Between Art and Active Citizenship

THE FUTURE LAB

Note on methodology

Before going into details of the Future lab’s method we would like to start by saying that it is a participatory mean to identify utopias and resources in the community and to help the development of innovative social projects.
In the specific case of the Future lab, the participatory aspect of the method gives it not only a value of study, but also of active participation of citizens in the improvement of its services. One session of the Future lab is already a tangible expression of active citizenship.
The methodology was conceived by the German Robert Jungk and it is widely used in the Northern Europe countries for the planning and the improvement of services for citizens.
It was developed in the 50s and, in particular, it concerns the risk of increase of nuclear weapons. His purpose was not just to protest because of nuclear weapons, but also to promote and organize a “different future”.
From its birth the Future lab is then connected to movements for peace. In his book Jungk wrote that, for people in general, it is very easy to develop a critical thinking but, afterwards, they unlikely find alternative and appropriate solutions. And when people reflect on it, they rarely think about what can be considered really innovative. This would happen because the educational processes will anchor us to reality and we do not develop the habit of imagining the future and of thinking about our points of view. On the contrary, through the method of the Future lab, Jungk thought to the opportunity for every person to feel itself a resource for the problems of its own territory. As a matter of fact, many innovations have been born thanks to this method.

future lab 2Introduction of the method
Future Lab is part of the family of participatory methods, based on listening, that concern the limits of the present and the way to face up them in terms of future vision.
Speeches based on the expertise, the expert, on rational debate often have had their day: people find it difficult to follow, they cannot participate in the talks, especially because nowadays there are so many experts and the public feels more experienced than the own experts. In a cultured language, this is named post-modernity, that is when everyone feels an expert: it should be considered to re-establish the places of policy, otherwise they become a farce, a fake listening.
At a regional level, this method has been tested by the Social Health Agency (Agenzia Socio Sanitaria) on many types of participants (adult citizens, elders, handicapped, teens), as it does not need special requirements to be used. For the Future Lab, organized by Teatro Nucleo in collaboration with City of Ferrara and the sociologist Vincenza Pellegrino from University of Parma, three stages were proposed: 1) criticism / dystopia, 2) utopia, 3) the introduction of the proposals and of the feasibility analysis, for a total duration of 6 hours.

On November 15th , 2014, at the Future Lab entitled “What are the faces of precariousness?” the participants identified some criticisms about the precarious daily living, as well as suggestions for improving, that could lead to social policies, shared services available to everybody.
During the different phases, the participants experienced the concept of democracy, identifying priority of criticisms and of proposals selected on the basis of votes cast by all participants.

“Saturday Wunderkammer Space in Via Darsena became a sort of time-machine, a window to a possible and, above all, desirable future. The method used for this experiment is the Future Lab: participatory tool that aims to identify utopias and community resources to work together with policymakers for the development of innovative social projects”. (F. Pezzoli)

Not only the food helped to create a proper atmosphere, but also short moments of readings and theatrical improvisations took place between one phase and another. The method works: more than 120 participants, more than 20 children who took part in the “minifutures lab”, cultural activities, conceived in particular for children and for all participating families, to enable them more easily to take part in all stages of the day.

Thinking together and practically to new ways for developing  a common vision, no more confrontation between preconceived ideas but people arriving, who have not preformed ideas yet, and who take a long game with rules, to reach a vision that didn’t exist before to be seen. Future Lab is based on the idea to think about the distant future, to get rid and to legitimize oneself by doing utopia.
After the end of the ideologies, today’s utopia, is castrated, we inhibit it in the places where policy takes place. These methods want to re-legitimize it and mean that we do both utopia and, in parallel, collective responsibility, to perceive the distance between us and utopia.
Thus, we try to legitimize utopia but finding a way to become everyday more and more competent, if the distance from the present to utopia is considered.