Imagining Canada’s Future

Peter Jones Dialogic Design, Strategic Foresight

Canada’s research council for social science and humanities, SSHRC, funded six regional panels to understand and imagine possible futures for the country in a global context through the next two decades.  Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCAD University led a panel for the Southern Ontario region, in partnership with University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Ryerson, Windsor and York universities and our combined intellectual communities. The panels were charged with defining their Top 10 challenge areas for which future research strategies would be applied. Each regional panel employed a different methodology, some of them grounded in public engagement to explore the futures question, some (like  OCADU’s) were based on a foresight method.

This week SSHRC research leads and panel leaders attended a two-day scenario workshop in Ottawa led by Scenarios to Strategy on the same focal question. The workshop employed the classical scenario method for a large group of senior stakeholders, 36-40 people over the two day period.  The focal question was aligned to the same research remit, identifying the future challenges for Canadian society in 20 years that would represent the highest priority for social sciences research.

The public report will be linked here when available. In the meantime, the OCADU team is completing our report on the August 22 Dialogic Design Co-laboratory held for the same question:

“In the face of intensified urbanization worldwide, what do we see as the highest impact social and human challenges for Southern Ontario, now through 2030?”

On the Strategic Innovation Lab website we share the process and discussion of the OCADU panel, a day-long workshop based on Structured Dialogic Design.  The results of the Co-laboratory are represented in a categorized set of 91 challenge statements generated by 18  invited participants (mostly senior academics and prominent community leaders, across a wide range of disciplines). An influence map articulating the relational network of the top 13 challenges was mapped out as part of the process.

Our knowledge mobilization strategy involved holding a half-day publicly accessible workshop to present the ICF concepts and generate a new set of responses, to both inform and validate the panel. we held a dialogic design workshop at the September Design with Dialogue, with 22 mostly younger participants, from arts, design, and creative business and 4 facilitators (two visual recorders).   Five rapid scenarios were visually constructed and presented following a 2 hour framing and idea generation phase, where we structured the session to produce only a single challenge per participant.  Nearly all of the challenges (a sample of which are on the wall) matched directly or aligned well to the top-voted urbanization challenges from the official panel session.

Participants broke out into 5 small groups of 2-5 and selected a core set of challenges they believed they could address, producing five rapid visual scenarios and narratives around the issues.

The visual map illustrates the five scenarios in a single image, the separate scenario presentations are found on the DwD website.