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Online Timeline of Transformation

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Co-creating a visual timeline that represents moments of tangible change in the past and/ or hoped-for changes in the future can act as a springboard and an inspiration.


Using simple on-line tools, participants co-create a visual timeline of transformation by adding both societal and/or personal or professional event that have resulted in come of change, or imagined/ envisioned events that have the potential to change the future. The collective process of creating the timeline can a) help people reflect on key tipping points in the past development of their life/organization/community, b) set the stage for thinking about what transformations are possible in the future, and c) act as a conversation starter between people who might not know each other.


  1. Prepare a blank timeline template in an online collaborative environment such as Jamboard or Miro. Decide which time frame you are working with, and whether the ‘now’ moment should be placed at the end of the timeline (when concentrating only on the past), in the middle (when concentrating on both past and future), or at the beginning of the timeline (when focus on the future);
  2. Introduce the activity, the purpose, the amount of time you expect to take, and some guiding questions. For example, you might ask: ‘What are the major tipping points in the development of your organization or community?’ or “What moments in your life represent a significant change or transformation?” For a future focus a backcasting approach can work (first introduce the concept of backcasting and use a process for defining a specific desirable future)
  3. After the introduction, post a link to the online whiteboard in your chat and give a short tutorial, leaving enough time for people to experiment and ask technical questions.
  4. Next ask participants to add events to the timeline with digital sticky notes, using images from the web, or by adding photographs of objects in their own house or environment that represent a specific transformative event (for future focus is it also possible to combine with the Photographs of the Future method);
  5. (Optional) Give participants the opportunity to explain why they added specific events or images.
  6. Collectively reflect on the timeline using guiding questions such as “does anything on here surprise you?” or “which events do you find the most powerful?” This can be done either in plenary or in breakout groups.

Place on U
10-30 minutes
Materials Needed

Online whiteboard such as Miro or Google Jamboard

Deep Time
Future Visioning
Online Engagement
Tip and Experiences
  • You can structure the timeline for represent different levels (personal, organizational, societal, for example) by dividing the canvas horizontally and pre-assigning post-its of different colors to each of the levels (possible in both Miro and Jamboard)
  • If you are working with a large group, you can divide people in break-out rooms, and each group can work on a separate timeline
  • Explicitly ask that each participant add their input, and suggest a minimum number of inputs (one personal, one organizational, and one societal, for example)
  • During the tutorial demonstrate the technology and the concept by adding events or images that you have chosen in advance

Relevant References & Resources

This method was adapted from a version contributed by Fern Smith, director of Emergence: http://www.emergence-uk.org/ 

On backcasting, you can read Holmberg J. and Robert K.H. “Backcasting: a framework for strategic planning”.

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