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Public Engagement in Experiential Futures

Designing for the future, in the future

Foresight Walk is a new method of public engagement being developed by OCADU graduate students Jaime Calayo and Macy Siu. One half audio walking tour, one half live-theatre, foresight walks invite diverse participants to immerse themselves in an entertaining and provocative experiences that depicts a future scenarios of public spaces.

Foresight walks can be of great value to the urban design of public spaces, especially those which involve various different stakeholders. By going through foresight walks, public engagement facilitators are able to illicit deeper future-focused questions from the public, which in turn can be developed into strategic recommendations that allow for more resilient urban planning.

Resilient strategies for uncertain and complex futures

The purpose of a foresight walk is not to predict one singular future but to analyze the most thought-provoking elements of multiple futures. In analyzing the most interesting scenarios of multiple futures we will be able to highlight critical painpoints and opportunities to better plan for.

Meaningful public engagement of complex multi-stakeholder environments

One of the key challenges that intermediaries like urban planners and city officials face in stakeholder engagement regarding public space projects is managing considerations from different stakeholders. Different stakeholders have different ideas on how public spaces should be designed. Sometimes these conflicting viewpoints make it difficult for them to come together and listen. The value that Foresight Walks bring is that it allows stakeholder considerations to be recontextualized into low stakes speculative futures that are removed from the tensions of today that prevent stakeholders from being able to see eye to eye.

Foresight Walk process

The foresight walk will involve developing a shopping mall experience from the future based on an analysis and future projections of current trends. This process includes:

 1. Immersing walk participants in the future by having them listen to a fictional story about the future inspired by projected shopping mall trends. While listening, they are being led on a walking tour of the shopping mall and its surrounding area.

2. Harvest insights through role-playing and facilitated discussion. Participants will be asked to respond to the audio-narrative as a fictional character in that future. Their responses will be collected and used as insights to inform strategic recommendations.

Foresight walks are simple to facilitate and consists of the following elements:

45 minute walk in & around the space

15-20 walk participants

 2 walk facilitators

multiple instances of the walk

Value and outcomes for developers and officials

Aside from the stakeholder engagement possibilities, Foresight Walks are also fun and entertaining. When most people think of stakeholder engagement, they think of the traditional non-transparent “consultation” processes – long town hall meetings, telephone surveys, or complicated census forms. Foresight Walks have the potential to spark the imagination in fun and creative ways through the design of immersive environments and interactive live-theatre.

For city builders, foresight walks create opportunities to create community buy-in. By communicating the rigorous foresight walk process with community members, city builders can show they have invested the time to meaningfully consider the future of the community. Through investing time in conducting foresight walks, it may show that city builders can just be invested in a community as everybody else.

By exploring different future scenarios through the foresight walk process, city builders also have the opportunity to uncover future market opportunities. By exploring how different STEEPV factors (social, technological, economical, environmental, political, values) might change in the future, they become that much more prepared in being able to design for them.

Value and outcomes for designers and planners

Foresight Walks have the potential to be a method that can be repurposed and used in all stages of the design research process as they can be reiterated on based off the insights from previous walks. Using the British Design Council’s Double Diamond approach to define the different stages of the design process, Foresight Walks can be used in the following ways:

Discover: It allows research participants to develop a systems perspective in being able to see the different stakeholders, what their needs are and how they influence each other and the space.

Define: Points that resonate with research participants in the Foresight Walk experience can be explored deeper and provide direction for problem framing.

Develop: Foresight Walks can use speculative design to prime and prompt research participants to engage in divergent idea generation.

Deploy: Foresight Walks create a space in which design interventions can be prototyped, tested and evaluated.