Institute without Boundaries

COLAB Project Approaches: Foresighting

Foresighting is a strategic way of thinking that synthesizes research insights and systems analysis to predict future trends and emerging opportunities. By understanding these patterns, leaders can design urban conditions that suit or support the coming change.

Practicing strategic foresight is fundamental to sustainable design. When we imagine alternative or future scenarios, we are designing not only for the needs of people today but also for the needs of future generations. Foresighting also asks us to suspend our individual bias and exercise our empathetic imagination. We practiced our foresighting skills this year by creating personas and user scenarios to help us imagine and design for the specific needs of an individual or group. Our user scenarios set context by imagining details such as a person’s age and occupation, and then modelling how that person might interact with a proposed design.

We used foresighting skills to predict two emerging trends in Markham: a reduced market demand for light industrial lands, and a rise in self-employment and the mobile workforce. These insights allowed us to design an innovative new housing typology for Markham that transforms employment land warehouses into exciting opportunities for increasing live/work options.

Understanding emerging patterns, proposing future scenarios, and designing strategically to meet changing future needs is an important tool that cities can use to plan for a sustainable future. Markham needs foresighting that will enable the city to identify emerging trends and step in front of the leadership curve to plan for a sustainable future.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.
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The Institute without Boundaries is a Toronto-based studio that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation. To learn more click here.

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