Leapfrogging Sustainable Development: Exploring the strategic futures of production and policy through cosmolocal and commons-based design

A cosmolocal and commons based design course was held 0n September 20-21 2019 at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, entitled: “Leapfrogging Sustainable Development: Exploring the strategic futures of production and policy through cosmolocal and commons-based design”

The philosophy behind cosmolocalism emphasizes documenting innovation and keeping this knowledge open, so that it can be relocalized in other contexts and geographies around the world. It envisions a world in which each community’s innovations work is documented and remains open – so that we create a world of open designs and solutions. This becomes a resource for all of humanity to use for enhanced livelihoods and production within planetary ecological boundaries.   

The course was a collaboration between Dr. Jose Ramos (Action Foresight), Dr. Raji Ajwani (IIT Mumbai and Centre for Policy Studies) and Professor Shishir K. Jha (IIT Bombay and Centre for Policy Studies) and Michel Bauwens (P2P Foundation) and began with conversations initiated in September 2018, between Raji and Michel. The course was designed and delivered by Jose with the support and sponsorship of Raji and Shishir.    

Many countries are looking for new development pathways that can address systemic poverty and a host of sustainability and development challenges, including but not limited to the SDGs. Development strategists are increasingly keen to avoid “used futures” for development that perpetuate the development mistakes of the last few decades (large scale modernization projects with little sensitivity to local knowledge and needs, little regard to ecological boundaries, technological gigantism, etc.), and keen to find new approaches that work from community strengths, culture and needs while leveraging technological potentials. 

The workshop attracted a diverse group of people, from the UNDP, local NGOs, PhD students and others interested in learning about the commons and cosmolocalism. 

As a prototype, the workshop combined knowledge of a variety of cases (listed below), commons and cosmolocal concepts, together with a foresight to experimentation methodology called the Anticipatory Experimentation Method (AEM). The content and method used is documented here so that others can adapt either in their own contexts. We encourage others to use and adapt this to their own context – so that you can run something in your own community. We do ask that credit is given to the content developers in any reuse.  

Day 1 

Day one was a content heavy day, with the introduction of ideas and many cases. 


Introduction by Shishir Jha and Jose Ramos  Audio: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fu18ib644fvq4br/Iit%201.m4a?dl=0


Cases by Jose Ramos  Slides by Jose  


Audio presentation by Jose 


Cases by Raji Ajwani  Slides by Raji https://www.dropbox.com/s/yqa1x9297ejewj1/FINAL_RA_SEPT19_For%20Cosmolocal_Jose.pdf?dl=0

Audio presentation by Raji 


Presentation by Michel Bauwens (P2P Foundation)  https://vimeo.com/362939708 
Presentation by Andrew Lamb (Field Ready)  https://vimeo.com/362934622 
Presentation by Gabor Kiss (Envienta)  


Links to cases 


Here are two presentations, one by Michel Bauwens and another by Andrew Lamb – both are excellent. Michel discusses many thing, but he goes into the importance and role of the urban commons – examples from Ghent and Bologna.



Michel Bauwens – P2P Foundation from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.




Andrew Lamb – Field Ready from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.


Day 2

Day two was the design day, where we ran the Anticipatory Experimentation Method, and 3 groups worked on developing project ideas: 

The ideas included: 

  • Addressing drought among rural villagers 
  • Addressing the need for a policy innovation lab 

Because there was so much content, the time needed to flesh out ideas wasn’t available. This is something that needs to be better balanced in future. 

Explanation of Anticipatory Experimentation Method 

AEM – https://www.dropbox.com/s/q3mg2ntlwq2llys/1%20-%20Bridge%20-%20Intro.ppt?dl=0

For an explanation of the method see this article on medium – https://medium.com/@joseramos_30450/mutating-the-future-the-anticipatory-experimentation-method-17ca1244da8


Concluding Reflections 

  • What was clear was that the content resonated with people. There was a natural energy and eagerness to delve into the domain and also to be creative.
  • Also clear was the need to lean into the commons as a domain of knowledge and practice. Distributed manufacturing alone, technology alone, will not work to address the challenges people faced. Deep mutualization and commons governance (urban, digital, resource, etc.) are all needed. 
  • The conversation on enterprise cosmolocal quickly bled into a conversation on political economy. It was a natural progression because it is political economy that is the next frontier in terms of enablement. This is the partner state conversation and bootstrapping micro-political economies via the urban commons.
  • Too much space was devoted to cases. It made the whole process feel a bit stifled. Next time more space needs to be devoted to the design process. It might be good to lay out some design principles first, so that we don’t have to go through endless cases to get the point across. As well, a cosmolocal canvas could be useful so people can explore a bit easier.
  • It was a modest beginning. The whole thing felt a little rough around the edges, but it was also a prototype. So it was good to give it a try and get the experience. The next versions can build in the learnings.

I hope this content and documentation is useful in helping others use and adapt this in other contexts. Contact me if you need any advice in running this on your own.

And finally here are some photos for your enjoyment.







Carnival of Futures: one step at a time like this

one step at a time like this are a collective of performance artists who specialize in transforming the “audience” into the performer, through a unique approach to contemporary arts practice. Bridgette Engler and I were approach by one step about a year ago, to ostensibly “help them” with a futures project. Bridgette and I designed a creative and interactive process of two half-day workshops that would run them through a foresight process to envision the futures of contemporary arts practice – 50-100 years from now. However in what might be described as “inversion” or “entrapment”, we the futurists soon found ourselves being repurposed as props and performers in their own mad, inspired and brilliant reconfiguration of what we understand to be futures studies….

How did we end here in the first place?

Often it’s a question we ask ourselves when something has gone horribly wrong! In this case, we were delighted to become “futurists as props”, but the road here was both interesting and strange.

We had a number of “client” meeting with them over the course of a few months. Basically everything we threw at them, weak signals, causal layered analysis, design futures, mangled rusted nails, etc they chewed up and devoured. Many clients want the facilitator to do the brain work and make it all sweet and easy, and fair enough!!! Execs are pressured to perform, managers must manage. But this crew were different, they became true students, immersing themselves in our world.

After this we designed a futuring process that we thought they would enjoy and which would help them envision the futures of contemporary arts practice:

Half Day 1 

  • Forecasting game
  • Harman Fan scenario building

Half Day 2

  • CLA using Lego Serious Play
  • Integrated Visioning

Process Day 1

Forecasting Game

The forecasting game combined elements of emerging issue analysis (Graham Molitor) and  weak signals / future sign (Elina Hiltunen).

We started out by generating a list of “emerging issue” based on a brain storming process and with some dot voting.


Here is the list of issues with dot voting on key / interesting ones


We then ran a forecasting game based on the work of Elina Hiltunen (weak signals). Each made bets and wagers with funny money based on their assessment of whether an issue was weak to strong

Harman Fan 

Using these same issues as a basis, here Bridgette explains the Harman Fan scenario process


Here they are beginning to organise issues chronologically and narratively


and more organising


and more


Harman Fan is starting to take shape in a 100 year time frame …


final form of Harman Fan


Fan debrief with Bridgette

Process Day 2

Doing CLA with Lego serious play

We guided them through the layers of Causal Layered Analysis. One the downswing…  Litany, Systems, Worldview, Myth / Metaphor. On the upswing, what is the new myth / metaphor, what is the new culture, what are empowering systems / structures aligned to this, and what are the new KPIs, how do we measure this new narrative direction?

starting off with Causal Layered Analysis using Lego Serious Play


beginning to explore litany


litany constructions


exploring and crafting systems level problems


reviewing systems level


connecting up the systems into structural understanding


and deeper


and deeper


to worldview level / cultural depictions


and the statements around the “stakeholder’s” worldview


and more


working at myth metaphor level


and reframing


more reframing


and more


the mythic legoscape

Integrated Scenarios 

We used the integrated scenarios method developed by Sohail Inayatullah, with the group doing skits for each scenario.

depicting the used future


depicting the preferred future


depicting the disowned future


depicting the integrated scenario


depicting the outlier future

The aftermath

After the workshop we had some very good conversations about futures / foresight more generally. They were to take the experiences from the workshop as material to develop their performance. They hinted at the question of whether we might be interested in playing a part, which we were, but there was no idea as to what this might be.

A few months later, one step brought us in to see what they had in mind. Indeed, we were more than props, and had become active elements in their production. In the lead up to a showing, where the one step performance would be experienced by a cohort, we did a few runs and began to inhabit and play parts in their futures imaginarium.

The showing itself happened a few weeks later, where we got to experience the whole “performance”. In short, what they put together was amazing, rivalling anything I have seen or experienced. It was a remarkable fusion of futures and art, with unexpected combinations and hybrids – true “mutant futures”.

Where to from here?

Fast forward a year later, and one step have established this as a bona fide “performance” that the public can experience for themselves, called Carnival of Futures. The show will run from Wed 8 Aug to Sun 19 Aug (2018), at the Arts House in North Melbourne. Here as well is the Facebook page where tickets can be bought.

Here is their overview: 

How do we create the future?

one step at a time like this have created theirs using two futurists.

Carnival of Futures is a series of one-on-one micro-performances that dance around questions, insights and predictions of our personal and collective futures. A cavalcade – well, five or six – of experiential provocations, from the individual to the global, from science to seer, conjured to let you envision a pathway for the times ahead.

Share breakfast with a mutant futurist, kneel before an oracle, journey to your own end, measure your hope/lessness – or simply have a lie down.

A chance to pause and imagine, face difficulties and obstacles, Carnival of Futures invites you to reflect, act and ‘dream forward’.

“…few performances manage to so completely tear through the bubble of reserve in which we spend most of our lives.” RealTime, on en route

one step at a time like this (Suzanne Kersten, Clair Korobacz, Julian Rickert)
Collaborating Futurists:
Bridgette Engeler, Jose Ramos
Associate Creative:
Sharon Thompson
Lighting Designer:
John Ford
Associate Artist:
Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy
Erin Milne (Bureau of Works)
UK Producer:
Richard Jordan Productions
Supported by – Carnival of Futures is supported by the Besen Family Foundation, Bureau of Works, Richard Jordan Productions, and the City of Melbourne through Arts House. It was developed through CultureLAB.

Laboratorio Para La Ciudad (CDMX)

In late June 2018 I spent a week in the City of Mexico, to support the municipal government with a variety of foresight related challenges, through its Laboratorio Para La Ciudad (City Lab).

The Lab was founded and is led by Gabriella Gómez-Mont, as the experimental arm / creative think tank of the Mexico City government, reporting to the Mayor. It is highly innovative in its techniques and strategies for urban development.

“The Lab is a place to reflect about all things city and to explore other social scripts and urban futures for the largest megalopolis in the western hemisphere, working across diverse areas, such as urban creativity, mobility, governance, civic tech, public space, etc. In addition, the Lab searches to create links between civil society and government, constantly shifting shape to accommodate multidisciplinary collaborations, insisting on the importance of political and public imagination in the execution of its experiments.”

During the week I worked with the Lab’s Open City team, Gabriela (Gaby) Rios Landa, Valentina Delgado, Bernardo Rivera Muñozcano and Nicole Mey. I came away super impressed by their work, commitment and creativity. The work I was asked to do was highly varied and engaged a number of my specializations:

  1. To run a visioning workshop with Lab people and key stakeholders to develop a vision for an Open City for CDMX, that could help guide city development in an inclusive and participatory way.
  2. To deliver a talk on “Democratizing Design” in which I discussed some current “revolutions” in design and cosmo-localization from the perspective of the P2P Foundation.
  3. To run a design session to develop an anticipatory governance strategy for the application of artificial intelligence in CDMX.
  4. In addition I gave presentations to the Open City team on co-governance and the city as commons, vision mapping and the anticipatory experimentation (bridge) method.

Needless to say it was a big week!


For the visioning workshop, we started by using a technique called “vision cycles”, which is a way of mapping the history of an issue, but in such a way as to discover the previous visions that have informed development (what might be considered “used futures”) as well the current vision and its effects, and what ideas for the future are emerging. After this we did a short visualisation process that helped everyone to picture the future city in their minds eye. We then used the integrated visioning method first developed by Sohail Inayatullah, where we looked at the preferred future, the future that was disowned, and then developed an integrated future. Because of confidentiality I cannot provide the content of the workshop until the Lab’s report comes out, but I will share it when it is published.

One of the insights from the session is that cities have many selves, and it is worth interrogating what are a city’s dominant selves and what selves have been disowned. When a self is disowned and has no avenue for expression its behaviour shows up as undermining, disruptive, agitative. If the contradictions between the dominant self of a city and its disowned self is not resolved, then conflict can ensue. The integrated visioning method provides a way of seeing that can appreciate how the integration of the dominant and disowned selves of a city can lead to more wholistic or wiser development.

Anticipatory Governance

With an issue like artificial intelligence, there is not only great uncertainty regarding the potential impact on society, there is also definitional ambiguity as AI crosses many definitional boundaries (is it machine learning, neural networks, algorithms, robots, automation, etc), and the speed of the issue seems to be accelerating. Given this, the Lab was tasked with developing a set of policies for how this polymorphous issue is managed and governed. For this they asked me to apply the Causal Layered Analysis method of Sohail Inayatullah, and then to use the Anticipatory Governance Design Framework I have developed to provide the building blocks that can form an Anticipatory Governance framework for artificial intelligence. Needless to say the workshop was rich, exploring some of the core assumptions, word views and attitudes guiding peoples thinking, and new myth and metaphors that provides genuinely empowering pathways. Again, as before, because of confidentially I am not able to make this public until the Lab team publish their report. But I will share this as soon as possible.


In addition to this I gave presentation on some of my favourite subjects:

  • co-governance and the city as commons – they were already familiar with the work of Christian Iaione and Sheila Foster. This conversation was one of the biggest learnings for me. In particular while they appreciated the perspective on the urban commons, they questioned its translatability from the Bologna / Barcelona / Ghent context (small-medium sized cities, politically empowered pop) to CDMX (24 million people, highly stratified between wealthy / empowered and poor / marginalised). They also felt that the spirit of CDMX resists monolithic prescriptions and wondered where / what opportunities exist for heterotopic futures, plural futures within the city … rather than a single / monolithic city vision.
  • I also presented my work on vision mapping, the combination of visioning processes and online editable mapping based on open street maps and the map interface. One of the Lab teams were already using OSM for a project and there was considerable overlap in the use of participatory methods to map urban geographies and imaginaries.
  • As well I presented on the anticipatory experimentation (bridge) method, which was very consistent with the overall approach to the Lab, as they are explicitly an experimental arm of the city government tasked with charting new pathways for CDMX’s urban futures.


I presented on cosmo-localisation at a coworking space called wework, hosted by FabCity CDMX and Futurologi, where I got to meet Oscar Velasquez and Igna Tovar. With around 50-60 people I had chance to show off my bad spanish and my perfect spanglish. I spoke on a theme I’ve been developing with my colleagues through the P2P Foundation.

I describe Cosmo-localization as:

“… the process of bringing together our globally distributed knowledge and design commons with the high-to-low tech capacity for localized production. It is based on the ethical premise, drawing from cosmopolitanism, that people and communities should be universally empowered with the heritage of human ingenuity that allow them to more effectively create livelihoods and solve problems in their local environments, and that, reciprocally, local production and innovation should support the wellbeing of our planetary commons.” 

I worked on the themes of deep mutualization in the context of the anthropocene.

Slides are here. Audio here.

Impressions and reflections

Overall I came away very impressed with the city of Mexico as a whole. From crowdsourcing a new constitution, to becoming one of the first latin american regions to make itself LGBT friendly, to its attempts to create a universal basic income, and of course the work of the Lab, CDMX, despite its many social problems, is an oasis of intelligence and progressive politics. I got the feeling that the city is on the cusp of a renaissance and potential transformation. That is my hope for the city’s many people, most who struggle day by day for survival.

My own interest in working in CDMX stems from family history. My mom was born in the Colonia Roma, and she spent her first 12 years there before immigrating to the US with her mother and sisters. I grew up hearing stories with CDMX as the backdrop, not all pretty ones either. For my mom and her family, life was hard, they were very very poor, and they struggled day in and day out for survival. This has a distinct imprint on my sense of identity. Despite my relative privilege as a travelling consulting futurist, for the purposes of CDMX I know that I am the son of a mother who came from the harshest poverty, and that in another life I am one of “los de abajo”. For my mom and her family, “moving up” for them was working as maids for the wealthy in central Mexico city. It feels as if, because we suffered from inequality and the stigma of poverty, it is something that we know too well must be addressed to fulfil the promise of the city. The disowned must be integrated into the future of the city for all to flourish.

Train-the-trainer course in strategic foresight and horizon scanning

In early 2016 I got the opportunity to run a very exciting project dear to my heart. For years I’ve been conceptualising a design process for anticipatory governance. In 2012 I was given the opportunity to do the research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, where I compiled and made sense of the literature. I later wrote this into an article for the Journal of Futures Studies. My intention with the article was to really make it possible for any foresight consultant to review the 7 key strategies for anticipatory governance and support governments anywhere with building in the best approaches for their unique contexts. I saw the 7 approaches as a “design space” that provided a broad field of view of the issues and opportunities in the design challenge of anticipatory governance. I later put together the idea for an anticipatory governance design service.

The core idea is that anticipatory governance is absolutely central to social viability. Government is an important vehicle for organised and effective social responses to our challenges and aspirations. Governments have an important role to play in protecting and extending the social good (what is commonly valued), and in responding effectively to change (both opportunities and threats). And governments need to be able to operationalise all of this into effective strategies for change – through policies that facilitate and support better social outcomes.

But government cannot do this if they are not future oriented. If government is not in alignment with citizen’s ideas of the social good; or if government is not actively looking into how the future may be different than the present; or if government does not have effective operational strategies, then it is simply not possible for government to organise and support effective responses to our challenges and aspirations.

Many governments do their best, with piecemeal approaches. But any sober reading of our current situation across the globe should give pause for thought. We are not really responding effectively to the threat of climate change, a volatile financial system with moral hazards, the growing gulf between the super rich and the rest (tax havens), the changing nature of migration, and the looming disruptions we can expect from technology. This list goes on…

What we need are really holistic and robust approaches that can create the breakthroughs needed to address our real social and sustainability challenges, at many scales. Piecemeal foresight in policy-making will produce a few good ideas and initiatives and make us feel a bit better, but comprehensive approaches generate alignment between a clear reading of the shape of change and the breakthrough policies and strategies we use today that will get us to where we really want to go.

Now I feel it is an imperative to open source our knowledge and methods in this area so that we can accelerate social change, and support government and policy making that will well and truly address the real issues we are all are facing. In this spirit I want to make the methodology and approach I used and will continue to use as open and reproducible as possible for others who want to delve and work in this space.


In 2015 I was contacted by the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) in Brunei. CSPS were looking for high level capacity building, to develop the thinking and methods of strategic foresight and horizon scanning and build it into their policy and advisory role.

CSPS are the lead policy advisory organization for the government of Brunei, and are now also mandated to be a specialist in strategic foresight and horizon scanning to support future-oriented policy making across government.

CSPS thus specifically wanted a train-the-trainer approach that would leave them with all the ideas, tools and approaches that would allow them to reproduce my techniques so that they could apply it for various government departments and ministries. With this in mind, I proposed and developed an intensive program of training and design thinking that would train CSPS staff and select government participants.


Training, learning and design process 

The overall approach was broken into three parts.

  1. Part one was a four day intensive training on strategic foresight and horizon scanning methods and approaches.
  2. Part two was a two month action learning project, where the participants chose one or two approaches they were taught and applied it on a topic.
  3. Part three was a three day review and design process where participants first reviewed their projects, and moved through the action learning cycle to reflect and glean insights from their experience, and then engaged in a human centered design process for prototyping anticipatory governance systems.

Part One 

The first workshop in Feb of 2016 was 4 days in length and covered the following material:

The workshop was applied, and teams were not just introduced to the key ideas, but also practiced the various exploration and ideation methods unique to each methodology.

Part Two 

This second part was a two month action learning project where each of the three teams chose one or two methodologies to apply to a futures research problem.

Each team took it upon themselves to use what was learned in the intensive workshop and apply it to a public policy challenge area that they needed to tackle.

During that time I skyped each group at least twice to see how they were going and offer any advice and support. All the groups grappled with the research challenge well. Of course there was the standard getting lost in the forest, but equally the deep insights and clarity that comes from an experiential approach. All three teams ultimately did a great job.

Part Three

The final workshop, three days in length, was comprised of

  1. A forum for senior ministers in Brunei.
  2. An action learning review for their projects.
  3. A human centered design process to prototype anticipatory governance for their contexts.

For the forum I engaged the services of Cheryl Chung of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, who has many decades of experience using foresight for public policy and gave a presentation on ‘Foresight Studies and Horizon Scanning for Policy Making in Singapore’, shared her knowledge on what works for foresight work in the Singapore government / how it has impacted public policy making.

I also gave a shorter talk on what makes for empowering or disempowering approaches to the future in the context of government.


The forum organised by CSPS was high level and included senior ministers from major ministries. The forum went well and got quite a bit of press:

The forum was very important in building the visibility and legitimacy of the endeavour, and can be understood as a type of foresight communication, which is central to the effectiveness of foresight projects.

Day two was the action learning review, where participants got to reflect on their experiences in applying foresight, what worked, what didn’t, and what they would do different next time around. They also had a chance to reflect on the political challenges in doing foresight work, and what strategies can be effective.

Day three was dedicated to human centered design to prototype anticipatory governance strategies. We started with getting clear on the problem, design challenge and intended impact. We did some empathy work to better understand the “design ecology”. Importantly, I did not introduce or push the 7 strategies for anticipatory governance until after this, as I did not want to overly imprint their designs with programmed knowledge. But it became clear that in the context of a human centered design process for anticipatory governance, these 7 strategies were very useful in helping participants to reflect and incorporate key elements. In this regard the process was similar to Reg Revan’s action learning formulation of Programmed Learning + Insightful Questioning + Experience. We ended by road-mapping the prototypes and then developing narratives that can carry the meaning and message of the design efforts.


Final thoughts 

CSPS have taken very concrete steps to make themselves a robust foresight unit which will be able to advise government for years to come. They have put in great effort and have build substantial capabilities, and will continue to do so.

I feel fortunate to have been able to conceptualise a design space and design service, and have an opportunity to support a national government in applying such designs and knowledge. I have learned a lot and I am reflecting and considering how best to improve on this.

For the government of Brunei, I think they are in an opportune space to build in foresight approaches that can make their policy making truly innovative and which can lead to breakthroughs. There is a lot of work to do but I’m very confident they have made solid first steps.

My hope is for greater collaboration, sharing and the development of a Global Foresight Commons on what works in this space, so that we can enable a transition to future oriented government and the necessary transformations we need to create a world of long term wellbeing and prosperity.

Vision Mapping Melbourne’s Future

My close friend Darren Sharp from Social Surplus invited me to collaborate with him on the design and delivery of two half day workshops for the City of Melbourne’s “Future Melbourne 2026 Process“.

The project was unique in that we applied a new approach that brought together online mapping technology with appreciative inquiry visioning, strategic foresight and human centred design. The initial idea was published on futureslab.net in November 2015, and we worked through February and March 2016 to take it from idea to effective process.

A very detailed overview and synthesis of the project is available on the City of Melbourne’s website.

The map combining the appreciative inquiry and design data can be found here.

I’m very appreciative to Darren for bring me into this exciting project, and I’m looking forward to applying and evolving vision mapping for other communities and needs and looking forward to future collaborations and innovations.

Futures Prompter

Futures prompter is a simple, low cost social media based engagement process for an organisations wanting to have its staff explore and contribute their ideas about the future of the organisation.

Futures prompter was developed in response to a local council’s desire to involve a broad range of staff in a discussion about which new ideas and technologies to invest in over the next few years. There was a requirement to challenge participants and also leave space for them to contribute their own examples and ideas. Like many organisations councils funds are tight and this had to be a low cost endeavour.

We developed process which can be run on internal social media discussion channels like Yammer. After a brief introduction participants were able to view and comment on different ideas and examples of what the future might hold and how that might be relevant to their organisation.  This was presented as a safe space to add ideas and examples. The discussions moved through a sequence of typical future ‘voices’ in organisations (e.g, technological change) so that the was space for different types of views to be heard. At the end of the 3 week discussion participants were invited to rate which were the most important ideas which the council should invest in over the next few years.

It makes sense to use the collective intelligence of your organisation to frame a view of how scarce resources should be spent and to do this you need to engage a large number of people and challenge the dominant in-house thinking. The Futures prompter is a low cost product which can be run in-house by your team to do just that.

If you want to make sure that you’re covering your blind spots before making investment decisions, use futures prompter to engage your most precious resource; your staff, contact us at Action Foresight.

GLAM Innovation Study

CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation commissioned a study of next steps for digital innovation among Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums – the so-called GLAM Sector – in Australia. Action Foresight collaborated with Chris Winter and a team from Smart Services CRC and CSIRO to carry out the study using a foresight-driven approach.

The study used a two-day futures workshop to create a visionary space for the next 10 years in the sector.  The attendees worked collaboratively on a set of four key initiatives for the whole sector.

Due to time constraints the workshop was attended by mostly Sydney-based representatives of the sector, so we wanted to ensure that the ideas created by the attendees formed a sound, but forward-thinking agenda for the whole sector nationally. To achieve this, we held over thirty interviews in-person and online with heads and digital leaders in the sector nationally and overseas.  The feedback in these interviews ratified and developed the proposals from the workshop.

Issues raised by the study included new ways to access and interact with collections and information, changes to public use of cultural collections and new service and business models to fund and promote activities.  While the individual institutions and parts of the sector naturally had their own concerns, it was interesting to discover how similar many of them were.

The final report was released by CSIRO in August 2014 and been distributed to every GLAM institution at the state and federal level and all relevant ministers.


·      CSIRO press release

·      Museums Australia download page

·      Project website for the study

Financial Resilience Living Lab

Action Foresight was thrilled to be asked to manage the Financial Resilience Living Lab pilot for the Financial Resilience CRC bid earlier this year. Living Labs are ‘public-private-people-partnerships’; simply they are places where researchers, business, government, other organisations and people come together research a particular topic. They emphasise co-creation, innovation and sustainability. Living Labs treat the ‘end-user’, you and me, as knowledgeable participants in the whole process contributing to the design, evaluation, topics of study and opportunity rather than being ‘objects of study.’ More generally this is framed as a ‘demand side’ economic innovation policy particularly directed at service creation and directed a an economic view based on the service dominant logic economic theories of Steve Vargo and Robert Lusch.

The Living Lab pilot was a collaboration between Action Foresight, RMIT, Swinburne University, GSM, Smart Services CRC and the tlab participants in Dandenong. Unfortunately the government withdrew support for all CRC’s in this round, but the pilot showed the use of the Living Lab model for this kind of topic.

Our role was to make sure that the co-creation with the participants was central throughout the design of the program – to demonstrate that we could achieve the level of co-creation that could have lead to membership of the European Network of Living Labs the following year. Fortunately our university collaborators were of a similar mindset. The program as based on the best practice tool kit from Enoll. With our collaborators we developed a program that ran through the three key stages of the key iteration of a Living Lab project cycle, understanding the opportunities, designing solutions and evaluating them. The topic theme was based on insurance for people on low incomes. We deliberately looked for non-financial as well as financial solutions.  A typical scenario might be that we someone who is working on a casual basis their car breaks down and they can’t afford to get it fixed straight away as a result they can’t get to work for a few days and they lose their job. A small event triggering a much larger loss of income as well as the expense. Here the need is to be able to get to work not just have an insurance policy that protects the car. There may be solutions more akin to Uber than insurance policies.

The Action Foresight team have Living Lab expertise as well as expertise in related fields and techniques that are used in Living labs, such as action research, user centred design and of course futures. Action Foresight can help you design, set-up and run your Living Lab or your Living Lab project. Action Foresight and SustainSA  are currently working together with other collaborators to develop the Australian Network of Living Labs with the aim of promoting the development of Living Labs in Australia.

Creating the Age Friendly City: An Initial Evaluation

This research report was commissioned by City of Port Phillip (CoPP) and delivered by Action Foresight with the aim of improving the lives of older residents, both now and in the future. The major objective of this initiative was to provide a broad assessment of municipal strengths, weaknesses and gaps for the City of Port Phillip (CoPP) in relation to the World Health Organisation’s Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide and the Community Liveability Guide2 developed by Professor Laurie Buys and her team at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The research team drew from workshops, focus groups and interviews, augmented by online surveys administered by the CoPP. An environmental scan of related issues was conducted to provide an outside view and support future policy development within the CoPP.

The project was carried out by DeChantal Hillis, Dr. David Wright, Dr. Laurie Buys and Dr. José Ramos.

Open Futures Library

Every year there are hundreds of quality scenarios developed by futurists in conjunction with industry leaders and universities. To this we can add the many images, videos and short stories that are little ‘snippets’ of alternative futures that people generate each year. These are great resources to start some conversations about what the future might hold, but until recently there was no single place to look for these.

Action Foresight with the support of the Smart Service CRC changed this by developing the Open Futures Library. The Open Futures Library contains hundred of links quality scenarios and other depictions of the future. The library support search by subject, tags, time frame, topics and many other features. It’s free to join and you can add images as well as add comments to existing ones.

This provides you with a free entry point to have a look at some futures work and to be able to use it in your strategy, innovations and organisation design process. The video snippets can act as great conversation starters and the larger documents come with the authority of leading experts in the topic field, great for overcoming the “I don’t believe that” conversation shut down. The larger documents also provide the backing references and materials making them a great place to start your research and update.

Tips and traps for using material from the Futures Library;

  • Look for a mix of topic specific and general country, regional or world overviews
  • Look at all the scenarios in the set, not just the one that might back your business case
  • There are often great summaries which can be used as introductions
  • Look for at least one with quality experts to back the conversation
  • Use the references to start your own research
  • Wind tunnel test you business idea, design or innovation in each scenario in the set.