from the announcing-futurecast dept
As you’re hopefully aware, over the last few years, our Copia Institute think tank, in partnership with Randy Lubin’s Leveraged Play, have been using games and game-like tools for exploring complex realities in the present, as well as exploring potential future scenarios. On the latter front, we’ve done things like our Threatcast election disinformation simulator, our Hindsight 2030 game exploring future trends, and our (suddenly much more relevant!) brainstorming game to explore potential positive AI futures.
Over the course of 2022 we worked on another fun project, this time with the United Nations’ Global Pulse group, which is the Secretary General’s “Innovation Lab.” They’ve been doing a bunch of experiments over the past few years regarding strategic foresight, and asked us if we could build a flexible game/framework that could be useful in trying to understand “pathways of change.” The end result, which was just recently released by UN Global Pulse, is FutureCast, which is a highly adaptable tool to allow anyone to explore future opportunities and challenges in many different scenarios. Its main use is in bringing together groups of stakeholders to explore future scenarios.
We initially developed it to explore how different stakeholders in a particular country were viewing potential opportunities and challenges in upcoming elections, but the tool is flexible enough to use in lots of different scenarios.
Many people may be aware of scenario planning as a strategic foresight tool, and we’re huge fans of scenario planning, and have used it as a tool in a variety of projects. But FutureCast is designed to do something slightly different than scenario planning (and the two can be used together to great effect). With FutureCasting, we’re taking basic future scenarios, and using a process of prompts and responses, to allow different stakeholders to explore potential challenges and opportunities under those scenarios.
In traditional scenario planning, it’s left up to the creators of the scenarios to determine the challenges and opportunities. With FutureCasting, we’ve set up a game-like framework to allow stakeholders themselves to tease out the challenges and opportunities in a variety of scenarios.
The game itself is setup over a period of time horizons (usually three) where participants are divided into groups. The groups are then given the context (a light scenario) for the first time horizon, followed by a prompt about something that is happening in that scenario, which they’re then asked to describe. After they’ve discussed the prompt and come up with an answer, the sheet is handed to a different group that is participating (who answered their own prompt and passed along that response to another group) to answer the follow up prompt, based on the response of the first group.
So, as an example, in a scenario about a future election, players are given a light scenario of things that are happening:
Followed by a prompt about (in this case) a specific policy change that has excited people. Once they’ve come up with what that policy change might be, they hand it off to another group, who is asked what might be an “unexpected consequence” of that policy change:
The key to making this framework effective is setting up good context scenarios for each round, as well as good prompts. In the FutureCast guide, we include a bunch of example prompts to help people develop good prompts. Here are just a few examples:
The UN has already piloted this system multiple times in a pilot country, and found that it was a powerful tool to explore different hopes and fears from a variety of stakeholders regarding upcoming elections.
The UN is releasing the framework under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-SA) license, and we’re hopeful that others will make use of the framework in a variety of settings. This was a very fun, and very different, kind of project for us to work on, and we’re excited that the project is now out in the world.