FutureLab – the international gathering for developing a common vision in an inspiring setting

Student Reporter Majka Baur from the oikos FutureLab 2011, 14-15 November, St Gallen Switzerland.

The FutureLab was the first meeting of the oikos community happing with this format. Compared to the Spring or Autumn gatherings the FutureLab news concern its participants, theme and format.

At the FutureLab came students from 22 oikos chapters, oikos fellows and alumni from over 38 companies and 10 research institutes. Thus the participants were not only students, but a great pool of international people being at different stages of their oikos experience: from bachelor students to oikos “dinosaurs” that participated to its foundation in 1987. In this way the FutureLab atteint to gather people from all over sharing the same will of building a more sustainable world together.

The FutureLab red thread is the future, especially the development of a common vision for the coming years. What are the best-case scenarios for 2020 and 2012? And how can we bring these scenarios to reality? Developing a picture of the future we would like to have is essential to positively define what we want to achieve in the future. It is not enough to say, we don’t want to have a world with endless economic, social and environmental crises, we need to define how an alternative world looks like. By choosing the future as common theme of the FutureLab the oikos community identified this need and its potential for developing creative projects from inspiring visions.

The FutureLab is a “Lab” as its format is experimental. The event aims at involving participants to a degree going beyond conventional conferences based on passive listening. But the best way to involve participants in a informing, interactive and constructive way still needs to be identified. In the first FutureLab the combination of five formats was tested: keynote speaker presentations, “fish bowl” discussions, workshops, “elevator pitch” project fair and open spaces. Additionally there was plenty of time for discussing with participants and guests during coffee, lunch and cake breaks.

My favorite input format was the “fish bowl” discussion. We put five chairs in the middle of a large circle of chairs and defined the topic of the”round panel discussion” by asking a question like: “How could sustainable lifestyle look like in 2020?”. The people sitting in the middle could speak out and discuss about the topic. To allow everyone to participate in the discussion, one of the inner chairs was always left empty to allow new people joining. It worked in a wonderful way!

To end this introduction to the FutureLab greatly, listen to the outcomes of the first FutureLab on the interview done with Harriet Jackson, just finishing her term as president of oikos international 2011 and being one of the main organizers of the Future Lab just taken at the end of two restless days.

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