Facilitating conversations about the future

 
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Megan 's picture

Megan

Third Sector Foresight

If you’re responsible for leading a strategic planning process, one of the most challenging things to do can be to engage staff, trustees and other stakeholders in thinking about the future and the drivers shaping that future.

How do you do this? What works for you?

In Looking out (our guide to understanding your organisation’s environment) we include a template which asks questions focussed around

  • your organisation
  • your beneficiaries
  • your workforce
  • your funders
  • and other key organisations (eg competitors and collaborators)

I also like these questions, which I read in some scenarios about the future of health and safety!
1. Clairvoyant: If you could spend some time with someone who knew the outcome, a clairvoyant or an oracle, if one existed, what would you want to know? I.e., what are the critical issues?
2. An optimistic outcome: Optimistic but realistic. What would be a good outcome and what would be the signs?
3. A pessimistic outcome: How could the environment change to make things more difficult? What could go wrong?
4. The internal situation: What needs to change if your optimistic outcome is to be realised?
5. Looking back: Looking back 10 years, what successes can we build on and what failures can we learn from?
6. Looking forward: What decisions need to be made in the near term to achieve the desired long-term outcome?
7. The Epitaph: If you had a mandate, without constraints, what more would you need to do?

Thanks to Infinite Futures for these questions

Interesting stuff, Megan. Did you see the article in today’s Guardian about the Chartered Management Institute’s study on the future of work?

Megan 's picture

Megan

Third Sector Foresight

Yes I did! Hoping for time to read it next week…

Kathryn's picture

Kathryn

Third Sector Foresight

Looking Out has been revised and reprinted, to make it even more approachable and practical for you. Have a look at the new edition here Looking Out contains such nuggets as the 'network wheel', the 'calendar of decision-making' and insight from your peers like 'All charities are bounced along like a cork on a wave...'

Kathryn's picture

Kathryn

Third Sector Foresight

Visioning the future

Another way of getting people in a Foresight Frame of mind is to use images. Often people deal with so much text in their day to day work that pictures can be quite powerful. (and no, I won't mention that oft-used phrase about a picture being worth....)

With that in mind, have a look at the Metro's London Futures photo competition. Each photo up there at the moment explores the impact on the city of various scenarios. There's a tropical garden at the Hilton, and wind power on the Mall....

You could print them off and bring them to a meeting to kick off conversation about how likely each situation may be; explore what lies behind each image and from there think about what your organisation can do to prepare.

They're all quite focused on the impact of global warming in various guises:

  • higher sea levels due to melting of the ice caps
  • global migration as much of the developing world turns into deserts due to reduced rainfall.
  • scarcity of resources leading to a greater need for food generation

If you want to think through this specific issue in more detail, have a look at our climate change driver, resource constraints driver and NCVO's Big Response project.

Let me know if you find these photos useful for sparking up discussion!

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