Future Workshop

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Future Workshop is an interactive problem-solving method that incorporates participants that wants to address an issue regarding a certain topic. The method offers participants the possibility to draw a future which is desirable and possible to implement, wherein the encouraged tactic is to think of the impossible.[1] Consequently, the future workshop links present with the future and the outcome of the workshop are concrete actions of the issue in focus that can be taken towards the future.

Future workshop is divided in four different phases: Preparatory, Critique, Fantasy and Implementation. The preparatory phase is the pre-phase and is mainly for the person responsible for the workshop (facilitator), wherein the topic of the workshop is defined. Furthermore, all administrative work is done before the actual workshop.[1][2] The critique phase is where the workshop itself begins, where the purpose is to express all grievances and negative experiences regarding the topic in focus. The critiques are then gathered and considered into different discussion areas. Following this phase is the fantasy phase, which encourages the participants to generate ideas to the critiques by fantasising the ideal state. This vision will then be further developed into provisional solutions and outlines to potential projects.[1] Lastly, the workshop concludes with the implementation phase where the participants reconsiders the present state with its constraints towards the provisional solutions found. Participants critically assess the possibility of getting the projects implemented, wherein obstacles are identified and potentially create an action-plan on how to realise the project.

Summarily, the future workshop is a method to gather interested participant to share their vision on a problem and create an idea of a potential solution, wherein an outline of a project is made. As the workshop is done by collaborating with several participants, the future project can contain a fixed and good purpose, which is inspiring and motivating as well as it creates value for the organisation.[3]

Big Idea


“I think we are somehow designing the future here. Building it up piece by piece as in a workshop.
But if I am honest, I cannot picture how it will end up” — a gardener (1983). 

Future Workshop is a participatory problem solving methods that provides a way for people to utter ideas, discuss future objectives and address ways to pursue a certain purpose. The father of the method, Robert Jungk, founded the method in late thirties and forties in the last century, as Jungk was a victim of the Nazi-regime and wanted people to fight back and influence the course of horrendous events. Over the course of time, the workshop method has developed into a traditional workshop method where use of groups, brainstorming and phase division got implemented.

According to Jungk (1973 cited in Vidal, 2005), the future workshop's main purpose is to develop a proposal for a desirable future, by performing a joint critique of an establishment.[3] The method will give a mutual understanding of a situation and propose an action-plan or an outline of a project in order to achieve the future. The Future Workshop links the present with the future by suggesting a number of concrete actions to be taken towards the future. Furthermore, the essence of the workshop method is to have a creative environment wherein participant that are affected or have an influence can address a certain issue.[2]

Future Workshop in Project Management

Description of the tool

The workshop are divided into following phases [1]:

  1. Preparatory Phase: Becoming acquainted with method, topic, timetable, fellow participants – (basic conditions – establishing the workshop)
  2. Critique Phase: Finding out the main fields of critique – (actual conditions – key problems)
  3. Fantasy Phase: Overcoming the critique by creativeness and imaginations - (ideal conditions – desirable futures)
  4. Implementation Phase: Leading up from inventions, visions, dreams to requirements and projects – (realistic conditions – capacities to change)

Current State of the Art

Future workshops are a tool for establishing a shared vision among carefully selected participants in workshops based the participants' experiences and dreams. Here the participants set the agenda for what needs to be discussed and changed. Thus, it is important that the participants themselves have the desire to change and influence the future of the workshop's theme. The workshop form enables identification of creative solutions and look beyond conventional thinking. Future workshop has a very democratic offset and aims to restore the social imagination that has been downsized in our rational society. Future workshops allow the participants to raise criticism of the existing society, provide ideas and dreams and eventually make concrete plans for the future. Thus is it empowers participants to fix problems in their everyday life. Future workshops is therefore organized around a theme of the participants' common life - a theme that might be associated with negative experiences and desires for change.


The future workshop consists of three main phases with the following foci and activities:

Criticism phase: All dissatisfaction with regard to the future of the workshop's theme is expressed and written on posters. It is important that all participants have the opportunity to express their criticism and all criticism is weighted equally. A collective criticism of everyday life helps to create a unity in the belief that something has to change. At the same time it provides insight into the problems of others in relation to the theme, which can help to put their own problems in perspective. Steps:

  • Collection of critique issues (by written cards/brainstorming)
  • Systematisation (clustering) on a pin board
  • Evaluation, condensation, intensification, priorities

Fantasy or visionary phase: After defining the boundaries of the problem through the criticism phase the perspective is now flipped focusing on creative problem solving. Here the identified issues are addressed by formulating utopian solutions. Nothing is too brittle to be said, the wilder ideas the better. By formulating the participants wildest desires and aspirations a solid platform for establishing a collective vision addressing the problems.Steps:

  • Imaginative introduction (meditation, work, walks ...)
  • Turn critique issues into the opposite (bad to good) as starting points
  • Collect ideas (brain writing)
  • Preparing and performing a role play, fable, report, painting, fairytale to a fantastic story (as group work)

A common analysis of these performances with regard to good solutions/ideas Extract, write down an “idea store” on a pin board

Implementation phase: The idea of a realization phase is to formulate a reality where the qualities of the utopia still preserved. Here plans for how dreams are put into reality are created. The activities at this stage are thus concerned with how to formulate a dream realistic (goal setting) and how do we ensure that it is realizable (planning).Steps:

  • Evaluate the concepts of the “idea store” with regard to realistic conditions and best fit (PM-method)
  • Put in more concrete terms, the best-suited concepts (group work)
  • Choose the best one
  • Build an action plan: Who does what, where, when and how?

Further Reading

Jungk, Robert, Müllert, Norbert (1987): Future workshops: How to Create Desirable Futures. London, England, Institute for Social Inventions ISBN 0-948826-39-8

Heino Apel: The Future Workshop:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Rasmussen, L. (2011). Facilitating Change - using interactive methods. 1. edition. Polyteknisk Forlag. p. 73-76
  2. 2.0 2.1 Laksov et. al. (2008). Developing a community of practice around teaching: a case study. Higher Education Research & Development, 27:2, 121-132.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Vidal R. (2005). The Future Workshop: Democratic problem solving. Informatics and Mathematical Modelling.
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