Crowdsourcing The Future: Summary of Results and Insights

Background & Demographics

The “Crowdsourcing The Future” initiative was launched as part of the Deep Transitions Futures scenario work which introduced three alternative futures that are more fit for tackling global challenges such as climate change and growing inequality. The aim of the crowdsourcing initiative was to critically scrutinise the three future worlds and to review them from various social and geographical contexts. Therefore, the crowdsourcer was disseminated to five key audience groups (civil society, academia, business, government, the media) from all regions of the world.

The crowdsourcer was implemented using Futurescaper, a cloud-based collective intelligence platform that, through using unique technology, collects what people think about change and visualises the causes and effects they suggest, tracing linkages, deeper level connections and influences. The crowdsourcing campaign ran from mid-December 2021 to the end of February 2022 (2.5 months). 

The crowdsourcer asked respondents to indicate their preferred future world, the niches they thought were most relevant to bring this world about, and how these niches and worlds would play out in their local contexts. The following  provides an overview of some of the most interesting outcomes from the use of Futurescaper. More insights and visualisations of the crowdsourcer results can be found in this slide deck.

Figure: Crowdsourcer structure

“Which future do you want to live in?”

Link: Short animation video introducing all three futures. 

Crowdsourcer participants ranked Do No Harm as the most important desirable world, followed closely by After the Frugal Turn. Earthshot was a distant third. One interesting outcome was that participants felt that After the Frugal Turn was itself strongly connected as influencing Do No Harm. 

The most commonly mentioned innovations (niches) that might  contribute to realising the three future worlds were: 

  •  the need for buying and producing locally;
  • policies emphasising social justice (inclusion and equity); 
  • global basic income; 
  • carbon footprint taxes; 
  • sufficiency as a principle; 
  • new business and production approaches like blockchain; 
  • distributed production/manufacturing; 
  • agroforestry.

Figure: Futurescaper visualisation importance top 25

Outcomes of the emerging niches/changes identified included the three desirable worlds themselves, and also:

  •  the increase in sufficiency as a principle;  
  • participatory decision-making; 
  • buying and producing locally; 
  • carbon footprint taxes; 
  • an education revolution; 
  • urban farming and vertical farming; 
  • degrowth.

Figure: Futurescaper visualisation effects top 10

Top Five Niches for Achieving Each World

Focussing on the three desirable worlds as outcomes, the Futurescaper graphic visualiser depicted the top five innovations (niches) that participants suggested as necessary to drive change towards each world. 

Earthshot – the top five necessary niches are infrastructural: 

  1. distributed production/manufacturing; 
  2. distributed generation and smart grid; 
  3. sustainable logistics; 
  4. 3D printing and fablabs; 
  5. data trusts.

After the Frugal Turn – the top five necessary niches are key behavioural and policy shifts: 

  1. buying and producing locally; 
  2. carbon footprint taxes; 
  3. sufficiency as a principle; 
  4. fossil-fuel-free construction industry; 
  5. socio-environmental pricing in international trade.

Do No Harm – the top five niches highlight value, behavioural, and policy shifts:  

  1. After the Frugal Turn; 
  2. buying and producing locally; 
  3. inclusion and equality; 
  4. blockchain; 
  5. carbon footprint taxes.

Comparing the Food, Energy and Mobility system

The Futurescaper analysis highlights the perceived changes needed to transform the three socio-technical systems of Food, Energy, and Mobility. Each visualisation depicts the key factor interconnections suggested by participants that are relevant to a particular socio-technical system for all three future worlds. 

For Food, After the Frugal Turn and Do No Harm are interconnected by three nodes: buying and producing locally; meat analogues; and regenerative agriculture.

For Energy, After the Frugal Turn and Do No Harm are interconnected by three nodes: regenerative agriculture; degrowth; and carbon footprint taxes. Do No Harm and Earthshot are interconnected by two nodes: distributed generation and smart grids; and international energy grid.

For Mobility, After the Frugal Turn and Do No Harm are interconnected by one node: degrowth.

Comparing Respondents

Futurescaper allows for comparison of the priorities between different categories of respondents. For example, it is possible to compare perspectives of men with women and respondents from the Global North with respondents from the Global South.

For respondents identifying as male, the top three most important entries (number of mentions and number of incoming and outgoing influence links) highlight both innovations and shifts in economic behaviour: [use of] blockchain; buying and producing locally; and fossil-fuel-free construction industry. For respondents identifying as female, the top three most important entries highlight value and policy shifts: sufficiency as a principle; socio-environmental pricing in international trade; and community living. Where men included all three desirable worlds in their top ten entries, women included only Do No Harm and After the Frugal Turn, not Earthshot.

espondents identifying as located in the Global North and Global South prioritised the worlds and the niches required quite differently (see system maps on slides 33-34 for illustration). Global North respondents prioritised Do No Harm and After the Frugal Turn before Earthshot, but Earthshot was still clearly important, whereas for Global South participants, Earthshot is barely on the map. The Global South respondents identify stronger causal paths to Do No Harm and After the Frugal Turn, connecting them at the niches of efficient multi-crop farming and systematic reforestation and restoration, where the Global North respondents interconnect those two worlds only at buying and producing locally, and sufficiency as a principle.

Qualitative Results

The crowdsourcer entailed three qualitative questions, giving respondents the option to add descriptions to their niches, comment on how different niches interact and lead to change and describe how these niches and futures would play out in your local context. For a selection of quotes obtained from the crowdsourcer that showcase the type of thinking of respondents, please refer to the slide deck

In summary, the quotes illustrated that respondents to the crowdsourcer focused on social and political innovations more than technical ones. They stressed the importance of political commitment at all levels to drive the transformations required to achieve these worlds. In line with the higher preference for the After the Frugal Turn and Do No Harm worlds, respondents put emphasis on the role of community action and solidarity in achieving transformational change.

Overall, the quotes gave us some insights into how an external audience understands the aims and process of Deep Transitions, and how they think about it from their own perspective.