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The dirty backend of co-creating bright futures stories



Two women from two very different cultural backgrounds moved to Brussels, fell in love with the city and wanted to contribute to making it a place where everyone feels good.

One evening at the kitchen table, they were discussing the challenges of the city, and came up with the idea to make stories about shared futures with the citizens, that in general share very little past. BrusselAVenir was born. What happened next was a bumpy road of dreaming, working hard to make things happen, waves of enthusiasm alternating with waves of frustration, thinking and rethinking, doing and redoing, hope and disillusion around futures, participation, plurality, inclusivity, storytelling,... and some modest achievements. We would like to share some tears and laughs with the IAM community, that has inspired and motivated us along the way.

On the 23rd of January 2020, a radio talk show of the future, 20:30 Bruxsels Talks, took place in Brussels. With fictional guests and artists from the year 2030, it discussed how the transition to a climate-proof city had happened since 2019. Once listeners tuned into the show, they were transported to a future where Brussels had made an inclusive and sustainable transition that takes care of its diverse population on both an ecological and social level. You could hear people from the future sharing about their lives, hopes and fears. There were reminiscent throwbacks of the past through sound archives; contemporary breaking news; live music; and interviews with influential members of 2030’s society.

The radio show was the first futures story from BrusselAVenir, and answers the question ‘How will everyone thrive well in a climate-proof Bruxsels in 2030?’ The scripted show is the result of a nine-month research process in which more than 105 citizen participated, through informal chats, workshops, expert interviews, and collective imagining. Both our process and the story as a result of the research attempts to make the vastness and complexity of an eco-social future understandable and relatable through storytelling, while also demonstrating the role of media, all with the aim to trigger action to make better decisions and make this plausible future a reality.

In a lecture at IAM we would love to share the dirty backend of our work of collective futures thinking and futures storytelling for a very specific local context. Why and how do we do what we do? What are the implications of using fiction as a method, a format and a space? How do you make a population of which 30% lives under the poverty line think about the future? How did our project get us in an existential crisis and how normal is it that this happens? How to work on positive futures stories when the world turns into a dystopian sci-fi movie? How to work around plural and preferred futures at the same time? The everyday struggle of being opinionated activists strongly believing in plural futures.

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Ellen Anthoni


Creative future narrator, BrusselAVenir