The element of vision focuses on developing a common understanding of what would be a preferred transformation of a situation. What is it that we want to happen? How could an existing situation turn into one that is serving better the needs of the stakeholders involved? To open up to other possibilities of an existing situation, a kind of common understanding of the status quo, of what is already there is the starting point from which alternative versions could be explored. Developing a common understanding of what makes up the current situation therefor should be the starting point. This is where it is necessary to listen carefully to the different understandings and views of a situation and make them visible. If the process is about a certain space that should be developed it could be best to start with an exploration of the qualities of the place. If the vision that should be developed is about a more abstract topic, addressing the individual experience and mapping them together through material making activities like building models could be another advisable step. The goal in any case is to develop a more thorough and complex understanding of the situation and building on that, to open up possibilities how the current and future stakeholders of a situation would imagine it to develop. Change and development is happening any way, the question at stake is to develop a more commonly owned vision which offers everyone orientation to act towards an envisioned future situation.
In spring we met a team from the local theater and university (Malin Nagel and Annika Wehrle) who were running a project called “IN ZUKUNFT: Mainz”. The project was focusing on the future of the city and actual and possible, or even fictional developments. They did several bike tours visiting several initiatives and invited guests for four thematic weekends: Resources, Money, Society.
We were invited as guest speakers for a moderated talk and a small workshops session at the final of the four weekends which was focusing on Society and living together. We offered the possibility to write letters to the future of the city outside the venue of the talk. The talk itself was moderated by the independent theater director Jan Deck and the critical economist Friederike Haberman. Beside an interested group of participants we discussed with Jörg Greis, the managing director of a social company working with disabled and hardly employable people.
Through the diverse experience of the invited guests and the critical input of Friederike Haberman we followed and contributed in a very intense and interesting discussion on the possibilities to integrate diverse views and perspectives in the city and how to best facilitate participation of mixed social groups.
In November 2016 we were invited to facilitate a workshop at the symposium “un/certain futures” in the context of the MA program Transformation Design at the University of the Arts Braunschweig.The symposium was organized by the students of the first year and invited a wide range of researchers and practitioners in the interdisciplinary field of transformation.
We were invited for the second day, to show some “instant future production”. Since the MA students were working on the topic of the future of the university and future learning, we addressed this topic in the workshop, to both build on the experience of the MA students but also involve other participants of the symposium in the discussion. The workshop was our first opportunity to test out our new workshop methodology and learning from the experience in the first workshops in summer we decided to produce a set of reusable building blocks that would be the base for articulations and visualizations of different questions on the topic of future learning. First everyone was handed over a small Lego figure with a small flag and was called to introduce him- or herself on the flag. The second building block was an organic form that was used for articulations to the question “How does a good learning experience look for you?”. The third was actually a small block and was connected with the question: “What means learning at the university/school for you?” and the fourth block was a hexagon coined with the question “How should learning for the future look like?”.
The workshop went through different stages: First the participants worked individually, but since it was free wether the answers to the questions would be written, drawn or visualized through materials that we provided as a material bar, after some minutes of individual thinking most of the participants were starting to build things, walk around and start to exchange views.
In a second stage of the workshop people were asked to move in smaller groups and introduce themselves and their views. After this introductory round they were asked to combine their visualizations in a common vision of learning experiences, learning at the university/school and proposals for future learning.
After these first discussions we went on a small tour through the different vision landscapes, discussing common patterns, differences and unique findings and commenting via post-its on the visualizations. In a third stage of the workshop people were free to move to another group and move also their visualizations to another table to add to another vision or discuss another aspect. In a final presentation of the workshops we presented the different visions and facets of the discussions to the whole symposium.
Feedback of the participants revealed that the workshop enabled them to step quite quickly to the core issues of the topic and that through the visualizations new aspects and individual views were much easier to discuss, because the material visualizations had to be interpreted within the group, which enabled everyone to come back to the resemblances on which they agreed in the discussion. Much more complex discussions which still included the individual experiences and views would be enabled through the format and after listening to presentations and talks for one and a half days everyone was happy to connect again to his or her own experience and also use the time for a collective reflection.
In December 2016 we collaborated with the association Schöne Aussichten – Forum für Frankfurt. The association focuses on participatory research and dialogues around the future development of the city and has developed a set of 10 factors that have been described by citizens as important development fields for the city of Frankfurt since 2014: Work/Economy, Culture, Education, Health/Wellbeing, Environment, Mobility, Housing, Security, Living together, Politics/Administration. These factors have been described in detail through qualitative research and have been discussed in public engagement dialogues.
The city of Frankfurt a.M. is currently running a participatory process across the city to develop a vision for an integrated future development. Several participatory events took place already in summer 2016, but in late autumn the city invited to take part in four dialogues that would discuss four different scenarios how the city could handle growth of inhabitants and the building of new housing. We took part in three of these dialogues and invited a mixed group of stakeholders from the 10 different fields for a curated dialogue to reflect around the cities process in relation to the associations own developed factors. Main idea of the event was to network across different influencers and to steer the discussion around the cities engagement process.A very diverse and interested group of participants came for an evening event in which we facilitated the process through our Vision Mapping tools. The three little stages we first used in the Future Learning Workshop in Braunschweig were used again to address different questions and the different views of the participants on the integrated development concept. First the participants were asked to introduce themselves through the lego figures by drawing or writing something about their position and role on the little flag. The participants were then asked to reflect on their own experience during the cities dialogues on the four scenarios.
As we could not assume that all of the participants took also part in one of the dialogues, we kept the questions linked to the small stages quite open. The first stage, the square, was linked with the question: What becomes visible to me through the cities dialogic process? The second, the hexagon was supposed to give an answer to with the question: What would enrich the dialogic process for me? The last, the island, invited the view also from an organized perspective: What does the process of integrated city development imply for my own project?
Starting by introducing themselves and their organization, the participants were asked to explain there visualizations or characterizations to the others in groups of three to four. They were then asked to also compare their won scenarios and find parallels or differences in their positions. After this first round of exchange, we made a tour through the different landscapes that were developed on the individual tables and discussed the different viewpoints. All participants were also asked to comment or emphasize with post-its. In the last new mixing of the groups, the participants were supposed to develop a vision of how their common goals could be developed – what would they need to reach their vision? Some of the participants also moved parts of the visualization landscapes and integrated them in one of the other scenarios.
In the end we had a last round of feedback with the whole group, which revealed how the scenarios offered some very crucial insights but also build the hope across the group, that they would be able to influence these pain points through more exchange between the existing organizations. Everyone seemed to be exited to work on this common vision of connecting their goals and individual motivation was inspired.