Future Search The Method

Applications in Healthcare

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Healthcare FAQ's

It takes too much time.

It depends on how you look at it. Many organizations working on long range plans, or a strategy to create fundamental change find they are spending 4-8 hours a month in various meetings related to the topic ... and keep doing this for months without closure. A future search gets everyone involved in making and implementing the plan together for one concentrated period. Rather than months from now, your organization is ready to take action right away.

I want to be able to approve all actions after the conference.

If you have a high need to "control" the outcomes of the conference, future search may not be for you. It is important that you, as the leader, support the outcomes that represent shared common ground of the group. That means allocating resources to support the outcomes, keeping people informed of progress toward the goals and continuing to speak to and reinforce the shared vision.

Will a Future Search Conference get us out of planning and into action?

Most definitely. One of the keys to a Future Search process is that it does not stop with planning; it goes the next step to action. Supports are built in for follow up. We often hold meetings to revisit action outcomes 3 months or 6 months after the conference.

Who is included in a Future Search Conference?

During the recruiting phase, the planning team identifies a broad stakeholders from the "whole system". Stakeholders are chosen in order to create a microcosm of the entire organization or community. 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 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?

Future search does not set aside existing process or leadership roles but invites others into the process of building a common vision and committing to making it happen. An organization or community is free to adopt or reject the vision forged in a future search according to its traditional procedures. 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 commonalities shared across their diverse perspectives. Participants work together to clarify what they share in common and where they disagree or feel in conflict. Based on this foundation, 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.

Who has used future search?

Since 1991, the future search process has been used by communities all over the world. People in on all continents have discovered that future search is accessible, affordable and effective. It has been used by diverse groups of people, some not even sharing a common language. It has proven to be relevant in a variety of cultures. It can bridge race, gender, age, class and other demographic factors.

How does future search work?

In less than three days, stakeholders in a community can organize themselves to take new initiatives even if they have had no prior contact or a history of frustrating meetings. They do this by exploring their past and present, exploring a number of preferred future scenarios, discovering what they share in common and choosing new forms of action.

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 search conferences are well attended and that participants generally 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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