How can a community enter a process of self-reflection and collective planning process?
This was the main question behind the Pfyn Future [Perfect] workshop which was organized on September 10, 2019 by invitation from the Transitorisches Museum at Pfyn, and to zeitgarten.ch in the small community of Pfyn, Switzerland.
The workshop structure
The workshop was based largely on tools and methods which aim to consolidate in a workshop ideas representative of Pfyn and neighboring communities. The workshop was an attempt to merge aspects of Appreciative Inquiry and the Future Workshop techniques.
The Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a model that seeks to engage stakeholders in self-determined change. The model is based on the assumption that the questions we ask will tend to focus our attention in a particular direction, that organizations evolve in the direction of the questions they most persistently and passionately ask. Appreciative Inquiry was the first serious managerial method to refocus attention on what works, the positive core, and on what people really care about.
The Future Workshop (FW) is a communication and dialogue technique on any ‘difficult, critical, contradictory or even controversial‘ topic that allows participants – who may come from different walks of life, areas of conflicting social groups, different financial status, etc. to come together in contact and to freely express their opinions on the present and future of a subject. It is both a communication tool and a social process. The Future Workshop has main three stages, and it is preceded by the Preparation phase in which the method, its rules and the scheduled course of the workshop (in accordance with the participants) are elaborated and introduced:
- The Observation and Critique stage: The problem is investigated critically and thoroughly. First of all, a visualized brainstorming is performed and a general and critical question concerning the problem is framed. The moderator(s)/ facilitator(s) function as mirrors and as outside / more detached observers, offering if needed, a different point of view. The Appreciative inquiry method might be used.
- The Fantasy or visionary stage: All participants try to work out a vision of the future, to narrate and to draw a picture of future possibilities.
- Implementation stage: The ideas found are checked and evaluated in regard to their practicability. Discussions are. made investigating the first steps to be taken in order to achieve the vision.
During the Pfyn Future [Perfect] 10/9 event at the Trotte, twelve people formed part of the invited participants’ group, including the Mayor, four council members, one IT person, two farmers, one caretaker, one photographer, and one business person. Alex Meszmer moderated, Reto Müller videotaped, and I prepared and coordinated the process which lasted approximately 2-½ hours.
After the introductions, people were asked to think of what is representative of Pfyn for them, what forms part of its identity. Participants were divided into two groups where they discussed their individual thoughts and came up with a synthesis for each group, later on, presented to the event.
The next step after a collective appreciative inquiry and concerns and ideas throwing process is fermentation and collective vision building. Reaching a collective vision requires faculties of imagination, cooperation, and consent in order to meet each other at a state in which everybody feels comfortable with. After a vision has been articulated it’s time to perform backcasting, that is thinking backward from the desired state, and discovering or inventing how to get there. Together with techniques of imagining possible alternative scenarios and leaving room for unpredictable developments or events, we may result in better prepared, more resilient and sustainable futures…
Let’s see then what transpires and actually becomes a reality, as a result of the fruitful brainstorming about the future!
This took place in the distinctive Trotte, an architectural gem of a multi-purpose complex, that incorporates the archaeological remains of the wall of a Roman castle. In addition to the community space and events hall, the complex houses a kindergarten and several other educational, community and museum exhibition facilities masterfully interwoven by Werner Keller, architect, 1992-94.
I am grateful to the Transitorisches Museum at Pfyn, and to zeitgarten.ch for inviting me as a resident artist, for the hospitality and opportunity to experience the tranquil and unique atmosphere of this historic community. Alex and Reto are pioneers in community-building through culture and they have consistently helped expand the boundaries, identity, and vision of Pfyn for a very long time, among other things by conceiving the idea of Pfyn as the (second) cultural capital of Switzerland in 2011-2012. But I am also most grateful to the Pfyners, who with their involvement and enthusiasm, and their commitment made this such a successful event, and meaningful experience for everybody!