model


The Futures Action Model is a conceptual prototyping and modelling framework, that provides the bridge between transformational futures thinking and powerful action, through real-world experiments. In order to develop breakthrough conceptual prototypes and models, we need to challenge and transform our images and understanding of the future. FAM provides a powerful way of integrating this futures thinking into conceptual prototypes and models, and is therefore the “keystone” method in the Anticipatory Experimentation / Bridge Model. It is also a useful framework to “wind-tunnel” policies and strategies against assumptions about the future and scenarios.


FAM model

The Futures Action Model (FAM) is a proven framework which enables the rapid prototyping and rigorous conceptual development of breakthrough strategies and models. FAM is a comprehensive approach in which team and network-based creative and analytic processes enable new strategies and models to emerge. It was designed to accelerate our ability to ideate breakthroughs that are the seeds of the futures we intend to grow.

FAM has two primary applications:

Business: Futures Action Model for Business Innovation

Government: Futures Action Model for Policy Ideation

Government: Futures Action Model for Wind-tunneling Policies and Strategies

Futures Action Model – Short Overview from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

FAM has been applied in a number of settings, explained in this FAM resume. A comprehensive overview including theory, practice and some case studies is available here: FAM article.

Expanded Explanation

The Futures Action Model provides a way of exploring emerging futures and challenges for an issue, and developing creative and breakthrough initiatives to address them. There are 4 basic parts to it. Emerging Futures, global responses, the community of the initiative and the core model.

First, given a contemporary issue, such as climate change, transport challenges, public health, educational development, or any number of issues, there are ‘emerging futures’ associated with it. This includes any trends, emerging issues, existing scenarios and projections for this particular issue. The basic question here is: what is the nature of the emerging futures for this particular issue?

But then, there is a subset to this. There are some people around the world who are responding in creative ways to this issue. So here we explore global responses to this issue. But, why search globally for responses, when we’re dealing with an issue in a particular place? What does one person or groups creative response to an issue in their part of the world, have anything to do with what you are dealing with? The simple answer is that the world has become a great big learning laboratory.

For any emerging futures challenge there are also  global responses – all the ways in which people are responding from many walks of life. Paul Hawkens calls this a global auto immune response, because.. even though people may be separated by vast oceans, people may be experiencing similar challenges. And for any challenge there are people excited about tackling it, and many of these people or groups are connected through informal or formal networks across geographic regions.  So in this part of the process we map the variety of responses from around the world. Community initiatives, government policies, emerging technologies, networks, media, anything intended to create change in responding to this issue.

Within this global response space there are those that you may want to engage to develop your unique community of the initiative. This aspect is all about finding those people who care about collaborating with you in creative ways to address the issue that you care about. Your community of the initiative can be located across a city, a geographic region, an organization, or network or community. Building a community of the initiative entails finding ways of harnessing the energy, expertise and potential that exists in the world, locally and globally, to support our change initiatives. It may include experts, advisors, volunteers, funders, organizations, media groups, networks, anyone.

This community of the initiative forms a potential value ecology of the initiative. A value ecology is a set of stakeholders that find synergies through modes of dynamic exchange. It is like the metaphor of the bee and the flower. While very different species, they exchange value in fundamental ways. The flower gives the bee food. The bee helps pollinate the flower for sexual reproduction. And others may derive value from this…

And this takes us to the last aspect of the model, the initiative or enterprise that we are modeling. Here, we imagine and model an initiative that would effectively address the emerging challenge or issue that we are working on, by harnessing this community and developing a value ecology. It is the initiative and its core model that holds the logic of the value ecology, it organizes, develops and sustains this value ecology.

There are 3 elements of the core model:

  • First we want to develop the purpose of the initiative – why are we here? What is meaningful and inspiring?
  • Secondly, we want to develop the resource model of the initiative – how will we get the resources we need to do what we want to do?
  • Thirdly, we want to develop the governance model – how do we organise ourselves and make decisions about what to do?

These 3 elements of the core model makes the initiative effective in sustaining the emerging value ecology, which comprises a response the emerging futures for an issue.

Together the categories of the Futures Action Model, the core model, the Community of the Initiative, Global Responses and Emerging Futures, provides a solid foundation for imagining and developing an initiative.

1) The category of the community of the Initiative provides a bases for understanding who are the critical partners, collaborators and stakeholders, who have resources, connections, and potential that can support the initiative, and form a value ecology. The community of the initiative provides the context for the core model: its purpose, resource model and governance systems.

2)  The category of Global responses provides a rich tapestry of examples from around the world (a global learning laboratory) which can inform what gets developed locally. Scanning globally, we may find a significant gap in the field of responses, which the initiative is able to fill. Or perhaps what someone is doing in some other context can be adapted locally.


3) the category of Emerging futures provides a landscape of change within which the initiative is conceived.  Thus we can image and model an initiative  that does not just deal with yesterdays and today’s problems, but is created to thrive in today and tomorrow’s opportunities, risks and possibilities.

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