We would like to introduce the Open Futures Library, a free, publicly-contributed, indexed, searchable collection of future scenarios and other depictions of the future, which we hope will be a component of a larger global foresight commons. Every year Futurists create hundreds of scenarios; designers, scientists, artists, filmmakers and others also create many depictions of alternative futures. These typically appear on websites, some of which have a flurry of activity associated with them and then disappear from public view – and a great resource is subsequently wasted.
In our work with the Smart Service CRC in Australia we became interested in the potential to use existing scenarios as an affordable and easy way of prompting discussions about the future – discussions which supported other methods we used. We felt that there was great potential to explore new methods for small organizations, which normally don’t have the resources for larger scale futures projects. Exploring this idea with other Futurists, we found that many already maintained a set of interesting scenarios. We also found that larger organizations (for example the Australian Tax Office) maintain a database of scenarios. For people who are not regularly scanning for scenarios, finding them can be difficult and time consuming, especially if you have several topic areas to investigate. With the popularity and frequency of scenario use increasing, we felt there was an emerging need for a repository where people can store and explore these depictions of alternate futures.
The Open Futures Library is our answer to this problem. Our goal with the Open Futures Library is to provide a repository which indexes each depiction of the future by the kinds of criteria that matters to users and which makes it reusable. This will make searching for collections of scenarios easier and provide a place to comment on the use and quality of the scenarios. As with the laws of physics, Space and Time are critical variables in the construction and use of scenarios. The current build of Open Futures Library allows users to search and input scenarios by geography (e.g. China) and future-time scale (e.g. 2030). But we hope this is only a starting point.
We believe that that there will be many opportunities to develop the library, for example, being able to work with sets of scenarios in a project format that employs new methods in comparative analysis and synthesis, which may also bring new insight to our current field related practices. While we built it, it is a creative commons resources and belongs to you and the world. We invite you to join the Open Futures Library, give us your thoughts, feedback and shape the next stage of this project. We would like to thank the Futurists and organizations that helped shape and contribute data to this project. The Open Futures Library was developed and supported by the Smart Services CRC, Australia. Thanks also goes to Noah Raford and the Australian Tax Office for providing database content.
Gareth Priday, Tim Mansfield, Jose Ramos
This article was originally published in in the April 2014 issue of Compass of the Association of Professional Futurists
Visit the Open Futures Library at http://openfutures.net/