Anticipate – Design – Connect – Evolve

A few months back in May I was trying to grapple with the complexity of my “professional” life, the various projects and commitments, and the various stages things were in. I do not consider “professional” necessarily about making money, it can be community, social or political projects etc., but does not include domestics.

As is the standard practice, lay it all out before ourselves, on a sheet of paper, try and make sense of it, look for connections and patterns.

I occasionally get lost in the bewilderment from the number of the various projects I get involved in. I like variety, but I also get overwhelmed by the different projects and their various stages and needs. I was looking for a way to make sense of it.

As a summary the different professional work elements in my life at the moment are:

  • Building Action Foresight as a business
  • Building the Footscray Maker Lab and Cooperative as a business
  • Supporting and developing the Journal of Futures Studies
  • Developing the Liquid Democracy film project

I’m also involved in writing and teaching, but these don’t yet constitute projects yet.

What occurred to me was that I was involved in a type of action research cycle which, while sharing many features of other cycles and forms of action research and learning, is distinct to my context and the type of work I do, and which many of my colleagues and friends also share. Initially the insight I had was that all of these had to do with media, community building and foresight, and there were 4 stages: Design, Express, Connect, Evolve. I could see how each one of these projects was at a different stage.

Anticipate – Design – Connect – Evolve

In the coming months, as I reflected more on this, I realized two things: first, “express” and “connect” could easily be combined. When something is expressed it s intended to connect with other people. (If it does not connect then keep on expressing! Or try something else!) Secondly, I realized that what sits behind “Design” is “Anticipate”, there is an intention, vision, or need that the design fits within the context of. So this needed to be added. The cycle then comes to:

  1. Anticipate – consider emerging needs; imagine the possible; envision the preferred; scan for disruption.
  2. Design – differentiate the elements, relate the parts, propose a first iteration.
  3. Connect – share it; relate it; speak it; promote it.
  4. Evolve – adapt it; change it; revision and reconsider assumptions.

I kind of see this as a “creatives” project life cycle. It is relatively fast from the point of view of action research (projects that can be 2-5 years) but slower than IT based cycles and SCRUM. Many ideas simply die after they try and connect, just not enough interest. Some project do connect, but fail to evolve and learn from a community. Some anticipate (great idea) but never get to something that can be shared and considered (a Design). A virtual cycle would seem to move through all of these many times, looking for creative adaptation and traction in the world of what people want / need.

So from the point of view of my professional projects I can see:

  • Action Foresight – still in the Design phase! (though having gone through the cycle already a few times)
  • Footscray Maker Lab and Cooperative – definitely in the Connect phase
  • Journal of Futures Studies – after the launch of the new website, in the Evolve phase
  • Liquid Democracy film project – still in Design

Some reflection from an interesting but sometimes confusing life. If you have thoughts on this and your own reflections… I invite you to Anticipate – Design – Connect – Evolve!

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