At a glance

Policy stage: 
Level of involvement: 
Length of process: 
2.5 days
Number of participants: 
25-99 people
Participant selection: 
Representatives of wider interest groups (stakeholders)

A Future Search conference is a way for a community or organisation to create a shared vision for its future. It engages a large group of stakeholders who take part in a highly structured process.


A Future Search conference is a way for a community or organisation to create a shared vision for its future. You should use Future Search when you want commitment from all stakeholders and when the most important thing is to generate energy for action.

It enrols a large group of stakeholders who are chosen because they have power or information on the topic at hand or are affected by the outcomes. Examples of such groups are health care users, young people or shopkeepers. describes the process:

Day 1 (Afternoon):

Focus on the Past: People make time lines of key events in the world, their own lives, and in the history of the Future Search topic. Small groups tell stories about each time line and the implications of their stories for the work they have come to do.

Focus on Present, External Trends: The whole group makes a "mind map" of trends affecting them now and identifies those trends most important for their topic.

Day 2 (Morning):

Focus on Present, External Trends: Stakeholder groups describe what they are doing now about key trends and what they want to do in the future.

Focus on Present: Stakeholder groups report what they are proud of and sorry about in the way they are dealing with the future search topic.


Ideal Future Scenarios: Diverse groups put themselves into the future and describe their preferred future as if it has already been accomplished.
Identify Common Ground: Diverse Groups post themes they believe are common ground for everyone.

Day 3 (Morning and Early Afternoon):

Confirm Common Ground: Whole group dialogues to agree on common ground.

Action Planning: Volunteers sign up to implement action plans.


  • A cross-section of all those affected should attend as each will bring a viewpoint that is essential for the discussions and development of the process. 
  • A typical session will have between 60-80 people but any number of sessions can take place as part of a single event.



Approximate time expense


  • Two and a half days.


  • Everyone with a stake in the issue is in the room, which produces a rich mixture of information and ideas.
  • Proposals are more likely to be acted upon if all stakeholders feel committed to them.
  • The event is designed to help participants understand and appreciate the agendas of others, which helps them to enlarge the common ground they share.
  • It is hoped that if a shared vision is created it will inspire participants into the future.
  • People are often energised by seeing that complex issues can be tackled when the whole system is present, when they can identify common ground with other people, develop a shared vision and agree concrete actions.


  • Future Search cannot deliver action without good follow-up structures in place.
  • Needs a lot of time and energy to organise.
  • It can be hard to convey the energy and excitement of participants to non-participants.


Organisational development

Originated in the UK some 40 years ago, but was developed in the US by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff.


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The Future Search Network

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tel: 800-951-6333