Posts with the tag
“Futures”

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


Podcast: How can social changemakers get better at not just adapting to change, but actively engineering it?

13th August 2021 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

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Foresight practitioner Krizna Gomez has written JustLabs’ new ‘Guide to Foresight in the Social Change Field’ and is a passionate advocate of why foresight needs to become part of the DNA of the social change field. In this episode, Krizna shared some of her insights from leading futures work with organisations in the social change field around the world, as well as activists and creatives, and why this new guide is needed to ‘demystify’ foresight. Krizna also presented some simple visual outcomes of applying these steps to look at the future of media and information, and the kind of areas of new exploration this can generate for social change organisations and leaders.

Download JustLabs Guide to Foresight in the Social Change Field.

Krizna Gomez works as an independent consultant, using design thinking, foresight, systems thinking and other methods normally not employed in the social change field, to help partners tackle long-standing problems with a fresh perspective, and opening them up through working with experts from other disciplines such as neuroscience, tech, marketing, and design. She is a recipient of the Joseph Jaworski Next Generation Foresight Practitioners Award (Humanitarian Special Award) by the School of International Futures. See Krizna’s full bio here.

Find out about the Centre’s Scanning the Horizon civil society futures community here.

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre


ICSOs and intergenerational fairness: Why long term thinking is important and empowering in today’s whirly world

28th July 2021 by Vicky Tongue and Julie Jenson Bennett

The Centre’s new Scanning the Horizon Sector Guide on ‘Strategic Decision-Making in a Whirly World’, explores five main strategic pointers for civil society decision-making and adaptation in complex, uncertain ‘never normal’ futures. To further explore the fifth strategic pointer, ‘Rethink adaptable strategies to embrace emergent change with-in a long-term view’, we recently ran leadership and strategy events with two of our strongly recommended resources, including the School of International Futures (SOIF)’s exciting work on intergenerational fairness.

In this blog, Vicky Tongue, the Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, and Julie Jenson Bennett, Practice Lead, Intergenerational Fairness, School of International Futures, reflect on how ICSOs can contribute to and benefit from long-term intergenerational thinking and practice.

Intergenerational fairness as an important skillset for a whirly world

Embracing the ‘Long Now’ is one strategy to help navigate a ‘whirly’, uncertain world, stretching responsibility over longer timescales – beyond a human lifetime – and giving a bigger picture to short-term turbulence. It helps crisis decision-making to elevate long-term equity and extends ‘legacy’ thinking to help identify what should be kept from the past, what should be unlearned in the present, and what is still needed to avoid future-loading major risks from important decisions made today.

All big current global issues have huge intergenerational fairness and equity dimensions, both between different generations alive today but also not yet born. Intergenerationally fair policies and strategic decisions allow people of all ages to meet their needs, and meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ICSOs have an important role in ensuring that decision-makers take such considerations into account beyond current political cycles. But they also have a responsibility to ensure that their own organisational decisions are also fair for all generations.

The intergenerational fairness topic is particularly fascinating. As an organisation embarking on its strategy, this is particularly relevant in order to ‘disturb/disrupt’ current decision-making, to ensure long-term strategic choices for an alternate future.

Shahin Ashraf, MBE, Head of Global Advocacy, Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Interest in intergenerational fairness as a growing trend

Signals around equity between generations as a growing issue have been getting stronger since the 2008 financial crisis, further amplified by increasing mobilisation on climate change, and with the global pandemic. Younger generations have been getting more active in suing their governments to establish rights and duty of care towards the future. There is increasing interest from citizens, politicians and policy-makers around intergenerational cohesion and solidarity – rather than conflict – and different national ‘next or future generations’ initiatives are emerging. The OECD published a landmark report on intergenerational justice last year challenging the global policy community to be more systematic about this.

But this can come with major challenges which make it hard to accomplish. Future and younger generations have no vote, there isn’t much reliable information available to decision-makers about the long-term impact of most public policies, and the issue can quickly become polarised and make constructive discussions difficult. So how can we move from good intentions to true accountability, and ensure that (in Gaston Berger’s words) we’re looking at the future to disturb the present, and taking informed decisions today to design better, equitable policies and programmes?

A practical, flexible framework for assessing intergenerational fairness

The School of International Futures (SOIF) and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s ‘Framework for Intergenerational Fairness’ is a practical framework which any organisation – without prior futures or foresight experience – can use to assess whether any strategic, policy or investment decision proposed by others, or itself, will be equitable for people living today and tomorrow. This can be a very empowering process to support informed action-oriented conversations with what could otherwise remain an interesting, important but remote and hazy theoretical discussion.

The framework consists of three key, flexible elements:

  • A policy assessment tool to analyse whether decisions on what is fair and unfair for all generations, exposing specific dimensions of unfairness, identifying unintended consequences and making trade-offs more explicit.
  • A participatory national, or community, dialogue to define collective goals of what a fair and desirable future looks like – including conversations with future generations by proxy – for the policy to be assessed against,
  • Institutional ownership to determine how the methodology will be resourced, used and evaluated in government and society, so that it has independence, accountability, political legitimacy and administrative commitment.

Check out this introductory presentation from this year’s Global Foresight Summit for more.

Assessing decisions in as little as two hours

Any strategic, funding or policy decision can be assessed in five ways, to see if it:

  • Disadvantages people at any particular life stage
  • Disadvantages people at any period in time, present or future
  • Increases the chances of inequality being passed on through time
  • Restricts the choices, agency and freedom of people in future
  • Moves society further away from its vision of the future.

 

 

In a couple of hours, you can use the tool to make clear judgements and support risk analysis, contingency planning and policy design. Diagnostic prompts help you scan and assess policy impacts and trade-offs in detail, stress-test the decision against alternative future scenarios, and scrutinise the policy-making process itself for unfairness. You can adapt the lenses and depth and breadth of analysis for different issues and audiences.

Pilots over the last three years have successfully used the tool on a range of live policy issues and with diverse assessor audiences, including citizens. It enables nuanced understanding of the dynamics at play in complex policy areas, and can identify specific cohorts worse off under a policy scenario, and recommendations for additional policy areas and communications toaddress issues and perceptions of unfairness.

How ICSOs can use it and find out more?

There are two main angles for CSOs:

  • Holding governments to account for difficult issues of intergenerational fairness – ICSOs can use this framework in their advocacy work, or with concerned citizens and media actors, to scrutinise the work of governments e.g. during policy design, parliamentary scrutiny, spending reviews.
  • Shining a light internally – Organisations can use these principles to assess any of their own strategic policy or financial decisions – especially around spending and granting – to objectively establish whether they are fair for the long term, or just responding to short-term interests.

Our conversations also identified two exciting potential wider applications:

  • The domains and assessment criteria in the tool can help facilitate conversations ‘by stealth’ about entrenched power interests and inequality structures in the present. This can generate new kinds of conversations outside of traditional framings which come with political/polarised debates, divisions and rhetoric. So it could also be a useful model to support difficult ‘power shift’ conversations in our sector and agree the desirable fair, legacy outcomes we want to collectively achieve.
  • An interesting starting point for global conversations around the post-2030 SDG successor agenda, which runs out soon!

What’s next for the framework and how to stay involved?

SOIF is interested in expanding networks and coalitions to upskill and scale these processes, including ICSOs. They are open to providing support if you are interested in adapting it for your contexts or policy issues.

As a starter, they will be running more webinars from August to introduce new audiences to the framework, and also hands-on participatory sessions to use the policy assessment tool on live issues – in as little as two hours. For updates and opportunities, visit https://soif.org.uk/igf/.

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.

Julie Jenson Bennett

Practice Lead

School of International Futures

Julie Jenson Bennett leads the Intergenerational Fairness Observatory at the School of International Futures. Her futures practice developed over twenty-five years as a researcher and strategist in technology and product design. Alongside her work at SOIF, Julie co-directs The Generation Poetry Project, exploring new communication systems emerging amongst younger people, and is an Associate Lecturer at Central St. Martin's in the Product, Ceramics and Industrial Design programme.


Tools for inclusive futures: Reflections on ‘Imagining Feminist Futures after COVID-19’

5th March 2021 by Vicky Tongue

In 2021, the Centre’s Scanning the Horizon futures community is working on ‘inclusive and equitable futures’, exploring and sharing models, analysis and collaborative opportunities for more diverse futures conversations and thinking. One key part is sharing practical and accessible tools, particularly open source methods which do not require significant specialist knowledge or skills to implement and, increasingly, virtual delivery options.

We want to explore new opportunities to either use these tools for our own community or group collaborations, or exchange experiences as we use shared techniques with our own audiences. These ‘meet the author’ tools workshops are a new kind of online community offering this year.

Tools for inclusive futures: Bringing you the best of what is ‘out there’

Common barriers to introducing or strengthening futures thinking in organisations include time-consuming workshops, not being able to bring diverse groups together (especially in-person) or the need for consultants or specialists to lead this work. So in 2021, we want to find the best of what is ‘out there’ to address these challenges, and bring them back into our community to help democratise futures practice beyond a smaller group of organisational strategic thinkers.

So we were very excited to find the new ‘Imagining Feminist Futures after COVID-19’ workshop methodology developed by the Australian CSO International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) in 2020. This is a 3-hour online methodology which can bring new, diverse audiences together without expert external facilitation. And we partnered with IWDA to deliver a combined familiarisation and training of trainers session on 23-24 February for ten organisations from the Scanning the Horizon community.

A way to bring futures thinking to feminist thinkers, and feminist thinking to futures thinkers

Imagining Feminist Futures After COVID-19 is a project IWDA with support from a steering group of actors across the feminist movement. The project aims to enable feminist organisations and networks to think through the ways in which the COVID-19 crisis is changing the future trajectories – both positive and negative – for feminist social change towards the year 2030.

IWDA commissioned a consortium of feminist futurists, led by Changeist, to design this adaptable workshop methodology based on futures thinking approaches to support diverse feminist activists, organisations and networks to come together virtually (or in person where possible) and apply their own futures thinking and scenario building. For many participants, it may be their first experience of structured futures thinking, and as such, the tools have been designed for use by an audience which is totally new to the concepts.

A core objective of the project is to make the workshop methodology available for anyone to run with their own organisation, network or community. In return, they ask that participants share the findings from these different workshops. IWDA, along with project steering group members, plan to bring their own analysis and visioning to these outcomes and develop a range of creative outputs to add to the rich discussions happening across feminist movements.

IWDA has been holding feminist futures workshops with participants in Australia and across Asia and the Pacific. This workshop with our Scanning the Horizon community was IWDA’s first time with a group of more generalist futures thinkers, rather than strongly feminist-focused organisations and individuals.

The short summaries of (i) principles and frameworks that support and enable a feminist future and (ii) privileging forces/established power structures within society that hinder equal progress towards feminist futures help bring about different and deeper types of conversation. With more generalist audiences, we recommend including these as additional pre-reading, and to increase the amount of time in the agenda allocated to discussing the lens of privileging forces.

And actually, just a great entry point for different and dynamic conversations

Participants felt the workshop methodology can be used both to inform strategic thinking and also as a tool for personal formation and training minds to think in more inclusive and equitable ways about the future. Its full trends list includes STEEP + V – incorporating values into a standard social, technological, economic, environmental and political assessment – which makes this a more holistic and interesting process.

We wanted our particular group to work on a broad range of trends, so included 18 from the full list of 20 (three teams with six trends). For groups with a specific aim or audience, focusing down on a smaller set of more relevant or influential trends may work better for more focused futures conversations.

Interestingly, of the trends provided, our three breakout teams independently decided to focus on: (i) ‘new faces of change’, (ii) ‘refocus on community’ and (iii) ‘sharing and peer economies’. This may reflect interest in exploring some of the new decentralised and power and leadership models which have become more prominent since COVID-19.

You can see the outcomes of our conversations here. They show that the method is great at enabling dynamic and interesting exchanges which can shift thinking and explore new possibilities in the group you’re working with. It also documents a range of insights which can be compared and contrasted with other groups also using the tool.

You don’t need expert knowledge, but you do need well-prepared facilitation

Key factors for facilitation are who you have in the virtual ‘room’ (see below), how you capture different perspectives, and how you support participation and share the findings.

IWDA have really made the toolkit as ready to use as possible, with a clear, well-illustrated facilitation guide and pre-populated Miro board for your use. After our session, nearly all participants felt ready to run a workshop themselves, with proper preparation time. This included participants relatively new to futures thinking, feminist thinking or even both, which reiterates just how accessible it is and does not require significant pre-existing knowledge, experience or expertise.

It does, however, require careful thought on facilitation, and time to ensure in advance that participants have sufficient basic skills and familiarisation with Miro. This may be easier for digital natives and require more preparation time for others (note that participation does not require a paid account. You should offer advance familiarisation sessions to people who have not Miro before, and share a practice ‘play’ board. The workshop board layout is a very intuitive design, with arrows to guide people through the navigation. If you take this time and care, the technology should not be alienating or prevent people from taking part.

And you do need to stress fully with participants how important it is for them to take the time for the pre-reading so that they will get the most out of the group conversations.

You also need to think through how to organise the group documentation of dynamic conversations to fit the time available – as you will feel the pressure to get things down! The beauty of Miro allows everyone to write down and share their ideas individually, in an open way aligned to the aims of the method. But a designated scribe may also be needed to help summarise the collective sense-making conversations for report back in plenary, at the risk of simplifying or even silencing some of other strands, to report back to the others.

Ensuring diversity in the virtual room and breakout teams

When asked who they planned to run the workshop with, there was a real mix of audiences, both internally within our own organisations, externally with partners, networks and stakeholders, and in social circles with family and friends. And also with a range of people – activists and young changemakers, advocates, leadership/management teams, gender team/community of practice – but ideally with a broad mix of perspectives and roles to keep the explorations as diverse and dynamic as possible.

The workshop is designed for 5-20 participants. Breakout groups of around four people feels optimal to both generate ideas and keep documenting of conversations manageable. But ensuring diversity of groups is most critical – experience/knowledge/roles (futures/feminist/other), gender and geographic diversity, and a mix of optimists/pessimists (which could be identified by icebreakers).

Building a base of practice and knowledge

Half the organisations who took part are already planning to run workshops with their networks. The Centre itself will run another session in May at an Americas/Europe/Africa-friendly time for organisations. We want to contribute to a community of worldwide practitioners using this method, and share both content findings and facilitation experiences or tips with IWDA. This blog is our first contribution, so watch this space for more updates from us and the other participants-turned-practitioners, over the coming months!

Let us know if you are interested in joining or running an upcoming workshop on ‘Imagining Feminist Futures after COVID-19’.

Our next community methods/tools workshop will be with ParEvo on 29 April 2021 – see more here.

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.