The practice of thinking about the future is currently dominated by a small group of academics, large businesses, consultants and government foresight teams.
As the world struggles with increased complexity and uncertainty, we believe that the process of systematically imagining alternative, sustainable futures should be conducted in a more democratic and inclusive manner. As distrust in institutions grows and societies become more polarised, we wish to explore alternative and emerging methods that are being used to bring communities together to debate and create collective visions for the futures they desire. From participatory scenario generation to temporary autonomous zones, speculative design to massive online open games, we want to understand the state of this practice and help public institutions and civic society to understand where and how they may be best applied.
We are looking for researchers who can help deliver the following research objectives:
- Propose a definition for participatory futures drawing on current practice following a review of the academic literature. Explain the differences and similarities between participatory futures and related fields such as digital democracy and public engagement in science.
- Identify and create a typology of methods for engaging citizens in thinking together about the medium to long-term future (i.e., with at least a five year time horizon). This should specifically address questions around use and purpose.
- As part of the above, particularly explore emerging methods for engaging citizens in thinking about the future that make use of new technologies to connect and/or immerse groups of citizens in new ways (e.g., massive online open games or virtual reality).
- Build a collection of 20-25 case studies categorised by ‘type’ that illustrate the diversity of methods/techniques – these should have broad geographic focus, but with at least 5 located in the UK. These should be up to 250 words in length, and ideally from within the last five years. These should be formatted in a spreadsheet that describes the various properties of each case study and provides standardised data.
- Provide a summary of the perceived and evidenced purpose, benefit and impact of engaging citizens in participatory futures/citizen foresight. Impacts should be considered at the level of the individual, the group, and broader community and should cover the social, political and economic impacts.
- Summarise some of the challenges and pitfalls or trade-offs of the different methods.
- In consultation with Nesta, agree 6-8 case studies per ‘type’ to analyse in depth – this should include understanding the purpose, audience, participants, approach(es) and tools used, connection into formal or other decision-making, and evidence of political, social and economic impact. These should be up to 800 words.
- Produce a guide to help potential commissioners and aspiring practitioners of participatory futures understand which ‘type’ of methods may be best suited to achieve particular goals, where/how their use might fit in decision-making and policy-making process, and the ‘business case’ for their use. This should also include a guide to other key considerations for commissioners and practitioners such as time needed for delivery, relative cost, and potential pitfalls or trade-offs.
Deadline for submission of proposals: 29th April, 12 noon GMT
More info here.