The Foresight Epidemic

The ‘foresight epidemic’ was a project done as part of research with the Smart Services CRC, to investigate the extent to which contemporary social media can be harnesses as platforms for developing public foresight.

We used a variety of futures studies methods to explore topics chosen by interest from the public. Topics included:

·      The futures of citizen insurgencies

·      The futures of work

·      The futures of childhood education

·      The future of cities in the Asia Pacific

With each topic we employed a new futures method that we twined with a new social media strategy.  We followed an action research strategy of 1) designing a new foresight approach, 2) running it as an experiment in engagement, 3) evaluating how it went. We also employed triple loop learning theory to test our team assumptions with regard to the ‘why’ of the activity (purpose), the strategies we considered best and the tactical and operational dimensions of what we were doing.

Critical insights from the action learning experiment included:

·      The power of images in facilitating people’s engagement and ability to mash-up scenarios

·      The importance of distributed and embodied ‘co-presence’ – even while not physically present, sensory engagement is still fundamental

·      The potential for twining physical and virtual interactions is real but requires design and intelligent implementation

·      Smaller groups engaging in coherent and high quality conversations about the future is preferable to large scale groups with less coherence – there is a trade off with the scale and network capacity of social media.

Bendigo a Thinking Community

In 2012 we put forward a proposal to run an intensive and large scale foresight capacity development process for the citizens of Bendigo in Victoria, Australia.  The objective of Bendigo-A Thinking Community was to encourage and engage with the community to think deeply and strategically about expectations and aspirations to develop a more prosperous, liveable and sustainable society.

A rural city two hours (by train) North-West of Melbourne, Bendigo is facing a number of long term challenges and changes. The current population of approximately 100,000 is set to increase dramatically over the coming decades. Demographic shifts and new migrant populations are changing the cultural landscape. The impact of climate change, already felt in the region, remains an ever present and uncertain factor. The industrial and economic base of the city is also in transition.

We were engaged to run a nine month foresight program for 50 participants, the goal of which was

to inspire [the] city to become renowned as a thinking city. A city, that can think creatively for the long-term. A city, that attracts and inspires the most creative people. A city that thinks beyond the next political poll, TV series or annual report. We already have wonderful thinkers in Bendigo. But do we have the skill set as a City to think long term? Can we inspire our community to be actively engaged thinkers?

In 2013 we designed and over nine months ran a program that involved four full day live large group workshops and six online webinars.  The content of the workshop include:

·      Using the Futures Action Model as a framework to facilitate foresight informed social innovation

·      Setting up and facilitating a social media platform for a shared Horizon Scanning process

·      Group / team based exploration of a variety of foresight themes and innovation topics, many which led to social interventions and innovations

·      Use of the Three Horizons framework of change to help groups conceptualize change strategies

·      Use of a narrative foresight approach, including the use of Causal Layered Analysis, to create a new story / narrative for the development of the region.

·      Production of a story artifact.


NORA Leader’s Summit

The National Online Retailers Association (NORA) is the peak body for online retailers in Australia. Bringing its members together for its inaugural conference in 2013, NORA wanted to provide and space to collaborate, network and articulate the needs of its members. Over the day and half event the attendees were able to share their thoughts about the future and explore these through six archetypal futures. In an industry driven by hourly results, thinking about the future can be difficult but our program was designed to provide both stimulation and a sense of safety. Over the course of the event the attendees – many of whom had never met – were able to created connections and articulate a desired future for their industry.

AIMIA Strategic Visioning

The board of AIMIA, Australia’s peak body for the digital industry, invited Action Foresight to provide a strategic futures workshop over two evenings, one week apart to stimulate a deep rethink of the focus and purpose of the organisation and to develop practical steps toward a renewed vision. We used a version of our Four Futures workshop to enable the sixteen person team to imagine, design and document four key future initiatives to communicate to their new, incoming CEO. For AIMIA, using a foresight-based process enabled them to be both visionary and collaborative at the same time – integrating their diverse ideas, but also honing in on shared purpose and a common sense of a new vision.

Community Pulse Project Strategic Evaluation

The Community Pulse Project (CPP) is the City of Port Phillipʼs (CoPP) project for collecting data on changes the community considers important to
measure. CPP was set up in 2001 and, after 10 years in operation, the City of Port Phillip established a process to evaluate the project. This evaluation
looks back at 10 years in the development and innovation of the CPP, and looks forward at the strategic issues and options the project encounters
moving into the future. The evaluation was conducted between June 2011 and December 2011. Drawing data from 23 interviews, three in-depth large-group consultations with stakeholders, and extensive archival material, this report provides the results of a comprehensive evaluation of the project, and an analysis of its emerging strategic options.

The Community Pulse Project was set up in 2001 to allow the Port Phillip community to measure what matters to them. Its establishment was, in part, driven by a belief that it is important to understand how the community is changing in a variety of ways: environmentally, socially, economically and culturally. It addition it was guided by an understanding that community changes across these four areas are interconnected, and that a holistic view of change is required. These four areas are considered to be four pillars of sustainability, and have guided the development of CPP from its inception. Developed based on extensive community and expert consultation, the CPP created a series of indicators of change. CPP comprises 13 indicators with specific measures within each indicator to track community well-being. In its own words:

The Community Pulse helps our community to track long term trends on issues that they are passionate about and stimulate broader community awareness and action. The Community Pulse is particularly useful for things that may be changing at a pace that is difficult to detect, such as the gradual erosion of affordable housing.