Future Search The Method

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Government FAQ's

I want to be able to approve all actions after the conference.
It is many leaders' fear that the group will go off in a completely different direction. That rarely happens. But if you have a high need to "control" the outcomes, future search may not be for you. This meeting will stimulate a lot of energy. Your job will be to allocate resources where you can, keep people informed of progress toward the goals and reinforce the shared vision in your action.

Will a future search get us out of planning and into action?
Most definitely. Future search is a task-focused meeting. Its purpose is for people to create and implement action plans based on their shared aspiration. Supports are built in to follow up the meeting. We often hold meetings to revisit action outcomes 6 months to a year after the conference.

Who is included in a future search?
During the recruiting phase, the planning team identifies a diverse cross section of stakeholders to create a microcosm of the entire system. This process builds deep buy-in and ownership; volunteers and leaders emerge, and long time leaders are re-energized.

How does future search deal with disagreements and diverse ways of looking at life?
Future search is designed to bring people together to discover what they agree upon. Differences are noted but not worked. People speak fully about what they believe rather than putting others down. Participants often find it a wonderful experience to be able to speak and listen in an environment that values each idea. We find that many organizations spend 80% of their time talking about the 20% of things they disagree about. Future search brings this ratio more into alignment.

How do we reconcile this process with the way we normally make decisions?
The future search process does not set bypass existing leadership roles but invites others to create a common vision and committing to making it happen. Broad participation and buy-in results in outcomes that are generally easy to integrate into traditional systems of leadership or governance.

Can future search work in communities where deep polarizations have undermined attempts to collaborate on controversial issues?
Yes. Future search starts by giving everyone a chance to tell their stories and to talk about what is most important to them. Participants tell what past experiences have formed their beliefs, how they feel about what is going on in the world today and what they hope for in the years to come. From this foundation, the community or organization identifies commonalties shared across their diverse perspectives. Participants work together to clarify what they share in common and where they disagree or feel in conflict. Then the group identifies ways they can forward together. One outcome of future search is a set of shared parameters, which can used to evaluate controversial issues. The process has been used with great success in communities with a history characterized by conflict.

Does future search require special training for participants?
No. People need only show up and use the skills, experience and motivation they already have. People accomplish what they already want to do and never dreamed they could. Future search allows people to work through the issues that stand in the way of implementing their own hopes and dreams.

It is difficult for us to get good attendance at a 3 hour meeting. How will we get people to attend a 2 1/2 day meeting?
Experience shows that future searches are well attended and that participants stay the entire time. Stakeholders on the planning team invite people from their own stakeholder groups, explaining the process and soliciting a commitment to full attendance. In addition, we find that people are often more willing to commit to a longer meeting they believe will have real results, than a shorter meeting they believe may be a waste of time.

If we invite participants, the future search may be seen as an exclusive meeting. We are used to having open meetings where everyone is welcome.
The reason we invite people is to make sure that every important voice is present, not for the purpose of excluding anyone. Sometimes in community settings, where an open meeting format is important, the planning team will put out an open invitation to the entire community, setting a deadline for responding. After that deadline, the team will review the lists of attendees, identify any missing voices and invite them also.

Anything we decide can be changed or ignored by our elected officials.
This may be true. However, because elected officials are included as participants, they will already be part of any outcome reviewed their elected body. They will have the same buy-in and understanding as other participants and will be able to represent the outcome to their colleagues. In addition, we encourage participants to choose actions they can complete with as little dependence on outside assistance as possible. The process is about empowerment and capacity building.







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