Calendar accelerationism. The first time I’ve really looked up in 2017 and it’s March. And we’re already planning for September. As recapped below, so far this year we’ve been in New York, Brussels, Dubai, various parts of Malta, and London. Not to mention work at our various bases in Noord Holland, Manchester, and Toronto. It’s been a furious few months, and since futures is a long fuse, we aren’t likely to see the impacts for a while.
On this last topic, the biggest piece is one we are now actually able
to talk about—our collaboration with the Dubai Future Foundation and Dubai Future Academy
to create and launch a Future Design diploma programme for this ambitious new venture. When the Foundation asked us to help equip senior professionals in UAE government and related entities to architect, design and enable new futures to improve quality of life and innovation in Dubai and beyond, we openly accepted the challenge. Given the current moment there, in the Gulf region, the broader Middle East and the world beyond, the opportunity to explore new cultural lenses on futures—particularly the experiential variety—and bring tools to mix structured insights and creativity to new futures was too intriguing to pass up.
Looking back at the experience of our first January session, it was a good decision. Participants were engaged, curious, thoughtful, ingenious in the concepts they developed for final projects, and, importantly, had a sense of humor as well as a seriousness about the possible futures we face. The presence of colleague Madeline Ashby for one week of the programme gave it an extra spark. Big thanks to Dr. Noah Raford, Jessica Bland, Maha Al Mezaina and the great Foundation team for making the whole programme happen, and run so smoothly.
Wielding experiential futures as a speculative strategy, policy, product or service development tool is a pretty new approach (described well here in this recent work by Superflux
, also in the UAE). It requires turning from the day-to-day analytical skillset to call on a more creative, open, “scenaric,” way of thinking and doing—taking a bit of grounded research, mixed with sometimes faint signals, and using imagination to pull them down plausible pathways that can open up new understanding, or bring others face to face with a future materialized. One needs to be able to switch from evidence to experience, and judge how much of which is necessary for a particular speculation.
We are understanding more about it as we go—in particular, how different cultural contexts change the mix of tools and approaches needed. A normative future in Dubai is likely to be extraordinary somewhere else. Each setting, and each context, calls for a new mixture. We’ll report back as we find out.
I depart shortly for the next session, joined by new guest lecturers and expert interventions. Watch the Twitter feed
for glimpses of the experience.