Over the past few years, Dot Connector Studio has been digging deep with clients into the how and why of foresight work. Together, we’ve explored many different methods to anticipate the futures we hope to ward off, and imagine those we want to make real.

Now, we’re really moving into the meat of the matter: What are the best ways to deploy foresight in tandem with speculative narratives to inform social change? How can we move from theory to practice in ways that are inspiring and that foster belonging? 

Learn more below about how we’re actively making futures with foundations, organizers, artists, scholars and practitioners to interrogate the most pressing issues of the day. Taken together, our work demonstrates how foresight and future-making  have really begun to flourish in philanthropy and the social sector.

Want to launch your own futures learning journey? We’ll be looking for new clients for the fall, so drop us a line.

Health Futures

In March, I joined Lori Melichar of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneering Ideas for an Equitable Future team and Trista Harris of FutureGood for a lively SXSW panel titled Why Your Organization Needs a Futurist in Residence!  Listen to the session here.

We discussed emerging trends poised to support or block health equity, and fielded questions from audience members seeking to reinvent local government, education, and more. The conversation built upon the insights I shared from my stint as the foundation’s futurist about the need for future-making that is inclusive, critical, playful, and creative—an approach I call “building a healthy relationship with the future.” We are continuing to work with RWJF, so stay tuned…

Network shoutout: Big kudos to Jenna Rines, our research associate, who, in parallel to her work with us, served on the planning committee for this month’s awesome virtual forum, Shaping Social Work Futures: Utopias, Dystopias, and Everything in Between, also funded by RWJF. 

Cultural futures

Our associate director, Evan Blaise Walsh, has been spearheading  projects to collaborate with arts and culture organizations in envisioning next steps with their staff and networks. We just wrapped an inspiring retreat with Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, in which we imagined the next five years for spaces  transformed through the visionary art of Isaiah Zagar.

Plus: Our Digital Waves learning journey—which Evan and I produced for the Pop Culture Collaborative in the fall—is still drawing readers. Curious to learn how the pop culture narrative change field can work with digital fandoms and communities to build a pluralist future? See our takeaways here. Now, Evan has begun a project with For Freedoms supporting them in creating the narrative strategy for their 2024 initiative, which centers civically-engaged artists to cultivate a culture of healing, listening, awakening, and justice.

Network shoutout: Evan also works with the Magnum Foundation, and co-led their Counter Histories fellowship, which supported a cohort of 20 photographers in exploring the creative possibilities offered by the gaps, absences and silences in historical records, In March, Aperture released Issue #254, dedicated to highlighting these themes and featuring some artists from the cohort.

As Evan writes, “With a deep commitment to face head-on those who would seek to erase history through toxic forces of oppression and authoritarianism, these artists’ worldviews feel so vital in a time where we see history being hijacked and erased in front of our very eyes.”

Media Futures

Emerging trends in nonfiction media — from news, to documentary, to mixed reality and beyond — have been a core focus of Dot Connector Studio since Katie Donnelly and I co-founded it a decade ago. Now, Katie and Jenna are leading a research project for Media Impact Funders on the evolution of philanthropic support for international journalism, and Katie will present the findings at this month’s Media Impact Forum

More focused on the industry here at home? For the Knight Foundation, we continue to work with Mark Glaser to produce News@Knight, which tracks innovations and sustainability in local journalism, and offers a window into the foundation’s evolving strategies. Subscribe today!

Media futures were also on the menu during my recent trip to the University of Southern California. There, I joined the leaders of the Critical Media Project to envision possible trajectories for their project, and presented on foresight and our Impact Pack in a few classes—learn more

Network shoutout: ICYMI, our collaborator jesikah maria ross published a gorgeous zine on the topic of care in local news—co-created with participants in her Care Collaboratory and graphic design by Dot Connector’s own Carrie McLaren. She also authored a related series with the American Press Institute.

Democracy Futures

While the sociopolitical environment across the world can feel devastating, we refuse to lapse into despair. Instead, we’re working with organizations that are actively rethinking policy structures, and opening up the doors to invite others in. That’s why, at the We Give Summit, we were psyched to launch a pilot project we’ve been cooking up with the Participatory Budgeting Project and the Organization for Ethical Source, with support from Omidyar Network. 

Called the Collective Future(s) Generator, it features a zine-making workshop to generate stories about a future in which we have won collective governance. We’re also prototyping an online tool that will allow us to surface shared dreams and interventions. We’ll be hosting other workshops in the months to come, hope you can join us!

Network shoutout: Speaking of reinventing government, I’m looking forward to participating in June’s Democracy 2076 convening, hosted here in Philly, and led by Aditi Juneja. We’ll be collectively refining amendments to the Constitution so that it better serves coming generations, and working to identify what needs to happen over the next five years to ensure an effective, responsive, and representative democracy. 

Climate futures

Of all the wicked problems facing us, environmental collapse may be the most existential. But we’re leaning into hope in a project with Syllble Studios called the Regenerative Worldbuilding Collective. 

This initiative aims to unite leaders in the regeneration movement with gifted storytellers to forge emotionally resonant and speculative visions of the future. Syllble Founder Fabrice Guerrier is partnering with Emmy-winning filmmaker Bristol Baughan to grow this collective and utilize the power of science fiction to imagine a world grounded in regenerative and bioregional principles where unheard stories can emerge across mediums. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego is also partnering on the project, which is fiscally sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation. Learn more.

Network shoutout: Looking to apply the principles of regeneration to your own inner development? Check out Bristol’s coaching and workshops here.

Signal Spotting

One key service that we offer many of our clients is horizon scanning — i.e. searching for signals of change that might indicate influential trends relevant to their strategies. Here are just a few that recently caught our research team’s attention: 

What kinds of signals are you spotting? Let us know!