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.
Frank Spencer said:
Hooray Venessa and Open Foresight!
In the coming weeks, my foresight firm KedgeForward will be making the transition to reframe as a meshworking and “collaboratory” think tank simply called “Kedge.” The major focus of Kedge will be research, ideation, and development of new working models for client use around social innovation and social architecture, with an eye on the areas of educational redesign, emerging cityscapes and transformational community, organizational reframing, and adaptive leadership development. We will highlight case studies, research projects and white papers that look at these areas through the lens of strategic foresight and design futures, and we certainly look forward to promoting the work of Open Foresight!
Yay, Venessa, thank you for clarifying the purpose and resolving a nagging doubt of mine whether I should label myself a futurist and what does this mean for my life work and the upcoming, um, future.
Ok, joining. As long as we keep it open and it is not slding towards a political party. 😉
Alvis Brigis said:
We are all indeed futurists, which is to say that it’s inherent in the human to build models of the world and then make predictions that help us to establish control over our environment – more or less, imho. From this POV futurism is as natural as breathing. As individual and collective human intelligence continues to emerge we get better at this fundamental process. Hence we develop knowledge sculpting structures like Open Foresight (one of many), social media, etc. These truly do improve our collective mental infrastructure, which is one of the reasons we collectively build them, like bees a hive. Though we build the hive and may believe it is distinct from us, I posit that rather it is part of us – as folks like cyborg anthropologist Amber Case argue.
When discussing this topic, also want to make clear that there’s a distinction to be made about professional futurists – there exist some hardcore seasoned pros, like the folks at APF, IFTF and various think tanks / agencies, who do it for a living and it’s important to realize the importance of their specialization and to make sure they’re appropriately involved in these processes. Their perspective has been invaluable to The Future of Facebook project and I think any future Open Foresight endeavor can benefit greatly from their inclusion. 🙂
Walter Mueller said:
Thanks, great idea. Let me find out how I can be of help and contribute.
I blogged a response to your Future of Facebook teaser video: http://meme-shift.posterous.com/one-goal-for-the-whole-valley-invent-the-know. Looking forward to following this project and seeing how it evolves.
Vivian Distler said:
I am a researcher at the Institute for the Future (IFTF). Per Alvis Brigis’ comment, we have conducted several crowdsourced forecasting projects over the last few years. Jamais Cascio, whom I see is included in your futures thinking blogroll, is an IFTF Research Fellow who played a key role in Superstruct, which drew more than 8000 participants in the fall of 2008 (http://archive.superstructgame.net/home). More recently, the Myelin Repair Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered with us to explore the future of medical research using our open, collaborative Foresight Engine platform (http://foresight.breakthroughstocures.org/). I look forward to following your exciting work on Open Foresight and the Future of Facebook!
Venessa Miemis said:
that is so cool! i followed superstruct and urgent evoke, but i hadn’t heard of the Foresight Engine before. i love that these opportunities exist for people to engage with critical & long-term thinking.
we actually interviewed jamais for the future of facebook project, (and interviewing chris arkenberg next week!) so hopefully will have a nice balance of thinkers. 🙂
thanks for dropping by!
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Tryggvi Thayer said:
I’m very intrigued by the concept of “open foresight”. I am, however, less clear about what distinguishes “open foresight”, as you have described it, from established approaches to foresight.
I have been researching foresight, particularly national foresight programs, that aim to address public policy needs in preparation for my doctoral research. There are several articles on my blog at http://blog.lib.umn.edu/thay0012/leapfrog/ that should illustrate where I’m coming from. The established concept of foresight that I have been dealing with is usually very open, in fact that could be said to be a defining characteristic of foresight, as opposed to other futures or forecasting methods. These programs often, though not always, involve the general public at some stage. For example, a recent national foresight program implemented in Iceland, which will be the focus of my study, started with a brainstorming exercise that the general public was invited to participate in.
It may be that you define foresight differently than I do. I am certainly aware that the term “foresight” is used differently in different contexts and that the business world, in particular, has developed approaches to forecasting that are increasingly referred to as “foresight” that tend to differ in some respects from the national foresight programs that I have researched. But I still have a hard time imagining what foresight, whether it be national foresight programs or foresight exercises within particular contexts, would look like without broad public participation in one form or another. For specific contexts it could be in the form of less obvious, but common, market research methods, i.e. focus groups, consumer polls, etc. The end result is the same, foresight begins with inputs from a broad base of stakeholders.
I guess, for me, the attractiveness of “openness” in foresight exercises is not so much in the public involvement, since that is already often, or perhaps even always, a component of the exercise. Rather, it would be interesting to explore ways of making more open the process of deriving possible, alternative, and preferred futures from the public exercises. These components of foresight activities are generally less obvious to the public since they usually involve smaller groups of experts and specialized stakeholders. In fact, in some national foresight exercises, the public, who were involved in initial phases, are sometimes genuinely surprised, and not always in a good way, at the results that emerge from later phases. It seems to me, that it is in those latter phases that there is really a need for openness.
Venessa Miemis said:
nice blog! so the idea of open foresight was to create a meme to draw attention to this much needed line of thinking in the mainstream, and to highlight and integrate established approaches. our 1st project is The Future of Facebook.
what makes it “open” is that
a.) we’re welcoming public input as we’re working on scripting the video series, both via comments left here on the blog and through the topic we created over on quora – http://www.quora.com/The-Future-of-Facebook-Project
b.) we’re making all the video content we’ve collected and trancripts available under a creative commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license, meaning it’s available to be reused, remixed and shared.
it’s a work in progress, and we’ll see how we can make the process better as each video gets rolled out. i’m hoping it means we’re creating a fun way to engage others in critical thinking. 🙂
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