Posts tagged futures
Models of Impact Live! Futures Edition

Models of Impact Live! kicked off with a futures theme a few weeks ago. Thank you to everyone that watched via live stream and participated with us on facebook! We had a great time going over our fun methodology for designing business models through the convergence of revenue, impact, and factors of interest. 

In this debut episode, we came up with three different business inventions based on the outcome of each role of the die! One roll, two rolls, and three rolls for each subsequent invention round. In order to make use of our colorful 12 sided die, we preselected 12 revenue models, impact models, as well as 12 factors of interest. When practicing at home, you can choose your own models from the glossary as well as number of factors as long as you use die with enough sides to give each model a chance at being considered! 

For this episode we chose a futures theme in celebration of the release of our new book, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise – a book that explores a history and methodology for building futures oriented business ideas. After every invention workshop, our team puts together a Models of Impact Canvas in order to encapsulate the idea as well as a series of different scenarios, an outline of opportunities, risk, as well as a way to test. Here's what we came up with! 

Idea #1 (1-1-1)
Factor of Interest: Virtual Reality
Impact Model: Fair Trade
Revenue: Freemium

Idea #2 (2-2-2)
Factors of Interest: Virtual Reality, Drones
Impact Model: Fair Trade, 1 for 1
Revenue Model: Coupons, Event Tickets

Idea #3 (3-3-3)
Factors of Interest: Mars, Drones, Robots  
Impact Model: Conscious Sourcing, Percentage Inventory, Social Awareness
Revenue Model: Project flat fee, Sponsorship, E-commerce

After exploring each idea, we go into the details about what opportunities there within each model, what the risks are, and ways to test the idea for rapid validation. Perhaps there is local organization of street performers we can partner with to execute idea #3. The risk may be that self-organized groups often lack the leadership to work with, and thus could pose a problem. One way to test would be to hold a meeting and discuss with the group. Easy! 

Stay tuned for our next Models of Impact Live! where we take your ideas and create business models that help the world in meaningful ways and create revenue for sustainability and growth. 

Are you interested in business model design workshop for your organization or venture? Our team of strategists are eager to help facilitate an engaging workshop for you and your team! Learn more about Models of Impact here or click below to contact us! 

Designing for the Future | An interview with Jake Dunagan

Strategy, at the core, looks at desired outcomes and the decisions made to achieve them. At verynice, thinking about the future is not just best practice, it's something we hope to educate the world about. Meet Jake Dunagan, for the last two years, Jake has led the effort at verynice and most recently contributed to our new book, 'Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise.' We sat down to discuss what futures work means and how organizations can build this capacity. 

How would you describe your work?

The core of what I’m trying to do is to help people understand change, envision alternative futures, and then actively build a better world. This is done through a battery of theories, techniques, and processes. Futures thinking favors those that can connect dots at an abstract level, across a wide range of fields, and then drill down to the details of how trends and emerging issues might interact, amplify, or deflect in possible real-world contexts.  It is a challenging, but often thrilling endeavor. One is always at the edge of one’s capacity, and learning how to learn (fast) is key.

One of the best ways to learn is through direct experience. But we can’t directly experience the future because the future only exists as a projection from the present (and conditioned by the past). To try and help overcome that, I’ve been involved in a technique called experiential futures, or design futures. This is a process of deeply investigating a subject, developing a compelling story, and then making that story tangible through graphic media, the built environment, performance, and other artifacts from the future.

My colleague Stuart Candy and I recently published a paper on a particularly momentous project we led in Phoenix, as part of the Emerge conference.

Can futurists predict the future?

Not any that I’m aware of! The world is a complex system, with fluctuating perturbations, unexpected events, and strange behavior. We might be able to make predictions about certain things, like elections, but even then, with usually only two candidates and a mass of polling information, we’re often wrong.

So, for me and many other futurists, prediction is a fool’s game. The better approach is to prepare rigorously for complex, accelerating, non-linear alternatives. Because we can’t predict THE Future doesn’t mean we can’t increase our foresight capacity and improve our chances for making better choices--to steer toward better future while being ready to take sometimes drastically different directions that we had originally planned. This goes for individuals, but I’m mostly interested in group and society-level strategies at this stage.

You recently contributed to ‘Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise’ What do you hope people take away from this book?

First, that foresight and futures can make any endeavor better. Futures studies is not just about high-tech clichés.

Second is that business itself is an invention, and can be re-thought, re-designed, and re-deployed in new ways. As my mentor, Jim Dator, likes to say, “the world is a social invention, and we are social inventors.”

Third, is that it is not only our option to re-design business and society, it is our responsibility. We are ethically bound to leave a decent world for those future generations to come. Future-oriented, socially-minded business could be a big part of how we overcome some of the systems challenges we face.

What are some big things to consider in the next 5,10, 20 years?

There are always new technologies to consider, and we certainly can see current events casting their shadow on the future. But to take it a step more abstract, I think the biggest thing we are going to face in the next 20 years is the question of how to be an ethical person. Nothing in that question is stable. We are challenging long-held beliefs about human nature, the mind, individuality, etc. We also live in a world of extremely turbulent change, so even if we somehow figure out ourselves, the self will be in a new world almost every day. We’re going to have to get used to irreducible ambiguity, and do the best we can with the knowledge we have.

A long-term, systems-level view that is emotionally connected to living beings is how I orient myself. And, stealing from Jim Dator again, I take my work seriously, but not myself.

Is there anything organizations can do now to prepare?

Get real about there not ever being a return to “normal” times (if we ever had normal times), and then get professional help. My four-step argument about futures is this: 1. All humans think about the future. 2. We are not very good at it. 3. It is not our fault (spoiler, it’s baked into our brains), and 4. There’s something we can do about it.

The “something” we can do about it comes from three generations of scholars and practitioners developing tools and techniques to think about the future more usefully. Seek out futures thinking tools, raise your foresight capacity. I mentioned “professional” help, and that’s what we provide at verynice, but in reality, the best outcomes are when students, companies, organizations or agencies take this initial learning and make it their own, and leave us behind. My goal is to have hundreds of “former” clients doing their own futures work, and becoming architects of better futures. I think we’ll all be better off in that scenario.

Could This Be the Future of Housing?

What if you could merge the connections and productivity of a co-working space with the comforts of a chic hotel? Meet the Student Hotel, a fast growing venture with eight locations in Europe. The idea behind the Student Hotel is consistent with other innovative co-living solutions that mix the amenities and social interaction of shared living spaces with private sleeping areas to create a more communal and affordable urban housing arrangement. What do you think? Drop us a line! Our design strategy team is constantly looking at trends that define the future of urban living, products, and services. 

A Recap from The Crowd Consortium, Facilitated by verynice:

At verynice, we have successfully used the power of crowdsourcing to build audiences, facilitate growth, and launch products for our clients. We have also used it to facilitate conversations and action surrounding community and social change. Needless to say, we’re already convinced on how effective and influential it can be. 

That’s why we didn’t hesitate to say, “yes,” when verynice was asked to facilitate the Crowd Consortium, which culminated a series of regional meetings and webinars that took place throughout 2014-2015 and aimed to advance cross-disciplinary conversations about crowdsourcing. 

At this two and a half day event, our Global Foresight Lead, Jake, and Founder, Matt, lead a series of workshops in Maryland for 60 leaders across academia, research, private sector companies, funding agencies, GLAM institutions, and graduate programs. Workshops from the first day focused on broader perspectives within crowdsourcing, such as its greater implications, emerging trends, and barriers to progress. On Day 2, the workshop drilled down into design and implementation strategies. Participants outlined the problems we’re trying to solve in order to conceptualize and design new products/services that have the potential to push us past current obstacles.  

Bringing together participants from so many different fields, of course, enabled us to approach problems and questions with a variety of perspectives at hand— although there were commonalities we didn’t expect. For example, introducing design-thinking methodologies into the context of digital humanities seemed to push participants from most fields out of their comfort zone, which helped prompt some exciting outcomes. One positive outcome we did expect was that participants expressed a desire to continue collaborating with this group even after the conclusion of the consortium. We attribute this to the collaborative, learn-through-making format that defined our workshops. 

While verynice has always been peripherally involved in the crowdsourcing community, seeing it discussed outside of the design industry, within the humanities, was a new experience for us— one that turned out to be very eye opening, and that we are excited to continue contributing to.

The verynice team looks forward to finding new and interesting ways to incorporate crowdsourcing into our work. See more about what we do here.

Learning in the Future: Spaces of Possibility

When I take my kids to a restaurant, their tablemats often have some counting lessons or logic puzzles. The apps and games they play teach reading, math, scientific investigation, design, and more. When they watch cartoons, they are usually absorbing embedded lessons about nature, social interactions, or problem solving. There are few kids’ shows with coyotes chasing roadrunners around the desert these days. Kids are learning at school, at home, on the road, on hikes, at the beach, and in front of screens. Of course, kids have always learned “something” as they play and consume media, but these days the intentional informal learning opportunities are abundant and unavoidable.

The idea of a “learning space” is being transformed, no longer confined to enclosures within official educational institutions. In this short scenario report, our verynice futures team lays out a series of alternative futures for learning and learning spaces. We’ve drawn upon our own personal and professional experience exploring innovative (and not so innovative) educational institutions around the world. We’ve mapped out some major trends in learning technology, educational processes and priorities, and new social behaviors that will open new domains for how, when, where, and why learning takes place. The scenarios we’ve created show just how different the future might be for learners of all stripes, and the values and dynamics driving each of these possible worlds.

How might education and learning change when unleashed from many current cultural, technological, and bureaucratic constraints? How might these new systems serve learners more effectively? On the other hand, how might they fail or exploit learners in both known and novel ways?

Use this scenario report to explore new horizons, challenge your assumptions, and to facilitate a conversation about what values, practices, and outcomes you’d prefer to see for the future of learning. And let us know how we can help you think about futures more creatively and act on these insights more effectively. 

Click here to see The Learning Spaces Report by our verynice futures team and explore new ways to think about the future of learning.

Digital Organizing in the Future

How can digital organizing complement and amplify other forms of community organizing and movement building? And vice-versa? Where can we find examples of organizing today that blend the best of digital movements and community organizing? What is possible for organizing in the future?  These were the core questions behind a two-day Digital Organizing Summit put on by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego last week, where I had the pleasure of exploring those questions, learning about the incredible work of the Jacobs Center, and meeting some of the most insightful and effective leaders in movement building. 

I’m no expert on the inner workings of foundations, but I have experience with participatory platforms and community engagement, and I found the ways Jacobs works with the community in Southeast San Diego to be remarkably robust and inspirational. Some community organizations may have their residents participate in parts of the initial visioning. Others might involve them in some aspect of strategy connected to the core mission. And still others may have residents join in for direct actions, such as cleanups, building construction, or art installations. But I’ve rarely seen a foundation allow a community to be so tightly and meaningfully integrated into all core processes— from vision to strategy to design and implementation. This was not just told to us abstractly, it was also deliciously demonstrated by the food served to us by True Roots, a neighborhood catering company supported by Jacobs that is providing opportunities for residents. Finally, and perhaps most boldly, Jacobs Center is putting a plan in place to completely hand over the assets of the Foundation to the local community to control and self-manage by 2030. Therein lies a golden opportunity for Jacobs to innovate around community governance and decision-making models, and I have little doubt they will. 

There were many brilliant insights and examples from the participants, many that could only come from those who can see both the long-term systemic issues,  but who are also working “on the ground” with real people facing real challenges. This kind of empathetic visioning is critical to making better futures for more people. Documentation on the key takeaways can be found at the Jacobs Center DOS blog, especially relevant for digital community organizers, but from a futurist’s perspective, here are a few of my personal highlights:

The necessity and power of feedback loops
We know from the study of persuasion, as well as game design, that right place/right time feedback mechanisms are critical for (return) engagement. From as small as a personal phone call after a donation, to as large as the justice for a person wrongly killed, feedback and “wins” (large and small) help people stay interested to give their time and energy to the cause. Feedback also helps participants to “level-up,” and only tackle challenges that are right at the edge of their capacity—keeping them engaged, focused, and rewarded.

Growing a “middle-class” of activism
By middle-class, I don’t mean activism for the middle-class, per se, I mean a robust population of organizations and movements that provides a stabilizing force to sustain civil society.  In our collective mental ecology, we are highly aware of “blockbuster” moments like the ALS ice bucket challenge. These blockbusters tend to skew the thinking of organizations that want to make their campaign “viral.” This blockbuster/virality thinking, much like in the Hollywood business model, redistributes resources to ideas, issues, or communities that have the potential for mega-success, siphoning off funds and energy from other campaigns that might not be as sexy, or as immediate, as others. There are many other kinds of campaigns that might be more localized, less newsworthy, and longer term than many of the more publicized movements. Designing a structure of activism, fundraising, and community organizing that supports these vital, but not sensational, needs is important, and perhaps overlooked.

Sensory Data-Driven
Taking a slightly more oblique angle on the idea of data-driven community organizing, I was fascinated by Mike Spear’s description of the work of Apopo. They train rats to detect landmines, and diseases, such as tuberculosis. We often think of data as something tied to computers, but there is a great potential to use other kinds of data. Organizers might need to be trained in best practices around non-computational data management. Imagine this scene: you walk into a medical clinic, and instead of being met by a doctor or nurse, you are first “screened” by a zoo of animals trained to detect any disease or condition you might have. 

Andrew Hapke and the Jacobs Center team were wonderful hosts, and the super-stars of digital and community organizing lived up to their billing. This was a terrific opportunity to exchange ideas, learn about examples of organizing at its best, and to explore the novel tools, dynamics, and forces that will shape movement-making in the future. 

verynice is excited for the continued growth of our Foresight branch. Click here to learn more about our work.