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Encouraging Bold Imagination

Submitted by Jeff Prudhomme

This activity asks participants to describe a positive vision for the future in regard to a complex topic—and to collaboratively imagine the pathways to achieve this desired future. Instead of getting hung up by what groups think to be “realistic” limitations, this activity helps a group to imagine boldly.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Street art glass box with the words time machine written on it

Learning Goal

  • Practice positive imagination for the purpose of enacting change or improving a situation.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Organize participants into small groups (4-6 ppl).

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Individually Imagine the Future (5 min)

Introduce a topic or concern that is relevant for the group.

Invite participants to individually imagine a future where this problem is solved or addressed. Invite them to imagine and quietly describe in writing (or as a drawing) what their ideal or optimal future looks like. They can project 10, 50, or 200 years into the future.

Step Two: Imagine Deeper (5 min)

After an initial round of silent writing or drawing, invite participants to imagine deeper by introducing these prompts:

  • What do you notice that indicates to you that the problem is solved?

  • What do you see, hear, smell, taste, feel that reflects positive change? What might be missing or absent that could also indicate positive change on this topic?

  • If you were to talk to someone in this future, what might they say or do that would indicate that this problem has been solved?

Step Three: Share Visions of the Future in Small Groups (10 min)

Invite each participant to share a brief description of their ideal future with their small group. In the initial round, you want to keep it relatively brief so that everyone has time to share their vision. Stress that the group does not need to agree about what the ideal future looks like. It is likely that there will be a lot of similarities but do not push for consensus. Highlight how it can be valuable to sketch out different visions for the future.

Possible Prompts for Small Group Discussion:

  • In a few sentences, what’s a key feature of how the future society is dealing with the topic?

  • How would you summarize the way they are dealing with the topic?

After everyone has had a chance to present a brief description of their ideal future, open up the discussion to flesh out more of the descriptions.

Step Four: Bridge to the Future (15 min)

Shift the focus from imagining the future to exploring pathways for achieving this future. Keep in mind that there might be different visions of the future so it is fine to have different pathways. Ask the group to record their responses as a timeline.

Small Group Prompt:

  • Pretend that you are reading future newspapers or headlines. What sort of key events, policies, decisions, technologies, etc. had to happen to achieve this future? Think about it in steps over many years.

  • Imagine the different changes or developments that led to this ideal outcome.

Step Five: Discover Anchors in the Present (10 min)

Once the group has a general sense of what has to be in place for the ideal vision of the future to function, invite participants to explore what currently exists as a starting point. Ask:

  • What are the anchor points in the present for creating the bridge to the ideal future? What’s the best of what we have now that we can build upon to get us to the ideal future?

  • Who or what is advancing today some of the characteristics of our ideal future?

Step Six: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)

Review the collective vision(s) of the future and discuss:

  • How do we feel about these future visions?

  • What do you think are some of the most important areas to focus on in the present—if we were to build toward an ideal future?

  • How would you compare your attitude about positive change from before our conversation to after?





Creative Collaboration

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average rating is 4 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:42:10 PM

This activity is great when a group is comfortable sharing thoughts--but it is modified to be more introspective at first. There are two versions of this, one to recognize "normalized" feelings, the other is labeled "extreme" as the group was practicing navigating high emotion. This first one covers parents, cats, dogs: This one is to recognize more difficult to talk about feelings of fear, disgust, etc.:

average rating is 5 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:28:11 PM

This activity was modified for a Business & Professional Communication class. It is best when the groups have gone through the guidelines activity to help facilitate how to communicate and even the 3.4 ambiguity. This is a difficult activity if the class is uncomfortable speaking (and in my case they were very adverse to discussing these in any group). Here is how I set it up (along with a print out of the words). It is modified to fit the business world, but worked well as a concept.

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:33:05 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:31:01 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

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