Future workshop method
The Future Workshop method is a conceptual tool which is used for decision-making and problem solving, and gives the participants the opportunity to contribute and cooperate in order to draw a desirable future and find a way to implement it . This method focuses on finding new ways to examine a problem and allows the participants to find suitable solutions. [reference] The Future Workshop method is applicable to almost any kind of problem and encourages the participants to use their creativity and imagination. Throughout Future workshop moderating tools like visualizations and open brainstorming are used, which enable out of the box-thinking and the creation of revolutionary ideas.
The Future workshop consists of four phases: the preparatory phase, the critique phase, the fantasy phase and last, the implementation phase. During the preparatory phase the problem is introduced to the participants and the main topic is defined. This is followed by the critique phase which is the first phase of the workshop. During this phase the participants express their complaints and negative issues that lead to the problematic situation. Afterwards these complaints are discussed and finally clustered together. During the fantasy phase, the participants come up with ideas without boundaries using their imagination and create a utopian message. Again these ideas are discussed and clustered. Finally, at the last step which is the implementation phase the participants return to the current state putting boundaries. The purpose of this phase is for the participants to try to implement their creative ideas to the present situation and create an action plan.
The origins of the Future Workshop method go back to the thirties and forties of the last century, although the explicit form of the method took place in the sixties. The father of the Future Workshop method, Robert Jungk, a journalist, activist and researcher, developed Future Workshop as a new tool that would help people to generate and implement creative ideas in order to live better together as a society.
"The Future Workshop is such a way. It helps people to develop creative ideas and projects for a better society. For trying to resist something is just part of the story. It is essential for people to know what they are fighting for, not just what they are fighting against." [reference]
Therefore, the historical developments of the Future Workshop until the present are listed below as the following:
(1950-1960): Action takes place through movement of citizen in the USA, first publication of the method
(1960-1970): Future Workshop with five phases using participatory methods such as brainstorming and group work
(1970-1980): Future Workshops with three phases with citizens working on actual problems
(1980-1990): Recognition of the Future Workshop as a problem solving tool
(1990-2000): Future Workshop is established.Organisations and other relevant groups show great interest to the method
(2000-present): Future Workshop takes place in textbooks as a method amongst others, used for a big range of problems
Phases and Method Description
The Future Workshop is divided in four phases, a pre-phase and three workshop phases:
- Preparatory phase:
The topic is introduced to the participants. The method and the rules are settled. Logistics such as the time table, space and facilities are also settled.
- Critique phase:
The problem is discussed and the partcicipants express their complaints and negative experiences. Then the complaints are clustered together.
- Fantasy phase:
The participants generate creative ideas without boundaries to create a utopian future. Afterwards these ideas are clustered together.
- Implementation phase:
The participants come back to the current state and try to implement the creative ideas in order to create an action plan that will try to solve the current problem.
Future Workshop method can be applied to almost any kind of problems, as it examines the problematic situation with a wide specter and the participants can actively evolve to find creative solutions to the problem.
Due to the broad use of this method, many types of workshops are applied based on the kind of the problems to be solved:
- Problem opening up:
For a quick opening of a topic or concern. It is used mostly for meetings, conferences and seminars and the participants are usually professionally interested persons.
- Problem conferring:
For encouraging cooperation and creating prospects. It is used mostly for institutes, staff and working groups and the participants are usually dissatisfied persons.
- Problem solving help:
For restructuring business. It is used mostly for organizations and the participants are usually the people that are affected by the problem.
- Problem penetrating:
For looking into the conflicts and future issues. It is used mostly for institutions and churches and the participants are usually interested people in the situation.
- Problem sensibilising:
For solving problems of common interest. It is used mostly for schools, trainings and professional groups and the participants are usually people interested to the issue.
- Problem solving personally:
For dealing with personal fears and relations. It is used mostly for individuals or families and the participants are people that are affected personally by the issue.
Limitations and weaknesses of FW
As communication and interaction between people is not always easy and simple, Future workshop method have some weaknesses and limitations that are listed below:
- FW is an interactive method which focuses on problem solving. That means that conflicts may occur during the main phases of the workshop. It is crucial that the participants and the facilitator have the abilities to solve such conflicts.
- Fantasy phase requires creativity for the generation of utopian ideas which is not such a simple process. Therefore, it is required that the creative tools will be carefully selected to be used.
- The duration of the problem should be adjusted for every single Future Workshop. While sometimes nice ideas can be generated under time pressure, fantasy phase is a more difficult process. Also, long pauses can change the group’s dynamic and not lead to the desirable results.
- As the implementation phase can to an end and an action plan is developed, a question of who is going to carry out the action plan arises.
- The role of the facilitator is very crucial. FW requires that the facilitator is experienced, communicative and able to resolve conflicts and issues that may occur. The facilitator should be engaged and motivated by the task.
- During the Future Workshop all the participants are equal. However, sometimes problems may arise due to the differences of the participants according to theis social status, education, sex and age.