The future workshop is a tool with which problems are identified and solutions developed in moderated group discussions using creative techniques. The tool is used to gain external (technical) knowledge and including affected interests. Through the moderated discussions and the use of creative techniques, future workshops should assist in identifying problems not yet known and working out approaches to solutions not yet thought of. Participants can be stakeholders as well as external experts. The future workshop is well-suited for preparing fundamental strategic decisions. The process of a future workshop is typically divided into three phases:
In the criticism phase the problems are first clearly named.
In the vision phase, a future ideal state is described that should be outlined irrespective of obstacles and limitations (applicable norms, lack of resources, etc).
In the implementation phase the visionary ideas are tested for their realizability, prioritized and, if applicable, further developed into concrete measures.
1. Clearly formulate the primary goal of the future workshop and define the framework
It must be clear at the outset why the future conference should be conducted. This provides both the requirements profile of the participants to be invited as well as the timeframe of the future workshop that usually takes place over one or two days.
2. Provide resources
Is suitable accommodation is required for the future workshop, if applicable, with catering as well as overnight options. Furthermore, a moderator experienced in the use of creative techniques should be engaged.
3. Invite participants and obtain media attention when necessary
If the framework of the future workshop is clear, depending on the goals, the participants can be selected and invited (e.g. citizens, experts or politicians, who can be determined by means of a stakeholder analysis; see Stakeholder Analysis tool). If it is the goal of the future workshop to increase the legitimacy of a decision through participation it is possible to generate media attention and to explain the process in a transparent manner.
4. Conduct the future workshop
a. Firstly, the participants introduce themselves and explain their expectations of the future workshop. In this way any dialogue barriers will be dissolved and the expectations for the future workshop will be made clear.
b. The introduction phase is followed by the criticism phase, in which the participants address and list the negative aspects and possible criticisms of the topic. The criticisms raised are then prioritized.
c. The vision phase follows the criticism phase. In this phase, participants are required to imagine what the future ideal state could look like if the criticisms addressed earlier no longer existed.
d. The implementation phase follows as a last phase, which asks the question “How do we reach the ideal state?”. The so-called “W questions” (What? Who? With whom? By when? With what?) must be answered taking into account the real circumstances in order to work out concrete action plans.
5. Prepare the results and publish where applicable
Depending on the goal of the future workshop, the results worked out in step four are bundled and prepared for further use and decision-making. If transparency is a goal, the goals should also be published in a suitable form.
- Phase 1 – Strategy group:
- Competence: Reveal and include competencies; form strategy groups
- Phase 2 – Agenda Setting:
- Competence: Use technical knowledge as well as criticisms/identify need for reform
- Capability to implement: Win actors for the reform
- Phase 3 – Formulating and decision-making:
- Competence: Use technical knowledge; develop solutions
- Capability to implement: Win actors for concrete solutions