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We recently introduced the concept of ‘Open Foresight’ as a process we’re developing to analyze complex issues in an open and collaborative way, and to raise the bar on public discourse and forward-focused critical thinking. It’s a work in progress and constantly evolving, but here are some of the basic principles we’ve developed so far.1) What is Open Foresight?

In simple terms, open foresight is a process for building visions of the future together.

2) The Big Picture Context

If you look around, it’s undeniable that there’s a new global narrative emerging in the way we fundamentally understand ourselves as humanity – how we do business, how we learn, how we generate value together, how we interact. This transformation is being driven both by new communication technologies, and by the emergent behaviors these tools enable. The context of our relationships is shifting, and we still don’t know exactly what that means for us as a species. We’re asking ourselves questions like:

  • What happens when social networks connect us on a global scale?
  • How do new social and virtual currencies challenge our ideas about what money is and how value can be created and exchanged?
  • How can we form globally distributed enterprises and collaborative teams?
  • What do these emerging business models look like?
  • How do we build knowledge together and become more effective learners?
  • How are our notions of democracy and governance evolving?
  • What role do social technologies play in the evolution of human consciousness?

These are all challenging questions, and we don’t know the solutions because we haven’t yet created them.

That may sound terrifying and disruptive, or like an incredible opportunity to shape and bring about the future we deserve. Or, most likely, a bit of both.

3) Why Open Foresight?

So, where do we begin? How do we learn to embrace change instead of fear it? How do we grab hold of the reigns of where things go next and choose to engage the future, instead of being a victim to it? One of many emerging tools we can use to better tackle the future is Open Foresight, a new social process for generating digestible insights about a given topic area.

Open Foresight projects start off by drawing on well-established methodologies from the Futures Studies field, as well as principles from design thinking to create a framework for building forecasts and scenarios. The next step is to tap into the opinions of domain experts as well as the wisdom of crowds to generate an array of perspectives and viewpoints. Finally, we combine those patterns and insights into rich visual media that can be viewed, shared, discussed, and repurposed.

By clarifying the visions of how society may evolve and what our interactions and behaviors would look like, we begin to understand the steps we can take today to move towards the most desirable futures.

4) Pilot Project: The Future of Facebook

We chose ‘The Future of Facebook’ as our pilot project due to the company’s social significance, global penetration and unpredictable nature. As a corporation, Facebook faces many challenges – from competition to government regulation. At the same time the implications for the users themselves goes far beyond Facebook. We’re going to dig into those, and lay out a range of visions that the public can easily digest.

Does Facebook become a prime monitoring tool for governments and a goldmine for advertisers? Does it become a place for entrepreneurial activity to occur and companies to form? Do Facebook Credits evolve to be the world’s first global currency, enabling the emergence of a “Facebook Economy”? Do users decide it doesn’t provide them enough value, and migrate to the new ‘next big thing’ platform?

5) The Tipping Point

It’s no accident that social change and transformation in communication is happening just as technology is accelerating. The two forces are symbiotically related. The picture emerging is that as we approach a global tipping point in technology diffusion, we are also approaching a tipping point in the way we think.

By getting better at sharing information and developing more robust mental models, we are fueling ongoing technology growth and at the same time giving ourselves the best chance to navigate this increasing complex and messy environment. WE ARE at the source of acceleration. And now we need to upgrade our tools if we are to keep pace.

Open Foresight is one of the many emerging processes that allows us to systematically Level-Up our collective intelligence and forecasting ability. Everyone is welcome to join the party, so…. I guess we’re all futurists now. :)

Fueled By Crowdfunding & Corporate Patronage

All the content we create for Open Foresight projects is being licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (cc by-SA 3.0), meaning we’re making it available to be reused, remixed, and built upon by others.

To support our work and the creation of publicly available content intended to educate and inform, we’re relying on crowdfunding on Kickstarter, as well as patronage from businesses and corporate sponsors.

During the Renaissance, patrons directly supported the work of artists, designers and thinkers whose contributions were made for the public good and the enhancement of culture. In that same spirit, we think that the time is ripe for an updated version of Corporate Patronage.

Instead of dollars going towards marketing for marketing’s sake, we want to see brands partnering with visionaries and change agents who are expanding our notions of what is possible, and supporting the many experiments and projects that are testing new modes of operating.

To that end, we want to thank our first Corporate Patrons, Innotribe and the Innovation team at SWIFT, for supporting the development of Open Foresight, and being our booster rocket to the future! Big thanks to Peter Vander Auwera for recognizing the broader potential of Open Foresight and helping to get this ship off the ground.

We’ll be highlighting a variety of futures and design methodologies that can be applied to the open foresight process in upcoming posts. We’ve already gotten valuable feedback on useful frameworks by Wendy Schultz of Infinite Futures, and welcome the opportunity to evolve this project together with interested communities.