Future Search

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An Action Guide to Finding Common Ground in Organizations & Communities

by Marvin Weisbord & Sandra Janoff

When the term “future search” appeared in Productive Workplaces (Weisbord, 1987), so many people sparked to it that we decided, after trying fancier names like “strategic futures conference,” to retain it. The response to the concept led to Discovering Common Ground (Weisbord et al, 1992), a work that pulled together principles and practices for value-based action planning. The earlier book presented a variety of high participation models and cases, most based on the Emery/Trist Search Conference, including early experiments with future search. In this book we focus on our evolving future search model. Here we go deeply into our sources and rationale, our experiments with tasks and techniques, and examples of how we and many colleagues have employed this model and its variations. We also provide a philosophical rationale for our design and facilitation practices.

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“A future search,” write Weisbord and future search co-developer Sandra Janoff, “is a large group planning meeting that brings a ‘whole system’ into the room to work on a task-focused agenda… In a future search, people have a chance to take ownership of their past, present, and future, confirm their mutual values, and commit to action plans grounded in reality.”

By “whole system” Weisbord and Janoff mean 30–64 diverse stakeholders – a cross-section of people concerned with the activities of the organization or community undertaking the search. About one third of them come from outside the system. For example, if a local community is doing the future search, then the outsiders might include officials and citizens from nearby cities, state and county officials, representatives of national organizations or businesses involved in the community – key people who don’t normally work together.

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Weight 953 g
Dimensions 248 × 175 × 23 cm


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