What If There Were More Policy Futures Studios?

Essay by Lucy Kimbell: “Unexpected election results are intersecting in new and often disturbing ways with enduring issues such as economic and social inequalities; climate change; global movements of people fleeing war, poverty and environmental change; and the social and cultural consequences of long-term cuts in public funding. These developments are punctuated by dramatic events such as war, terrorist attacks and disasters such as floods, fires and other effects of changes in rainfall and temperature. Many of the available public policy visions of the future fail to connect with people’s day-to-day realities and challenges they face. Where could alternative visions and more effective public policy solutions come from? And what roles can design and futures practices play in constituting these?

For people using design-based and arts-based approaches in relation to social and public policy issues, the practices, structures and processes associated with institutions making public policy present a paradox. On
the one hand, creative methods can enable people to participate in assessing how things are, in ways that are meaningful to them, and imagining how things could be different, and to do so in collaboration with people they might not ordinarily engage with. Workshops and spaces for exploring futures such as design jams, hackathons, digital platforms, exhibitions and co-working hubs can open up a distributed creative capacity for negotiating potentialities in relation to current actualities. The strong emphasis in design on how people experience issues – understanding things on their terms, informed by the principles of ethnography – can open up participation, critique and creativity. Such practices can surface and open up difficult questions about institutions and how they work….(More)”.