Future Search for CIPPEC 2021-2031: the ideation of a collective pathway
Updated: Aug 15, 2022
Mid 2021: vaccinations advancing in the world, but still so many changes brought by COVID depicting completely new and uncertain personal and workplace scenarios…certainly a critical juncture for humans, organisations and whole countries. A challenging time to devise plans and imagine the future, and to virtually engage staff in deep and felt processes of reflection and co-creation.
In such a daunting context, CIPPEC, one of Argentina´s largest think tanks dared to take a fundamental step: to launch a process to enable the ideation of what the organisation can become in 2031. We feel honoured at P&I to have been chosen to facilitate this inspiring –and also complex-journey.
In July 2021, the recently appointed Executive Director of CIPPEC along with the Administration Director of Operations and members of their teams approached P&I and asked us to help them device a way to plan the future of the organization for the following 10 years.
Jointly, we decided to frame the project as an ideation process and to embark into an adaptation of a Future Search, a methodology to “bring the whole system into the room” so as to find together ways towards a shared desired future.
In its original form, Future Search is a principle-based planning meeting that brings 60 to 100 people from all walks of life into the same conversation to enable action learning. As depicted by the picture on the left, all stakeholders relevant to a project/initiative are convened in the “room” and their different experiences and perspectives are seized to explore their common and diverse histories, detect current trends and co-create potential actions for the future. . Thus, during three days, people tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue they discover their common ground. Only then do they make concrete action plans.
With enthusiasm and continuous flexibility, we adapted the methodology to the virtual space and to the priorities, preferences and capacities of CIPPEC´s and our team. We came up with a well thought thread of virtual and one face to face activities, that enabled the think tank to host a safe and creative space to explore its past, its present and its potential future focusing on how to continue being valuable and relevant in their ecosystem and to their members.
We respected the three large stages of the methodology and invested two months with different activities to:
1. revisit CIPPEC´s past: group development of timelines, personal design of the past milestones, group workshop to share findings from personal reflections and a virtual workshop with former members of the organisation
2. assess its present: external workshop to identify and prioritise current trends complemented by internal workshop to complement those trends), and
3. ideate its future: face to face half-day workshop to design a new roadmap from 2021-2031
We had fun, we learned and by the end of the process CIPPEC counted with a roadmap of areas for change development including whom from the staff was willing to get engaged in each big idea. We share some of the most important lessons learned from the process.
Assess the capacity to unravel co-creative and participatory processes
Members of CIPPEC embraced the possibility to rethink the past, present and future through a participatory process that engaged all the staff as well as several external stakeholder groups. The process was implemented with the co-leadership of P&I and the way it evolved was thanks to the high engagement of CIPPEC.
For this type of processes to really ignite participants there is a need to walk the talk: co-creation was endorsed from the very beginning by the Executive Director and its direct support team. Internally, leaders actively participated in the design of the process. They also remained always open to suggestions from P&I as well as other members of the organisation and the Board on steps to take and potential improvements.
Furthermore, a Co-creation group composed by a variety of staff members from different areas participated in monthly meetings to discuss and inform the overall design as well as some critical aspects of all the activities. Also, many of the workshops were co-facilitated by a group of volunteers from CIPPEC who were interested in contributing to the process and were trained to do this effectively. The organisational muscle to host the process and make the most of each opportunity grew and evolved in a way it increased participation and amplified co-creation opportunities
The openness to new methodologies enables the generation of shared new narratives and willingness to engage
CIPPEC decided to try out new methodologies for interaction proposed by P&I to adapt the original Future Search design to a virtual setting, for example the River of life exercise to replace personal timelines or the use of Theory U’s 3D mapping for imagining how to move from the present to the future. These methods allowed conversations with diverse tones and from new angles that worked as the cornerstone for the emergence of shared views and values related to CIPPEC, shared narratives about its past, a larger awareness of the connection between personal, professional and organizational developments and increased interest in collaborating with the process.
Inclusion of the whole system in the room can be conceived as an ongoing effort
Traditionally, CIPPEC had developed planning processes with a limited degree of participation to external stakeholders. In this opportunity the think tank, inspired by the principle of Future Search to engage the whole system into the room, decided to hold a virtual workshop with a strong external participation. Representatives of other non-governmental organisations, policymakers, journalists, opinion leaders, academics and union leaders were invited to assess current trends affecting the work of CIPPEC, identify other initiatives and organisations working on those trends and brainstorm about potential ways in which the think tank can generate value in the future.
However, various factors limited how many of them ended joining the process as well as the intended diversity of the process. This can be addressed by the previous interactions and history of relationships with them but also with complementing some of the gaps or remaining questions by future interactions with those profiles that might have been less represented.
It is challenging to integrate the personal dimension with the organisational one
We had to respond to some resistances and questions around the pertinence to delve into or share personal experiences in the context of this process. Even though many acknowledged that these invitations revealed how CIPPEC enabled and enables them to unfold their interests, experiences and talents, some questioned the direct relationship of these exercises with the whole process. Also, some participants demanded a larger consideration of how personal life´s challenges and needs affect their workplace and performance. The tension between the personal/private and institutional lives is an issue to continue exploring on future experience we plan to host.
The adoption of less linear and rational approaches takes time but pays the efforts
In some instances, there was a concern around the lack of clarity about the specific outputs of some activities (e.g. concrete plans, logic models, goals, activities, responsibilities...), which is the traditional logic behind planning processes. There was also some resistance to the uncertainty of what each step was going to be about and the connection between all the activities. This invited P&I to further develop our capacity to more clearly communicate the principles of Future Search and the more creative and emergent nature of this methodology which activate collective intelligence and new ways of talking and listening to each other.