2019 Futures Festival

A story about ten futurists, Futures Festival '19, and radical transformations

The 2019 Futures Festival is an opportunity for people across the globe to share projects, insights, experiences, and ideas. To gear up for the FF’19, our Chair, Prateeksha Singh, sent out a call for volunteers in May. A group of ten futurists came together to produce Futures Festival ’19. We are a diverse group – we work at different places, have different backgrounds, and are based in Canada, Germany, India, Portugal, the UK, and the US. Nonetheless, through dialogue and informal signals-gathering, we quickly landed on this year’s theme, Radical Transformations.

2019 Futures Festival is for projects that consider, provoke, and support radical transformations

The concept of radical transformations is about reframing, redesigning, reengineering, and rethinking. Informed by innovative approaches such as Adam Kahane’s transformative scenario planning, radical transformations push beyond the actions of anticipation and adaptation connected to possible futures and encourage us to create and influence our preferred futures.

Concepts such as the new, next, and circular economies — and more — continue to evolve. They are driving global economic restructuring. Systems designed to be restorative and regenerative are challenging norms of continuous growth. Furthermore, radical futures are harnessing disruptive ideas. Radical futures restructure political and civic engagement, show us new ways to build community, reframe social and environmental problems, and challenge extremist and populist agendas.

How it works

People from around the world sign up to join and be a part of the conversation. In addition to the live sessions, the FF’19 video recordings will be publicly accessible and promoted through social media, and available for download. FF’19 sessions can be anywhere between 30 minutes to 60 minutes and must include time for discussion.

This virtual conference is free for everyone and accessible via the internet (we use Zoom.us). Last year the program consisted of 20 sessions delivered by 24 speakers from 13 countries. We started at 0700 UTC-4 in South Africa and finished the day at 1900 UTC-4 in Hawai’i. All of the Diverse Futures sessions were recorded and are available on Vimeo.

When you register for Radical Transformations, you will receive web links to the video conference on November 9th, 2019. Your registration also means that you can subscribe for updates and will receive notifications as the session video recordings are released. We release session recordings in batches based on the conference sub themes.


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Cheryl May

Futures Festival Organizer
Cheryl May

Cheryl May is a specialist in strategic foresight, governance and process design. She is a four-time executive director, entrepreneur, writer, and designer. Cheryl was the practice lead for social innovation at MaRS and has also worked with Tides Canada, Artscape, and Community Innovation Lab. She is currently working with the Centre for Social Innovation on the Impact Dashboard.

Cheryl led the development of 211, the Pan-Canadian human services information system, which currently serves 26 million Canadians. Consequently, she received the Ontario Federal Council Leadership through Collaboration Award, Showcase Ontario Diamond Award, and Head of the Public Service Award. In 2018 she was appointed to the board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a Crown corporation. Her foresight work includes Futures of Canadian Identities with Canadian Heritage.

In 2017, she completed a Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. Currently, she is initiating PhD research on for-benefit corporations.

Contact Cheryl May

Email: maysie@cherylmayconsulting.com

Consulting website: https://www.cherylmayconsulting.com/

Project website: https://www.cherylmayproject.space/

Twitter: @MayRichings

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cherylmay/

Thesis: A New Model – The role of the for-benefit corporation in Canada

Other APF: Diverse Futures (2018) Organizer

Association of Professional Futurists

Presenting Online

A first-hand account of what it's like to present online at the Futures Festival

Here are some thoughts about presenting online at the Futures Festival. As an online festival, it lets futurists from around the world engage and explore relevant ideas. The volunteer team organizes the operations and the logistics of the event while the presenters are given a virtual floor on which to develop a topic in less than an hour. That floor is yours, but you aren’t alone. You’ll get a technical support person and a facilitator for your session so that you can concentrate on what you want to share with the festival goers.

It is important to state from the start that this is not a conference directed to insiders and experts. It is a festival for futures conversations to happen at. It is a chance to get to know the people around the globe who are working to build a futures mindset with their work. Some of the topics veer towards an academic understanding of concepts, and theory. Some are neatly practical. All are futures-oriented and open for discussion. It does not lend itself well to long-winded lectures, or tongue-twisting technical terminology. The challenge is to find the right amount of context needed to spur an interesting discussion in a short time.

Presenting online requires an extra effort to engage with participants

When I presented “Making the Futures Present” in 2018 I was concerned that the online format and virtual platform would be constricting. Virtual audiences tend to be much more quiet than people in a room together and you don’t get the luxury of eye contact with each participant. It’s hard to judge if you are connecting with your audience. When I present online, I’m painfully aware of myself as a talking head, laughing at my own jokes, terrified of awkward silence.

I opted to interview my business partner Maggie Greyson and present her four minute video on working with experiential personal futures. We designed together which questions would be most engaging, put together a slideshow, and even rehearsed our interview beforehand. Having someone to practice with made it much easier to cut down the number of ideas and questions we thought necessary when presenting online.

Watching our session video, I see that we are not 100% natural in our delivery but our pace is good and our framing was visually compelling. It really helped to have a quiet room on a bright day. I also see myself staring at the screen and not the camera during the presentation. It’s hard to avoid that but it is just a little less engaging as a result. But most of all I think we we chose the right amount of content to present, with as many real-life examples as we could fit.

During our presentation we asked for questions to be typed into Zoom’s chatbox rather than unmuting the participant to ask outloud. This way, I could read out the questions for Maggie to answer. This approach felt a little bit formal and didn’t allow for very personal dialogue. But it did allow us to get to a few more questions than we might have otherwise. Yet, it was rushed.

My strongest advice for future presenters is to give more than the last ten minutes for engaging with the participants. Best, is to find ways to engage with the audience throughout the presentation. Worst, is to have to cut someone off mid-response because you are out of time. Time online goes very fast as a presenter and if you can end early you can receive the questions from the audience which may be as illuminating for you as it is for them.

Oh, and be accepting if the whole festival goes a little behind schedule. It happens.

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David Buwalda

Making the Futures Present
David Buwalda
Foresight, Facilitation, and Learning Service Provider

David Buwalda: Making the Futures Present

David Buwalda is a group process facilitator and learning designer working in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He’s had the privilege of working around the world leading grassroots social change projects. Recent clients include pastoral communities in East Africa, the Toronto Public Library and UBS bank. David’s background in urban planning and community engagement come together in his current project to bring strategic foresight practices to diverse people in diverse places.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-buwalda-a0627613/