Postcards from the future

Submitted by Višnja Kisić, University of Arts Belgrade
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The “Postcard from the future” method is a visual, projective and intuitive tool to get insights into the beliefs and expectations of participants in a learning process. More importantly, it can be a good tool for fostering imaginative thinking and open dialogue about the kinds of desired/undesired futures, especially related to particular social issues, development projects, and contested social trends. Participants are asked to draw the future they desire on one side of the postcard and on the other side to write a message which either greets people from such a future or expresses expectations, doubts and longings. It can be used as a starting point of a wider dialogue on an issue.

In which way is this method alternative? 

This method supports participants in imagining the future and future generations in a way that is tangible and personal, rather than abstract and theoretical. In some versions it engages with real and burning dillemas and problems of present day and tries to introduce unespected perspectives by exceeding the time span of imagination into the future. It is imaginative, engaging and able to reveal hidden assumptions, fears and desires of participants.

Experiences with the method

I have not tested the method myself, but I witnessed how the method was used by Mas Arte Mas Accion in Choco in Colombia, as a way to connect Buenaventura as a big port coastal city with a small fisherman town of Nuqui, which faced possibility of building a big port. The method was sucessful in steering public discussion and public imaginary about desireable and undesireable paths of development, and connect experiences and solidarities from one place to another. As I explained, there are numerous variations and addaptation to this method, as it offers an engaging framework for a wide array of issues and topics.

Settings and participants the method is best suited for

The method can be implemented as an ice breaker at the beginning of a whole workshop or even course on specific topic, to get participants engaged in the topic and bring forward ideas, concerns and issues. It can also be a central activity of a workshop specially in the case there is a joint concern and issue about the future or present which is to be addressed by the method, after which a discussion and reflection can take place. The method can be suited for participants with different backgrounds, including children, as well as a mixed group of participants.

Requirements for applying the method

Depending on how it is used, it can last for 15minutes or even whole day. What is needed are postcard-sized thick paper, pens and color pencils, or collage materials in the case a collage will be made. If there is a particular case or place under discussion, the method is best to be applied in situ, but otherwise can be applied in different settings, including online.

Additional references

Hershfield, H. E. (2011). Future self-continuity: How conceptions of the future self transform intertemporal choice.
Hara, K., Yoshioka, R., Kuroda, M., Kurimoto, S., & Saijo, T. (2019). Reconciling intergenerational conflicts with imaginary future generations: evidence from a participatory deliberation practice in a municipality in Japan.