A Youth Futures Workshop

A Youth Futures Workshop

A visit from Sophie Howe, the first Commissioner for Future Generations in Wales, was a catalyst to bring a group of young people (rangatahi) together from across Ōtautahi. Think BeyondGrow Waitaha and the University of Canterbury collaborated to convene this event. Senior secondary school students from across greater Christchurch combined with university students to consider their preferred futures.

The aims of the session were:

  • To support young people who are trying to effect change – ways of framing the conversation
  • To strengthen a student network and ongoing conversations between schools and university
  • Use the Wales experience to connect to our own opportunities
  • Identify some simple actions that people can take individually and collectively
  • Provide some basic introduction to futures thinking and the tools/strategies that support this mahi

The Wales Experience

Sophie shared some of her experiences from Wales and answered questions from youth. This helped set the scene and acted as an immersion for what was to come. Sophie asked the group to identify six logos shown on the screen and that was no problem. When she asked them to identify six leaves it was a different matter! It is a good reminder about the world we live in and how social media and marketing has shaped our thinking.

In Wales they embarked on a national conversation asking:

What do you want to leave behind for your children, grandchildren and generations to come?”

This led to the establishment of seven wellbeing goals – prosperous wales; a resilient Wales; a healthier Wales; a more equal Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language; and a globally responsible Wales. This requires a system approach as well as a citizen approach.

Seeds of the Future meets the Futures Wheel

With Sophie’s ideas in mind students worked together in mixed groups of four to deepen their thinking around a range of different seeds of change. These seeds were developed by Think Beyond based on examples of seeds of the future that related to our context. Each group was given a different seed to explore, aiming to expand their thinking, to collaborate together to consider impacts of that seed. Groups explore the impact of their seed and then moved to explore the 2nd level impact. Each group then combined with two other groups to post their results on a futures wheel, with time to explore what others had focused on. 

In the example below the three seeds were:

  • There are safe, attractive and connected opportunities for walking, cycling and other micromobilities.
  • Local Governments – ChCh, Waimakariri and Selwyn – are keen to lower the voting age to 16 once civics is better understood by rangatahi.
  • Locals have taken a zero waste by 2050 idea into their own hands. A ‘library of things’ has been popping up in communities so people can borrow power tools, tents etc without having to buy them. A repair cafe is available on a regular basis.

This process was adapted from the Building Better Futures Toolkit so definitely big thanks and acknowledgement to WCVA and the School of International Futures.

Futures wheels helped understand systems and how parts interact and impact on each other, as well as helping to consider multiple perspectives. It would have been great to dig deeper into these wheels and consider the ways in which the seeds might interact. More time needed!

The Proaction Canvas

Each group was then given a canvas to consider the ways in which the rangatahi could influence an area of passion or need. Each group decided on a focus and wrote this as a future statement, described in the present tense. This was a chance to be present in that new state and provide the anchor for the rest of their conversations. The Proaction Canvas conversation focused on practical actions, being as explicit as possible. The example below shows one groups working:

This canvas approach provides a brief glimpse into the start of a three horizons process. It provides a starting point for creating momentum that can be used by individuals or organisations to consider the landscape, explore influences and identify a starting point for action.

Adult Allies presentations

After an action packed hour the groups assembled with an invited group of adult allies. These people were city influencers who were interested in hearing from the rangatahi and in considering how they might grow their allyship. The group included local government, business people and changemakers from a range of backgrounds. Each rangatahi group had one minute to share their future statement to peers and allies, with the aim of being heard and starting new connections.

The adult allies then shared who they were, ther work, passions and super powers. Rangatahi were able to identify people to connect with and this happened via some kai – refreshments that provided and opportunity for engaging an making connections.

Next steps

There are many conversations to be continued and already some participants have started developing ideas for future workshops, connecting across siloes and gathering momentum. One of the students asked if they could have the contact details for all the adult allies and this is a definite YES! More influencing to come.

My to do list this week includes collating all the resources, photos and artefacts and sending these to participants. I hope this blogpost might also help attendees to explain our process to others. I also hope the rangatahi will share these approaches and perhaps want to explore future thinking in more depth. There is certainly a need for this and for our young people to guide us.

The Productivity Commission and others have called for the establishment of a Wellbeing for Future Generations Act and a Commissioner for Future Generations. This is the joined up work that many who interacted with Sophie over her two week stay in Aotearoa New Zealand must continue. What would it take to create goals for our country: a prosperous Aotearoa; a resilient Aotearoa; a healthier Aotearoa; a more equal Aotearoa; a Aotearoa of cohesive communities; an Aotearoa of vibrant culture and thriving Māori language; and a globally responsible Aotearoa. Are we up for the challenge Sophie leaves us with?

We have learnt the lessons here that unless it’s everyone’s business and becomes the overarching and underpinning framework for everything a country does then it will get lost whenever the next political initiative comes along.

Photos of artefacts: Cheryl Doig

Workshop photos: Thanks to Erica Austin Peanut Productions

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