This method supports participants in imagining the future and future generations in a way that is tangible and personal, rather than abstract and theoretical.
Each person writes a postcard to themselves from an imagined relative or relation from a future generation (e.g. great-grandchildren or great-grandchildren of friends). Participants are asked to imagine that important positive changes have taken place in part due to their efforts, and that the future person wants to thank them. The postcard describes the way things are in the future, actions that were taken to get there, and extends gratitude to the people from the past (and the writer specifically) for their efforts and caring. This method stimulates concrete positive visions of the future (which have been shown to help catalyze action), suggests concrete pathways and actions to get there, and incorporates the future generations into one’s current identity (essentially expanding the sense of self through time). Because the exercise is relatively broad and open ended, it often provokes unexpected, spontaneous ideas. The front of the postcard can be designed via drawing or collage. Key themes and images can be collected for data.
Suggest that the future relation doesn’t have to be a human. Think of “relations” in the broader sense. It could be a forest, a specific tree, a lake, or a specific species of animal. First ask the participants to pick an image (provided by the facilitator) from a group of picture of various “relations.” Next, in pairs or small groups, invite each person to introduce themselves as the new future “being” and say a couple of words about that being. This process can break the ice, stimulate people’s imaginations, and get everyone into a playful creative mood.
It may be a good idea to conduct this exercise after some type of process for acknowledging concerns and fears about the future, so that the facilitator doesn’t give the impression of glossing over or ignoring important emotions. If someone still can’t imagine a positive future, allow them to write from the dystopian perspective and express anger if that is what is needed. Or write one of each and compare. Imaginative exercises should be flexible and responsive.
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.
Join our email list for quarterly updates with links to featured resources, interesting opportunities, and special events. You can unsubscribe at any time.