The Image Today: Field-Notes on the Interdisciplinary Use of the Visioning Workshop

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Fred Polak wrote in his classic text, The Image of The Future: The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as the society’s image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive. This is, arguably, one of the most important tenets of Futures Studies as an academic discipline. This essay explores the importance and practice of imbuing our communities (especially our youth) with the ability to create positive future images; assisting them in the recognition of their own agency in the creation of preferred futures; and encouraging them to become active participants in the creation of positive personal and communal futures today.

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... However, most scenarios in practice are descriptive rather than normative (identify an ideal or desired future). The creation of normative futures is more often addressed through visioning techniques (Bishop et al. 2007;Bodinet 2018). ...
This article describes a high-level evaluation of a scenario exercise that took place in the New Zealand health sector in 1997 and derives some lessons for future evaluations. By extension, such an evaluation tests the efficacy of scenario development and futures thinking (foresight) in general. Context for the evaluation is provided by a brief reflection on scenarios as a technique, both generally and in the health field. Then a discussion of the process used in 1997 to develop five scenarios is followed by a description of the logic and methodology for the evaluation itself. Findings suggest that the process used to develop the 1997 scenarios was valuable in opening up decision-makers’ minds to possibilities without them needing to feel threatened or defensive, but it may not have been inclusive enough for the New Zealand context. Using criteria identified by Schoemaker the scenarios themselves were relevant, credible, and coherent, but not particularly archetypal or long term. Their impact on strategic decision-making was short-lived, but they were prescient in many respects and have been referred to within academia. Future considerations of health futures should be clearer as to purpose, get more explicit buy-in of key decision-makers and draw on a more diverse range of inputs. We also suggest that rather than being carried out during a discrete time period, scenario development should be a continuous and constantly updated process.
Futures Studies is generally misunderstood from two perspectives. On the one hand, there are those who believe it is, or pretends to be, a predictive science which, if properly applied, strives to foretell with reasonable accuracy what THE future WILL BE.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present a new approach to the study of the future. Design/methodology/approach The paper describes six foundational concepts (the used future, the disowned future, alternative futures, alignment, models of social change, and uses of the future), six questions (will, fear, missing, alternatives, wish, and next steps as related to the future) and six pillars (mapping, anticipating, timing, deepening, creating alternatives, and transforming), giving examples and case studies where appropriate. Findings In an increasingly complex and heterogeneous world, futures studies can help people to recover their agency, and help them to create the world in which they wish to live. Originality/value The paper integrates and builds on a variety of futures studies' concepts, ways of thinking and techniques and integrates them into a new approach.
The Image of the Future. Translated by Boulding
  • Fred Polak
The Future: Images and Processes
  • Elise Boulding
  • Kenneth E Boulding