Tools for inclusive futures: Futures Frequency: A workshop method for building alternative futures

29th September 2021 by Vicky Tongue and Lena Tünkers

Members of the Scanning the Horizon community recently met online to continue our exploration of ‘tools for inclusive futures’, engaging methods to democratise futures conversations in organisations, using digital tools which do not require previous experience from either facilitators or participants. These tools have been highlighted in our recent Sector Guide on Strategic Decision-Making in a Whirly World.

Futures Frequency

This time, we wanted to find out more about Futures Frequency, from the Finnish innovation and futures fund Sitra. The idea behind Futures Frequency is that it inspires thinking and action towards positive, preferred futures and can be ‘used and applied by anyone’. You can check out an intro video here.

We decided to use it to explore futures of human diversity, and felt that a group of 9-12 is a good size to allow the discussion parts to take place in threes. No advance preparation was requested from participants, just encouragement to join with an open mind, and be ready to ‘enjoy the ride’, go with the process and put their heads in a different, more creative and playful space.

Setting the stage

We started with some relaxed individual reflection about the big ‘what if’ question – in relation to futures of human diversity in 2050 – which occurred to us. Then we introduced ourselves and our big question in plenary and it was already really interesting to see the different angles which people had already come up with – from gender fluidity, to intergenerational working with people living longer, to racism being history, to humans being seen as just another part of nature. Just this initial sharing already encourages you to open up and expand your own thinking more.

First stage, challenge your assumptions about the future

Then we had to activate our imagination muscles more by moving into the first main stage of the Futures Frequency method, challenging assumptions. We were given an audio drama snippet to listen to individually and then as a small group, we discussed what assumptions we heard in the piece and how it connected to our own assumptions or what felt familiar. This was a really interesting process to go through, surfacing both small assumptions or questions but also bigger ones about when in the future the conversation was set or whether we were just defaulting to assumptions about things in this future were still working in a similar way to the present. From a facilitation angle, you could either use one of the many supporting resources which Sitra provides for this, or you could create your own snippet – audio or written – linked to the theme you’re exploring.

This process does highlight biases you weren’t aware of in your own thinking and how your brain tries to ‘fill in the gaps’ around incomplete information you have on a situation. It also helps you better understand and appreciate how those you are working with are also thinking. This would be particularly important in a very diverse group, or especially if exploring potentially sensitive topics together. This stage increases your awareness of why you think certain things, before you then move onto imagining preferred futures.

Second stage, imagine your preferred futures

In this stage, you again start with individual reflection to imagine what the theme – for us, human diversity – might look like, without boundaries, with new possibilities, and envision a mental snapshot of the future you personally prefer for this, trying to engage different senses to bring this image to life. Then moving into Miro or another digital whiteboarding space, each person in the group writes up their personal vision in one sentence on a post-it and shares it with the others in the group. Then you all work together to combine your (three) different visions into a new statement which integrates the main ‘spirit’ of each. We didn’t really have enough time for this as we were primarily exploring the method – rather than the topic – fully, but in a full session this stage clearly needs a good amount of time to complete. Again, all this has templates from Sitra.

Take action towards your preferred futures

The final stage involves thinking through actions which you can take towards bringing this vision about.  First, we were guided through an individual brainstorm to come with ideas that would lead us to our vision. Time was the creative constrain here. In our small groups we were then tasked with coming up with a news headline from the future which captured what would have happened in the intervening period. We imagined we were living in 2030 and working as reporters for ‘Future News’, sharing our headline and a short explanation of the actions that had taken place and answering any questions from the other groups. And we could add visual images to represent the story as well.

Final reflections on the method

It’s recommended to add further methods to this final phase if you want to build out the process into more of a detailed action planning process. For instance, you could use backcasting or future literacy labs. But from a first experience, it really is a very useful way of getting the participants into a different space to share ideas and inspire others, appreciate the diversity of perspectives in the group and be encouraged to use your imaginations, within a simple but effective framework. It really does feel like a universal method which anyone can just pick up and use!

Vicky Tongue

Head of Futures and Innovation

International Civil Society Centre

Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, leading our core initiatives on future trends, horizon scanning and civil society innovation. Vicky has more than 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.

Lena Tünkers

Co-Founder and Partner

Zukünftige

Lena Tünkers is an entrepreneur, process designer and facilitator, guided by the purpose of empowering people to cheerfully move towards the future. She has designed and executed a variety of strategy and innovation processes in Denmark, Kenya and Germany and applied the method Futures Literacy and Futures Frequency to the topics of education, collaboration, leadership and culture. From her work with the UN, Spotify, HelloFresh and Hugo Boss, among others, Lena brings experiences in business model design, strategy as well as innovation development. She is a board member of Founders of Tomorrow and hosts the House of Beautiful Business in


Joint Side Event at the UN World Data Forum

24th September 2021 by Peter Koblowsky

Bringing alternative data to official use: cross-sector partnerships to leave no one behind in SDG monitoring and review

SDG monitoring and review is key to ensuring effective planning and implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Yet, this is a field in which states face numerous challenges, not least related to the production, communication and use of data. Data partnerships which promote the use of complementary data (e.g. citizen-generated data, human rights data or administrative data) have the potential to strengthen SDG monitoring and review and can help fill data gaps and ensure that no one is left behind. This is particularly relevant as countries strive to build forward better from the Covid-19 pandemic.  

This event will discuss the experiences of our Leave No One Behind Partnership and the Inclusive SDG Data Partnerships project, an initiative promoted by the Centre, Partners for Review/GIZ and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The online session format is dynamic, including short presentations of good practices, lessons learned, progress made and ways forward from the participating countries. There will be the chance for the audience in the room and in the virtual space to interact with our country speakers.

This event aims to generate a constructive exchange of practices to inspire the ongoing collaboration efforts in these countries and in others. Speakers will reflect the diversity of the country groups, with representatives from government, civil society, National Human Rights Institutes and National Statistics Offices.

Register for the event here!

Peter Koblowsky

Senior Partnership Manager - Leave No One Behind

International Civil Society Centre

Peter joined the Centre in January 2013, back then as a trainee. He completed the traineeship in the advocacy & campaigning office of World Vision Germany. Peter now coordinates the Leave No One Behind project and contributes to the development and implementation of various other strategic formats. Before joining the Centre, Peter worked for various organisations and think tanks in the development sector, being an expert in multi-stakeholder processes. He studied at the University of Bonn and graduated with an MA in Political Science with a focus on multi-actor advocacy for climate policy.


Call for Applications: Research Consultant

23rd September 2021 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

The ICSCentre is looking for a research consultant to support its Solidarity Action Network (SANE) in building a resource directory for its members. The directory will consist of strategies, tools and guidelines to respond to threats and clampdowns faced by international civil society organisations (ICSOs) and their local partners as well as expert contacts that can help with a swift and suitable response.

SANE focuses on strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors when faced with civic space restrictions or changing operating conditions for civil society. It particularly connects humanitarian and development ICSOs and brings them into discussions on civic space challenges and opportunities.

The ICSCentre is commissioning a consultant to:

  • Develop a framework for presenting resources and contacts in a digestible and easy-to-use way.
  • Map and pick relevant publicly available resources based on suggested topics (desk research).
  • Reach out to or follow up with ICSOs and CSOs on their materials.
  • Prepare resources for the website with a short and easy-to-follow overview and upload them to the website.
  • Map and pick relevant expert organisations and individual experts on selected topics.
  • Prepare expert information for the directory and upload them to the website.
  • Consult topics and structure of the directory with the ICSCentre and the SANE task force.
  • Think proactively about technical aspects (especially usability) of the directory and consult them with the ICSCentre and the web developer.

Find the full tender and how to apply here

The ICSCentre invites qualified individuals or organisations (“Offerors”) to submit a proposal for the requested services. The application needs to be submitted by 13 October 2021.

If you meet the selection criteria, please submit your application to Eva Gondorová including:

  1. Cover letter (no more than 3 pages), including:
    – A brief description of your experience and expertise in the field that illustrates your overall qualifications and capabilities for this scope of work
    – Your consultancy rate (amount in EUR/day)
  2.  Your CV
  3.  Two references that can be contacted should you be shortlisted.

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre


Podcast: Strategic Decision-Making in a Whirly World

13th September 2021 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

Listen to Miriam Niehaus and Vicky Tongue discuss our Scanning the Horizon Sector Guide on ‘Strategic Decision-Making in a Whirly World’, the culmination of our 18-month learning journey on complex and uncertain futures.

The Guide brings together insights from interviews with strategy leads from 14 ICSOs and global movements from this community, and a review of more than 60 management and academic literature resources on leadership, complexity, uncertainty, strategy and systems thinking from the past year.

We would like to thank our two cooperation partners – Direct Impact Group and Ford Foundation – for kindly supporting our Scanning the Horizon work over the past 18 months.

Read and share the Sector Guide: bit.ly/3hZ4ViD
Discover the Scanning the Horizon Community: bit.ly/3vUgI7d
Learn more about intergenerational fairness: bit.ly/2UWTuAD

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Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre