In order to work well, the facilitator of the framework needs to have a throughout understanding of the focus area and the trends affecting the subject matter.
First there needs to be a brief which gives the work direction and momentum. What is the future we are aiming to build, to whom and why? What this usually means is conducting light research in order to understand the subject matter and formulate this understanding into themes to explore.
In practice this can mean anything from a full-blown user research to what we call "minimum viable insight", a just deep enough understanding to build a hypothesis of plausible futures to explore. Time and resource wise this could mean anything from a week upwards. MVI is acceptable in case where we understand just enough but are aware of the limits of our understanding. Using MVI as a start will not in any case replace deep systemic understanding, and will affect the steps required at follow-up.
Best results are achieved usually when we have as diverse group of people in the room as possible. AFT can be run even as co-creation where we mix deep subject matter experts with people who the futures we build will touch. From a facilitation point of view, it's a good idea to limit the group size to 4-5 people, and have one designer facilitating each group as a team member to push their thinking forward.
Majority of the work happens on wall space and fairly large canvases. There should be enough wall space for each group to work on, along with a projector and sounds system for presenting.
The workshop itself runs on themes and time. Usually we have used three themes with enough variation in between. The time, "when" should be far enough, but not too far in order to turn this into science fiction workshop (this will work out fine as well, but tangibility and actionability of the outcomes may vary).
The themes could be describe roughly as macro level ideas of the futures out there; all based on the brief but looking into it from different angles. Based on the topic, all three can be plausible and even preferable but from different angles, or if the group is right, we can add a spectrum of dystopia and / or black swans in the mix.
For a better buy-in, involve as many stakeholders from within as you can. Find out who are the people that have a say about the project, and go talk to them. Do not look for likeminded buy-in, but talk to the skeptics and vocal critics as well — listening is the first step towards understanding and buy-in. Who are the people you can make your internal and external champions?
Once you've set the scene, and explained how the cone works, the future cone canvas is a great way to get people warmed up. Ask a simple question, such as "if you had your way, what things would happen in the future and when?"
Instruct people to put their thoughts on post-it notes — first five minutes by themselves and then as a group, on the canvas in time.
The purpose of this warm up is to get people in the right mood, and clear the most obvious ideas out of the way. Move the canvas aside, we'll use it later.
It is a good idea to decide the year / timespan early enough because this will affect the energy and ambition level in the room. A good rule of thumb is anything closer than two years steers the work towards concrete, tangible ideas today, and anything further out than 10 years is science fiction. Any year works, but this is a bias we’ve noticed and thought you should also be aware of. Some of the exercises have the idea of time built in but we’ve abstracted it on purpose. Time is as moving target.
Would you like to know more about Actionable Futures Toolkit or need some help to facilitate your own Actionable Fututes workshop. Interested about Nordkapp in general?