Speculating on the future

2 min readMay 19, 2024
Policy Lab

We focus too much on what has happened and need to focus more on what could occur. We take too narrow a view of what is happening, viewing it through the lens of questions and hypotheses framed in a very different context than we’re in now.

We depend too much on static indicators, privatised insights, or polling based on commercial data created to sell products rather than on the lived experience of people navigating the present. We don’t spend sufficient time learning lessons from the past or assume that everything will be the same in the future.

We don’t invest as much in planning future scenarios, let alone simulating them or developing more inclusive and participative futures. With the pandemic, we might think it’s too late to model the future or that it caught up with usand submerged us like a tsunami.

However, it’s an even more critical time to model the spread of the virus, the impact of interventions and measures on the economy, and the impact of interventions on our communities, businesses, and other ways of living to understand how best to work together.

To move beyond modelling trends, how about using speculative design to help prefigure potential futures and test the following?

  • Impact of our behaviours on the environment (i.e. as councils have introducing pop up cycle lanes)
  • Acceleration of the decline of high streets to reinvent an economy of proximity or a last-mile economy
  • Acceleration of distribution to reverse to more local and ethical production & distribution of food
  • Impact of sharing platforms to help match assets to needs at both a personal level (i.e. food help) and an institutional one
  • Impact of policy interventions on social norms (i.e. offering everyone sleeping on the streets accommodation is changing the norm of rough sleeping being acceptable in our society)
  • Widening gap between ethical and unethical businesses (between those not remunerating dividends and instead paying health insurance to their staff and those telling people they can go and get a job elsewhere)




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese