Traveling on two legs

By Loes Damhof

Designing workshops for an online environment could be a good try out for the physical encounter, but you won’t know unless you actually try it.

On May 30 and 31, the FUTURES project team gathered for the second time face to face, this time in the hospitable city of Bialystok, Poland. On the schedule were the offline workshops of the three modules Anticipation for the Future, Anticipation for Emergence and Performance for Futures on the first day. The second day was reserved for the project itself.

While external factors (a pandemic, a raging war in Europe) caused some uncertainty around the planning, the trip in itself was an exercise in balancing planning and uncertainty as well. A canceled return flight, fully booked buses, a non-responsive transportation website, and a run for the train and last-minute boarding: the colleagues from HUAS and Middlesex made it after a few hiccups. There are a few situations where futures literacy is more applicable than being in transit. All careful planning and preparation aside, it is ultimately your attitude towards emergence that makes the journey. And as it often is: where technology fails us, humanity does not. It was the Polish friendliness that accompanied us all the way to the hotel.

On Monday we met the students. A wonderful group of 20 from all different backgrounds. The planning of the day allowed again to walk on two legs: starting the day with a structured and well-prepared workshop on scenario planning, that allows students to get to knoweach other and ease into the world of futures. The workshop facilitated by the BUT team offered an introduction to the theory of scenario planning and a step-by-step scenario activity. For most of the students, this was the first time to experience futures thinking, but the clear instructions and guidance made it easier and fun to do.

After this, the HUAS team facilitated a workshop on experiential futures and instructed the students to use the senses to design a short tour through cities of their imagination. Although this was challenging, they managed to unlock their creativity and understand the power of experiencing the future through a different entry point: the senses. We explored cities through nature and technology, taken by them on an experiential journey through storytelling and creative prompts.

After lunch, students were challenged even further in the workshop Performances for futures. Using drama, their bodies, the space, and energy, they performed different futures, being carefully instructed to adapt their physical ‘installations’ to disruptions, to create stories that revealed their assumptions.

Being physical in drama and playing with people you hardly know was challenging to them, they mentioned. But here is when careful design and framing make all the difference: we need to take students on a collective journey that makes sense. Be open about the purpose of the workshop. Why are movement and play so important? The students felt comfortable enough to express their discomfort, but also how impactful and fun the experience had been.

The day had been a great example of the navigating between knowing when to plan and prepare, and when to create enough space to be truly open to emergence.

We need both. We need to walk on two legs.

Fot. T. Trochimczuk