The Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating and making more visible the deep inequalities within our society. Transition Network’s ‘Bounce Forward’ project is all about asking what needs to change so that the recovery from this crisis becomes an opportunity for everyone to thrive at the same time as we face up to the climate and nature emergencies. As part of this, a What if? Visioning exercise has been developed. Here Philip Revell shares his reflections from using the exercise in Sustaining Dunbar.
Transition Network’s ‘What if Visioning’ exercise provides a structured, three stage (what is, what if, what next) process that enables groups to work together to visualise and discuss the changes we want to see. Maria skilfully led us through some of these exercises as part of the Transition Scotland Gathering on January 9th. I was surprised how well this worked in the short time available. Here in Dunbar, I have been trying out the same format with some of the members of Sustaining Dunbar over the past few weeks -but with an altogether much more spacious process spread over four, online, 90-minute, evening workshops.
We have been running our own ‘What If’ project in Dunbar since early last year, in part arising out of book group that we ran over a couple of months last winter, studying and discussing Rob Hopkin’s book ‘From What is to What if’. The aim of this local ‘What If’ project, is to involve and bring together a wide range of groups across our locality to develop a shared sense of purpose and a shared vision for the future we are working towards. It has enabled us to bring together those who are at the frontline of day-to-day support for the most vulnerable with those concerned with transforming the system that is at the root of the multiple, interconnected crises we currently face.
The structure of the What if Visioning exercise has created a timely opportunity to engage more of Sustaining Dunbar’s own members in this project at the same time as serving as a pilot for workshops we hope to run with other groups across our area later this year. Those that have participated have been really grateful to have the time and space to dare to imagine the world we could bring into being over the next ten years, to have the opportunity to share and discuss this and to find common ground with others. In the final workshop to be held later this week, we will be selecting a few of the most interesting ‘What If’ questions that have emerged so as to ask ‘What Next?’ and plan the immediate next steps we want to take. It will also be a chance to encourage people to engage with the upcoming ‘What Next’ summit being hosted by Transition Network and CTRLShift from 3rd-20th March.
Overall, we have found that the What if Visioning exercise has been a welcome opportunity to work with the fact that many of our existing ways of thinking and doing are part of the problem. At the same time many local initiatives are providing a glimpse of a different future. How can we create a shared understanding of the opportunities that future holds? What do we need to give up? What do we need to nurture and support? What will help us achieve the rapid and radical transformation that we need? How can we welcome diverse perspectives into the conversation so as to design better ways forward? Never before have these questions felt as relevant.
Extract from the What If? Visioning exercise facilitation guide. Download the guide here
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