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A Future In Sync, In Review
caves, campfires, and (mostly) community
We asked our project lead to reflect on the process of bringing A Future In Sync to life. @keels223, in conversation with @oryzae.
@oryzae: I know we’ve been diligently documenting and sharing the process and our research approach throughout the report’s development, but for those who may not know, take me through how this all came to life.
@keels223: Once we settled on our Call to Adventure back in late April, we started forming the research squad and developing our collective process, which we formalized and released on July 1. From there it was a bit of a sprint! We kicked off SuperCuration which was a few weeks-long process that really set the tone for everything that was to come… and it was truly experimental, with people of varying levels of experience with signals and pattern recognition coming together to surface the best of the best from the community. That process was a bit of a blur honestly. There was so much input from the community and thoughtful debate among the curators, and then we went straight into research, really parallel pathing the formation of our project team and getting ready to dig in. From there it was about an 8 week process, give or take, tackling the brief from every angle and building the plane as we flew it, just with all the moving parts. Throughout, there was such amazing engagement from the entire community.
We had plenty of cave time, scanning wide for signals and digging deep into narrow lanes of interest. But we also came together around campfires on many occasions too: whether it was as a global project team, or as a community to build together and let the story unfold.
Say more - I need to know what cave time is.
Ha! Ok — caves and campfires is a point-of-view on work styles that I picked up years ago, and it was just too perfect for us not to implement in this process. As a decentralized community, we knew we wanted to place a high value on open & permissionless ways of working, but we also recognized that within the research process, there’s a place and time for converging with wide-open collaboration (campfire time) and diverging into smaller sub-squads or going heads down as individuals (cave time). You have to have a mix of both, lest you lose your mind trying to do everything around a campfire. You need time to reflect, to form, to think, and then you can come together. So it’s a give and take. Our process was thoughtfully structured to invite both types of working as the project progressed.
This was, obviously, a shit ton of work. How do you feel now that it’s all done?
Honestly so tired — but also so, so fulfilled. It’s been so amazing to see everything and everyone come together on this.
I want to dig in on the research process. What made RADAR’s work different from other futures processes?
It largely comes down to the communal nature of everything we did, but there are a few particulars that we built in along the way to pull our process apart from what a lot of us were used to, too. One was around this idea of horizontal and vertical context. Bringing depth and color and texture to our research and really being able to spend the time with past/present/future - which is the vertical axis here - and with a genuine eye on ensuring we were scanning outside of major markets and major demographics to get that horizontal breadth too.
The other differentiator was all about where we’re driving with Incubate (editor’s note: Incubate is part of RADAR’s future-manifesting process, which you can read about here). So rather than stopping at the publication of a report, we knew this needed to have both inspirational and practical potential on the other side. That’s where the framework of Push/Pull/Plot came from to create our Future Mapping process. So we were really intentional with this: Push was all about envisioning the possible futures as a result of our research, while Pull allowed us to consider the preferable futures through the lens of RADAR’s mission and vision. From there, we identified potential centers of gravity that we would ultimately use to guide our backcasting or “plotting” session to ideate around spaces for innovation. With the help of the community, we zeroed in on a single center to guide where we were headed. The intention here was really to bridge that gap between research and incubate, so that we could set a solid foundation for what was to come.
Let’s talk decentralization. How was it to build this with so many contributors, across the world, in a DAO environment? I’m sure we learned a hell of a lot about coordination.
This is what was just so exciting about the project. It was such an undertaking, but it truly blew my mind. Even just starting with the project team, which really was made up of rockstar talents and was spread out truly across the world, with no two people in any one time zone.
And then on top of that, the larger community was so involved. We couldn’t have predicted the sheer level of engagement and excitement that we’d get from so many members. We thought that this would largely be a project team effort, supported in certain small ways by the community. But that equation was quickly flipped on its head.
Multiplayer mode, building like this, is so exciting, but it’s also something so many of us are still sorting out. The tools aren’t perfect yet. And so, it’s fun to explore different ways of doing things.
What stuck out to you about A Future In Sync as a topic?
It was so BIG! Truly a hugely ambitious topic, largely because it covered so much ground. It was really unpacking this pivotal, world-shaking, generation-defining era we’ve been living through. That also made it a hugely personal topic. You could really feel how emotionally charged everyone was when we started digging into it. So in some ways, it turned into a big therapy project.
How have reactions to the launch been, both in and outside of the community?
So, so wonderful. It’s been so great, first of all, to see how proud the community is of this thing we built together. The reception within the walls of RADAR has been phenomenal. But then on top of that, it’s been awesome to see more and more people finding us and finding out what we’re all about through the lens of this report. From applications pouring in, to new follows across social – even on LinkedIn, which is Web2 city – to just looking at the site data and some of the anecdotal comments we’ve gotten, it’s been really great to see.
Anyone familiar with the ambitions of RADAR knows this is just the beginning, with many more reports and explorations to come. What might you do differently for the next one?
Project management! But actually. Having a point person that isn’t driving the research to keep the train moving and handle things like identifying and reaching out to experts and influentials, to keep us organized, to let the research team focus on the research. It’s funny how bringing a boat load of researchers and strategists together just points out the value of people who work on the account side, the project management side, etc.
There’s also a few spots within the process where we could’ve been kinder to ourselves with the timeline. It was ambitious and we knew it, but I think we’d be a bit more generous next time.
What about what went really well? Doing this for the first time, obviously there’s a lot of learnings - but I’d love to know what made us say, hell yes, we’re keeping this bit around for the long haul.
Just how involved and engaged the community was. I literally can’t stop thinking about it. Next time, we’ll bake that into the process in more concerted ways. Because it made this project so special.
In perhaps RADAR’s most radical departure from traditional futures work, we’re going to try to bring the futures we research into existence through our Incubate process, and of course, through the Futurethon which happened just last week. Could you talk a little bit about your perspective on this side of things?
I could not have been more excited to see the Futurethon come to life — and honestly, it exceeded expectations. This is what makes RADAR so different. That we’re setting out to play a meaningful role in manifesting this future we’ve spent so much time with, that we’re putting our money where our mouth is — it’s thrilling. And it was such a special week! Every event the Incubate Squad put together, the speakers, bringing folks from all different stripes together to ideate, explore, and bring the research to life….it was so fulfilling, truly. Victoria might have said it best, so I’ll leave you with that.
Beyond Futurethon, where do you see this report having impact?
I’m hopeful that simply by getting the report into more hands, we’ll have more people reflecting on this moment that we’re living in, what it all means, and what comes next. In the brand world where I spend most of my daytime, there’s such a reticence to reckon with the truths of this moment…but when you see people actually dig into it and sit with it, I think that’s where change starts to bubble up.
And I just have to include it, because it’s such a fun anecdote, we had a community member randomly bring the report up over the course of a doctor’s appointment with their GP — and the response, it’s so fulfilling:
I can’t say enough about how validating this is. It’s proof that you don't need to be in web3 — hell, it’s proof that you don't even need to be in the ‘traditional’ target audience for 'trend reports' — to get something out of A Future In Sync.
Let’s get meta for a sec. I loved your note in the report’s introduction that invited readers to consider what this report - not just its contents, but how it was produced - might mean for the future of labor. What do you think we learned about the future by, well, creating it as we went? This is the very first decentralized, DAO-generated futures report, ever, as far as I can tell.
I think it says a lot about what’s missing from work as it stands — a true sense of ownership, a true sense of community, clarity of mission, clarity of information, genuine and well-intended collaboration from all sides. And what I think we’ve seen is, a lot of people who are dissatisfied missing out on all of that. People who want something more out of work. And are interested in trying new things, experimenting with new ways of working, and talking it all out with like minded curious people. So when you bring all of that together, I think you get a sense of where the future of work can go if we let it. For me, it’s an indication that there’s a real appetite for a fractional future of work — in keeping with many of the trends we’ve seen around identity and community — and I’m excited to continue experimenting with it. Because of the community we’ve built so far, and the model for the industry we’re operating in and around, I truly think RADAR can be on the leading edge here.
What do you think this tells us about the future of RADAR? It’s a pretty massive milestone for the community.
I mean, if we could do this… you just wait. This was the ‘proof of community’ phase, right, and I think we proved it! As we shape the future of RADAR, I think this is only the start of the brilliance to come.
On a final, light note - tell me about a few of your favorite sections or Signals from the report.
The multiverse! We spent so much time talking about it, almost as a joke at first. But the more time we spent with it, the more we realized what it said about where we are in the world, and where we needed to go. So that’s probably my favorite little bit, and that video! Too much fun. (editor’s note: You should watch the video in question, here)
But signal wise, a few bits and bobs that have really stuck with me are the idea of reclaiming mestizaje, this perspective on food and what it means to decolonize ‘fusion’; the museum for introverts in China, I just love this idea of space to re-sync with oneself, and think we’re continuing to see spaces like SF Commons that are supporting both communal and individual synchrony; gnome mode, as a modus operandi that’s playful and a bit mischievous, I just love as a point of reference and inspiration for a path forward; and finally, speaking to Tamika Abaka-Wood about Dial-an-Ancestor was just such a delight. It’s such a special project, so I definitely would recommend folks seeking it out.