Verge is an ethnographic futures framework that focuses on change drivers but not future impacts.
Uses of the method
- The goal is to imagine how a scenario might differ significantly from today, and identify what changes might occur between now and a future time horizon.
- Highlights key experiences as human beings
- Explores change at the point of impact on people and human systems
- Translates thinking about the future into innovation and decision-making.
- Shifts organizational strategy ahead of disruptions
- May be incomplete if not used with other methods or iterations do not go deep enough.
Steps to complete
- Choose or be assigned a scenario to explore. Your task is to consider what changes might arise in a specific time horizon given the drivers defining your scenario.
- Begin by answering the discussion questions of how people 'define', 'relate', 'connect', 'create', 'consume' in their worlds.
Define: What new concepts, ideas and paradigms will emerge to help us make sense of the world?
e.g. social values and altitudes, scientific models, culture, economic systems, religion, politics and public policy
Relate: How will we live on planet Earth? Relate the social structures & relationships which link people and organizations.
e.g. demographics, family and lifestyle groups, work & economy, habitat and ecosystems, business models & practice, government, international relations, education
Connect: What arts and technologies will we use to connect people,
places and things?
e.g. information technology, music, media, visual arts, language, space
Create: As human beings what will we be inspired to create? The
processes through which we produce goods and services.
e.g. engineering, wealth, manufacturing, innovation processes, life
sciences, materials science, nanotechnology
Consumer: How will we use the Earth's resources. The goods and
services we create and the ways in which we acquire, use and destroy
e.g. consumer goods, energy, food & agriculture, house & home,
entertainment & leisure, healthcare, natural resources
- Choose your time horizon
- Now imagine how the scenario might differ significantly from today given your answers above and using the same 'define', 'relate', 'connect', 'create', 'consume' factors.
- Determine who will be the major winners and losers from your analysis.
e.g. businesses, organizations, nations
Personalize e.g. through the lens of a young female entrepreneur, a senior environmental regulatory officer, a teen consumer ...
- Capture your most exciting idea and biggest fear.
- Capture variable factors: critical uncertainties i.e. variables, soft trends and potential surprises. Both these and the fixed elements will be key to creating scenarios and examining potential future paradigm shifts.
- Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization.
- What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
- How might the future be different?
- How does A affect B?
- What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
- What are the likely outcomes?
- What and who will likely shape our future?
- Where could we be most affected by change?
- What might we do about it?
- What don't we know that we need to know?
- What should we do now, today?
- Why do we care?
- When should we aim to meet on this?
- Finish by noting your next steps. Next steps could include a further round of iteration, a recommendation on how to get the answers or use of other research and methods to create more vantage points on the issue.
'Verge' can be shared with others or kept private using the 'Visible to' fields and through the 'tag', 'report', 'share'', 'link and 'comment' functionality. Use 'tag' and/or 'report' to aggregate your analyzes, 'share' with others via email, Facebook and Twitter etc. or add a 'comment' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analyzes from their unique vantage point.
VERGE is an ethnographic futures framework devised by Richard Lum, Vision Strategy Foresight LLC and Michele Bowman, AndSpaceConsulting.
It has its intellectual roots in anthropology, ethnography, and ethnographic futures research (Robert Textor), as well as social impact assessment.
Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.
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