The Future Search method is an interactive planning process that focuses on breaking down borders and creating understanding about common desires for the future. The meeting is task-focused and helps people transform their capability for action very quickly. The cooperative planning is designed for long term initiatives.
Future Search is usually used for local communities to find common goals and ways of action in a deadlocked situation. It brings people from all walks of life into one conversation – those with resources (information and knowledge), expertise, formal authority and the ability to act and need (those who are affected by the workshop results). The meeting lasts 16 hours spread across three days and assembles 60 to 80 participants in groups of 8 (interest- stakeholders- and mixed groups). The first step is to create a conversation in which participants talk about their past, present and desired future in order to achieve the discovery of common ground among all participants, which is basement of the method. Only then do they make concrete action plans. Those five phases of the workshop programme: focus on past; focus on present; visioning - future scenarios; common ground and action planning each has its own tasks:
1 - Recalling the past: participants establish their own relationship with the topic nothing milestones in a timeline. Mixed groups present an interpretation of the timelines.
2 - Examining the present: participants take part in a mind mapping session to map out current trends affecting the workshop topic. Stakeholders describe what they are doing and what they intend to do. Each group reports to the whole room and discussion can take place.
3 - Create future scenarios: diverse groups put themselves into the future and describe their preferred future as if it has already been accomplished.
4 - In mixed groups, identify common ground, projects or visions in 10 years time. After observing all presentation - groups note down what they consider as common future themes, potential projects and what they see as not agreed or key hurdles. Lists are made and read out - all lists merged into one for the whole room.
5 - Prepare action plans: participants select proposal they want to continue to work with, differentiate between long and short term initiatives, discuss which of the action ideas they want to support after the workshop.
· You can download a poster on Future Search here.
Some Results given as Examples
Most important result of this method in the experience of DBT (2-3 projects) is that it helps and supports the creation of networks and networking across stakeholder groups and across expert fields. It helps networking among stakeholders, who assumed that their interests were so conflicting, that they were not able to talk together or agree on anything. The Search for common ground in transportation in Copenhagen furthermore contributed to the formation of a concrete new advisory and planning body for traffic and transportation in Copenhagen.
http://www-tekno.dk ; http://www.futuresearch.net ; M. Weisbord and S. Janoff (2000) "Future Search. An Action Guide to finding common Ground in Organisations and Communities." San Francisco, Berett-Koehler Publishers