Atelier des Futurs – Back to the future of communities

Atelier des Futurs – Back to the future of communities

During the Beyond Waste Social Lab, our group formed around the topics of behavioural change. There was a common understanding, that aside from information and new technical circular solutions and product design, what is really needed is a shift of paradigm and awareness. A shift towards zero waste and circular economy requires a major change in awareness, which enables people to take responsibility for their role in the way things are produced, used, and retired. We have the technology to track everything we use –  the resources that go into them, the planetary impact and human cost they have. What is missing is the awareness that a change in consumption habits can change this destructive process.

At the beginning of the Social Lab, the group interested in the topic of behavioural change was very large. Individually we conducted our learning journeys and stakeholder interviews, exploring different perspectives around what is needed in order to support a shift of awareness, and brought our findings together. During the half-way retreat, the demand to form smaller teams and concrete projects came somewhat abruptly. The four of us, however, found ourselves swiftly forming a group around two main concepts: behavioural change, and community. Some of us brought already experience from working in community organisations and networks, and others a strong resonance towards the topic. It is hard to tell how much our group was formed by a strong shared idea and how much by simply wanting to work with each other. We bonded over the social presencing exercise and building a 3D of the topic model together. During the following weeks, our group was very active and met in several face-to-face and online meetings. As our ideas evolved, we came up with a plan to create a space where we could engage people in conversation, a serene, calm and friendly environment where everyone can go through their own inner transformation at their own pace.

3D model of Atelier des Futurs

Nevertheless, in November, when we were learning about prototyping, personas and market research, we started to face serious difficulties in defining the topic in a more concrete way due to different viewpoints. Three persons in the group were convinced that what is needed is a physical space as a basis for a community, that allows people to come together and enables encounters, dialogue and new forms of collaboration. One person of the group was convinced that a physical space is not necessary and on the contrary creates restraints, that it would be enough to create the activities and use already existing physical spaces. Due to this differences, our teamwork got paralyzed during some time, until we found again common ground, also thanks to the assistance of Darya and Erica, and agreed to continue to work on the proposal that the majority was holding and that we felt was wanting to emerge from our group in this U process that we were going through. What was beautiful in this process is that even in the difficulties and different viewpoints, we never lost our human connection and respect.

The proposition that we developed is to create a physical space to facilitate and anchor the shift in awareness described above. In order for a behaviour change to happen and to be sustainable, we believe that it is important to provide a space for experience-based learning. Just providing the information about the change that is necessary is not enough and sometimes creates a feeling of pressure and of being overwhelmed, especially for people who already have a very stressful and busy life and don’t know where to start in order to change their daily habits towards sustainability. We want to provide a space where a change of consumption behaviour is painless and joyful, shared with others in a like-minded community.

We propose to mirror the journey of theory U – first facilitate a shift in self-awareness, and then offer workshops and activities to actively redesign and reshape one’s life. There are many techniques that already exist, and we believe their impact is reduced simply because they fail to address busy, worried people who are anxious about giving up their lifestyle. The “Atelier des Futurs” will be a sanctuary from consumption. It will be calm, and sparsely decorated. It will be furnished to enable people to connect with each other – kitchen, community space, workshop space, a garden, etc. It will become an information hub, a place for experimentation, and a place to become a community. It will allow purposeless encounters between people who are on their journey, so different little groups and communities can emerge around diverse interests and connection points.

The team behind Atelier des Futurs: Zita, Katalin, Sascha, Sarah (the faces you see from the left to the right)

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