|Scott Smith||Jul 6, 2018|
As usual, it’s been a busy time at Changeist HQ, full of airline seats, ferries to and from the lab, desert heat and Dutch humidity. We have a lot happening, and our various limbs pointing this way and that, pitching some intriguing projects, organising creative collisions, and doing a little worldbuilding of our own. We also waited out the GDPR storm a bit to get you this fully compliant™ newsletter.
Below is a quick summer catch-up of our recent activities, and a few hints of what’s coming up. We hope you and yours are faring well, and you’re engaged in something fulfilling or difference-making (why choose?).
Stay in touch.
How to Future
If your organisation is interested in building applied futures skills and understanding of core tools and approaches for strategy and innovation using future design, we’ve got you covered. To better focus capacity-building in critical areas, we provide 1-day modular workshops in:
• Sensing and Scanning
• Sensemaking and Mapping
• Scenario Development
• Prototyping and Storytelling.
A full program includes pre-session online on-boarding and support. Tools and approaches are presented in an accessible way, refined through over 10 years of teaching in workshops and educational environments.
We also structure custom workshops lasting from one to three days, structured around specific sectors or geographies.
This spring has brought a series of courses in Strategic Foresight for our partners and colleagues at Dubai Future Academy. Three ‘Level 1’ courses gave our brilliant and diverse students a grounding in sensing and sensemaking, followed by a just-completed 'Level 2’ course on scenarios and public/stakeholder engagement through experiential futures. Almost 20 projects emerged, tackling futures of youth, mental health, urban stress, community, housing, finance, security, culture and heritage and more.
Conversations ranged from reframing cultural micro-heritage to youth unemployment and regional stability to ambient public service communication in a multilingual city to whether to have end-of-life dates with robots. Thanks as always to the amazing DFA team, and to our students who took time out to dive deep into applied futures for policy and innovation. For those in the region, more courses are coming in the fall, so keep an eye on the link above.
We also had a great day with friends at BBC R&D for a How to Future workshop. The exercises generated some very cool ideas about future media and technology. Thanks to all who gave us a day of their time, attention, and umbrellas.
Lastly, Susan Cox-Smith and Scott Smith joined with Jessica Bland and her colleagues at the Dubai Future Foundation (in cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent) for the first of what will hopefully be more events on the future from women’s perspectives. The forum, called Future Visions from Female Voices “asks a selected group of women from the Emirate what they see in the future, what they don’t want to see in the future and what questions we should be discussing more loudly about the future.”
Turnout for this experimental event was standing room only, and the discussion was wide-ranging and thought-provoking, discussing not only what past visions promised in terms of change, but what challenges face us now, and what we want from the future. If you’re in Dubai, keep watching DFF social channels for information on follow-up activities. Thanks to all involved, and we look for more ways to enable the voices of women across the Arab world in shaping more inclusive, equitable futures for all.
Our colleague and collaborator Madeline Ashby has been busy with some new short stories. First up, “Domestic Violence,” for Slate, explored the use and abuse of the Internet of Things when weaponised for the control of other people, an issue that subsequently received in-depth treatmentby the New York Times.
She followed this up with “Tierra y Libertad,” for MIT Technology Review, exploring a future of robot labour rebellion in California pistachio fields.
We’ve collectively done three talks for the retail and fashion industries this spring. We started off in February with a fun event for global retailer ASOS, running a series of six 20-minute mini-debates between Madeline and Scott, looking at futures of globalisation, communication, experience, consumption, technology and work. We wrote up our impressions here. We also arrived to springlike heat, and departed in a snowstorm. Cheers, London.
Scott followed up last month with a talk in London for a major Scandinavian multi-brand retailer, looking at the future of experience, and how that may reshape what young consumers expect from retail (hint: you may not know you’re in a retail environment at all). Everyone from Punchdrunk and Museum of Ice Cream to Gentle Monster and Lot 2046 figure into this discussion of immersive experiences, chaos retail, materialised fandoms, high-dollar heists, and talking trees.
Susan Cox-Smith completed the recent series with a provocative discussion here in the Netherlands for an associated set of women’s brands, looking at body image in the age of machine learning. In it, she asked, if we can deliver hypertargeted advertising, can we not also deliver clothes that fit a diversity of bodies and values?
If you are interested in hearing about these or other topics, or exploring a curated discussion, debate or panel for your company, customers or partners, get in touch. We love to talk. Some of our best value comes from sitting down and discussing hard-to-frame topics.
We’ve been excited to see the objects and media we created to contribute to the IFRC’s Future Is Now project continue to travel. Since the initial event last November, we’ve heard and seen peeks of our pieces visiting Riyadh, Geneva, Tunisia, Denmark and other events. We very pleased these items continue to spark meaningful conversation about possible futures of humanitarian assistance. Thanks again to Shaun, Aarathi, Carlos and the Federation team for the inviting us to play a part. Read more about this project if you missed it the first time.
We’d like to welcome a new collaborator to the Changeist set: Lily Higgins, a recent graduate and Rotterdam-based designer who, in her own words, “is fascinated by new narratives, interconnectedness, change, and ‘the why’.” Lily’s current work and practice is informed by her recent thesis, “Future Flex: A Play-Based Approach to Organizational Change in the Age of Uncertainty” which was nominated for Willem de Kooning Academy’s Bachelor Research Prize 2017. Her background as a visual artist and subsequent degree in Lifestyle Design with a specialization in the theory of play gives her a niche perspective on the topics of futures, organizational change, and the next generation of design thinking. Lily will be working with us to shape new workshops and embodied activities, as well as putting a hand into visual design on our more fun projects and occasional merch drops. Check out her work here.
If you’re interested in the intersection of design and futures, Scott will be talking at PRIMER EU about the public responsibilities of design fiction. It should be a great event, the first European foray of the PRIMER conference held earlier this year in San Francisco. While there has been a lot of design presence in this discussion, we’re hoping to bring a futures point of view more clearly to the fore. Tickets are available now.
Scott will be back on familiar ground mid-month guest lecturing in the Innovation & Future Thinking programme at IED Barcelona. John Willshire of Smithery will be at the helm again, and plans are afoot to explore the futures of ‘space’ —the terrestrial, urban and increasingly contested kind. It’s quick stop, but if you have a cold Moritz or manchego in hand, and would like to exchange either for discussion, he’ll probably agree.
Beyond Barcelona, we are likely to pop up in the Western US briefly later this summer for a client workshop and a few visits, as well as making returns to the Gulf, UK, and Germany. Somewhere in there, we will probably retreat to a quiet spot to continue working on some fiction projects underway.
If there’s something we can do for you, or a project or idea you would like to discuss, we are always happy to talk. If you’re thinking about a future-focused article, event, documentary, podcast or feature, give us a shout. Chances are one of us has a view.