Future Search

Pursue the future with a shared vision

Structure: Participants go through five distinct steps during the event. 1. looking back, 2. viewing the present situation from inside and out, 3. vision/goals, 4. consensus on the goals, 5. first action steps. Participants work alternately in homogeneous and heterogeneous groups. During the last step, binding action steps for reaching the common goals are agreed upon.

Duration of the event: 16 hours spread over three days with the number of participants ranging from 40 to 72.

What is Special About This Method? A system moving in many different directions can be brought back to a single course through the use of future search. The focus is not on the problems, but on the shared common ground of participants. Enthusiasm for the future arises through the creative and free work of the interest groups and through the insight that everyone is in the same boat. The jointly adopted course is agreed on by consensus and thus the acceptance of all action steps is assured.

Sequence of Events: The event is divided into five phases. The phases “Past” and “Present” serve to collect the information, to identify current trends and developments, to engage in a dialogue, to learn and to discover. An overall picture of reality is generated. The basis for joint goals and actions is created in these two phases, during which participants work together creating a community spirit.
During the Consensus phase, common goals of these visions are extrapolated. “What is to happen in our organisation?” Every participant must back all of the goals. This ensures that the actions launched will be carried to completion.
The last phase of the event focuses on goals and the corresponding action steps. The latter are developed in work groups so that they can be implemented immediately after the event. During this phase it becomes particularly clear that participants indeed have the motivation and the willingness to support their organisation.
Participants work in both homogeneous and heterogeneous groups during the event. Homogeneous groups consist of stakeholders sharing the same interest. Heterogeneous groups include representatives of different stakeholder groups.

Principles

  • All stakeholder groups in one room
  • Look into the future instead of at the problems
  • Find common interests instead of working on conflict areas
  • Investigate totally open systems
  • Work in self-managed groups
  • Plan actions only after consensus has been reached
When is Future Search Suitable?

Whenever companies, institutions or communities feel it is needed
  • to develop long-term goals for an organisation or a department,
  • to determine the future of a strategic area (i.e. the future of customer service),
  • to plan the future of geographical units (i.e. the future of a city),
  • to work out the future of a topic, in which different organisations and groups take part (i.e. the future of environmental protection in one region).

An example: After three mergers within 15 years one of the largest community banks in Hessig was in transition from decentralisation to centralisation. There were too many decentralised units, many managers had reached retirement age, the company’s structures were outdated and the rapidly changing market conditions presented the company with constant new demands. Quick action and immediate implementation of change measures were to be discussed at the future search conference. For this purpose, 64 people from different hierarchical positions were invited to a two-and-a-half-day conference.

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