Using future scenarios to initiate a dialogue and aid decision-making within the Design Futures Initiative about their growth trajectory.
Design Futures Initiative
Draft Organisational Values, Future Scenarios, and Strategy Recommendations
The Design Futures Initiative (DFI) launched its first meetup chapter in San Francisco in 2015 and produced its first conference in 2017. Since then organisation has flourished, growing to over 40 chapters and 2 annual conferences with thousands of members. As a volunteer-run organisation such rapid growth creates several challenges, including that of having a clear vision to progress towards.
In a fast-paced engagement, our goal was to help the DFI to think about their own future and ensure alignment on a common set of values, a vision, and a mission. Additionally, we aimed to make strategic recommendations that could help them manage the rapid growth they were experiencing.
The Design Futures Initiative is a non-profit organisation based in San Francisco that facilitates programmes and conversations on the ethical, environmental, political and economic impacts of future products and services. Their main activities include running the global network of Speculative Futures meetups and producing the US and EU versions of the annual Primer conference.
We worked with the Design Futures Initiative through our Pro Bono scheme. They were experiencing rapid growth within their organisation and sought our help in deciding their strategy going forward. In an initial research phase, we conducted two types of research — inward-facing and outward-facing. The inward-facing activities we conducted involved interviews with people across the whole organisation; the organisation founder, board members, advisors, chapter leaders, and meetup attendees. For the outward-facing activities we researched other creative and futures-based professional networks, from Ladies Wine and Design to the World Future Society, we built an understanding of the different shapes and growth trajectories similar networks can take.
The information collected from these research efforts was synthesised into three main outputs:
Cross-referencing the values with the future scenarios we made conclusions about which (parts) of the scenarios were ‘preferable’ for the DFI. We used this to make strategic recommendations around branding, governance, organisational structure, and additional activities to help them move towards that preferable vision.
The foundation for action
Strategic recommendations were discussed with the Board of Directors, with the recommended actions being integrated into the organisation’s pipeline of work. Every recommendation we made has been or is being implemented.
We outlined a series of potential risks and challenges that allowed the board to create strategies which anticipated and mitigated those challenges well ahead of time.
At a time where the organisation was still defining itself we helped them pinpoint their core values. These have gone on to have a huge impact on the organisation, informing their approach to inclusion and participation, partnership opportunities, and conference themes.
We were lucky to find Andthen just when we were planning to make some major strategic changes. They are kind and warm, yet also targeted and professional about how they approach problems. They were very transparent around their approach and delivered a great set of recommendations that mirrored our internal thinking yet also pushed us to consider new perspectives.
President and Founder, Design Futures Initiative