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Future workshops
- Renewal through Play

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The future workshop is a method designed to help people find alternatives to lifestyles or living conditions which they are not satisfied with. It can revolve around housing, local community, work, network etc. Through the future workshop, groups work out solutions which can spark a transformation in communal living conditions.

A group of people seeking to change their living conditions could choose to work on the them of "Our Ecovillage in the year 2005". The workshop opens with the Criticism Phase, where we are consistently negative: We produce too much waste, we don't know our neighbors, there are no elderly people living with us, we are dependent on our individual cars, we have too many parking spaces, money has too much influence in our lives, etc. After a one- to two-hour brainstorm, where all keywords are written down on wall posters, the keywords are grouped by criticism theme and the points of criticism are dramatized non-verbally.

The Utopia Phase is unplugged from reality out there: Everything is possible. "If we could decide for ourselves ..." The Utopia phase starts with a brainstorm: A large cohousing for the elderly, children and third age can enjoy each other's company, collectively organized workplaces, consensus decision-making, self-sufficient biodynamic food production, collective sun- and bio-power systems, car share, sustainable community economic, and so on. Keywords are grouped in Utoipa themes, which form the basis for a three- to four-hour group session where the utopia unfolds through words, drawings, constructions of various types. To finish, the various utopias are presented to the other participants in the workshop as a story, a game, illustrations, a tour through Ecotopia or also news spots.

In the realization phase, we hold on to the criticism expressed, and take our wishes seriously. Through playing devil's advocate and the loving expression of critique, we ask ourselves: "Can we see ourselves living in the presented Utopias (is it a sand castle or is it truly a possible answer to the things said during the critique phase?)" and "Are our Utopias sufficiently appealing that we want to hold it up as the goal for our future actions?" After this we look at which of the Utopias can be realized here and now, and which can be brought out into reality in the longer or shorter run. What are the hurdles, and what actions can we spurn that can help us get closer to Utopia? The Utopia phase is rounded off with a "Who Does What?" session, where participants--if they have time and the desire to do so--tell each other what concrete actions they are going to undertake to continue working with elements of the Utopia. Finally, the transcription of the text on all the wall posters is delegated to a designated editor, who will include everything in the workshop minutes to be sent to all participants. A follow-up meeting is scheduled four to eight weeks after workshop. Questions to be answered are: How far have we come with "Who Does What?", are there Utopias which need a bit of first aid, and how should we continue to realize the most attractive utopias.

The future workshop is a socio-ecological method which gives participants social experiences that can be significant for the tranformation processes required for a sustainable development. During the workshop, participants receive tools which help them look at the past, the present and the future in a constructive way. They experience fellowship in a spirit of respect and understanding, and can see the power of thinking in terms of opportunites rather than limitations.
A successful future workshop imbues participants with the desire, the courage and the necessary perspective to take action toward their expressed goals and desires for the future.
Group work originates in participants' experiences from daily life, and consequently bears with it an action and transformation potential which can influence their lifestyles in a sustainable way. Based on my experience with dialogue-oriented processes, I believe that the abovementioned action and change potential can be stimulated even more, if the future workshop is supplemented with other dialogue-oeriented and process-catalysing methods as part of the total development process.

Robert Jungk, 1913-1994, developed Future Workshops, in which people envisioned desirable futures and the means of achieving them, as a way of regaining power over their own lives, for fighting indefatigably for sane alternatives and ecological awareness. He felt that the important thing was to create contexts for social innovations; places where people can create ideas. 'From these seedbeds emerge the projects, the real practical changes that over time move our civilisation from its present self-destructive course.


For more information please contact Ditlev Nissen on utopia@christiania.org


Utopiske Horisonter, tlf. +45 2278 9185, ditlev@utopiskehorisonter.dk / www.utopiskehorisonter.dk