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Didem Gurdur Broo

Our book “Four Futures, One Choice” is out today. This was a great journey!

I will not talk about the content of the book here. You will hear about it from my social media and the links that I will share. Instead, today, I want to talk about the process and my experience. Because we do things and produce great outcomes but nearly always miss this important piece. We produce journal articles and have wonderful experiences, or not. We write books but enjoy it or not. Sometimes, we do research and we love it or perhaps not. I have met so many people who had a very bad experience with academia, me being happy (most of the time) does not change the fact that many are not. So, I want to share my thoughts on why I do not believe in artificial collaborations and what I do as another way of collaborating. I am not saying that you should all now become future strategists and do this. What I am saying is; find what excites you, find what you care about and then find people to do something together with on what you care. I promise, you will be a happy researcher!

Back in February 2020, I had an idea to do something together with other postdoctoral researchers at the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB). The question was asked by the CDBB as an attempt to encourage   collaborative work between postdoctoral researchers who have been funded by the centre. As a future strategist, I thought that this would be a unmissable opportunity to do something on the future of Britain. 

CDBB is funding around 20 postdoctoral researchers at the University of Cambridge. We all come from diverse disciplines such as computer science, architecture, economy, engineering and so on. I cannot emphasise enough how dedicated, intelligent and interesting everyone is. I study interoperability, complexity and sustainability for cyber-physical systems, as you would already know from my earlier posts. But some of my colleagues are studying land economy, business models for digital twins, the potential of engineered timber and other very exciting topics far from my expertise.

If you remember my post from a few years ago on my experience of becoming a future strategist “This is what a future strategist looks like”, you would know how much I have learnt when I was working on future studies. More than this though, I discovered an incredible way to build strategies together with other people. And not by lecturing, not by reading but doing things together. This experience made me a completely different person. I see the world from another perspective, and I ask questions that are not easy to answer. I do not always expect answers, and I do not even expect answers to be right. But instead, I trust the experience and the collaborative mind of the group that I belong to. This is a big step outside of the comfort zone for a researcher. We are educated to follow methodologies very rigorously, validate everything on the way, limit things to be able to give the right answer, identify and define everything so the answers and result are replicable and always gives same results and many more. I love doing that research also, but time to let things go and enjoy the ambiguity and complexity of a big mess is something that every researcher needs to experience. That’s why I wanted to do something together with as many as possible and be creative, non-judgemental, innovative, and playful. And I am so happy that I have found 6 great colleagues that have spent days and nights on this project so selflessly. I can say that building a relationship this way is for me perhaps the only way to function in cross-disciplinary research. Because I do not believe that research can be done without a greater common goal and trust. We want the world to be a better place, we care about people, we care about the environment and we strongly believe the power of equality, diversity and inclusion. This book has been so much fun to work on because I found my people who cares. And when you have that, the rest comes so easily.

Here I present the Four Futures, One Choice and my people:

Image courtesy of CDBB (https://www.cdbb.cam.ac.uk/fourfutures).

Kirsten Lamb is my partner in crime, her intelligence and creativity are mind-blowing. She has spent so much time on making scenarios understandable for everyone. Her abilities in writing and constructing stories were what made this book possible. The amount of work she has done for this book is immeasurable.

Richmond Juvenile Ehwi looked at the people perspective and grounded our thoughts to be more diverse, equal and inclusive. He also contributed strategies that we have highlighted at the end of the book. He was there at every stage of the effort always with an enthusiasm.

Erika Pärn looked at the economic perspective, provided feedback and contributed to the strategies. She also listened to my endless ideas and thoughts about the digital transformation of the built environment without a complaint.

Antiopi Koronaki worked on technology and infrastructure related discussions and provided a lot of valuable feedback on trends and uncertainties that we have used for building scenarios.

Chara Makri was my rock. In addition to taking the responsibility to describe how people will live in different scenarios, she also answered my weekly, “Chara, I need to talk with you” calls. She contributed to defining many trends and uncertainties. 

Thayla Zomer contributed to the technology dimension and definition of many trend and uncertainties. She also helped me a lot to structure the methodology and the structure of the study.

You should certainly visit this link and read our book.

Because we wrote it for you!

“This book is for you, construction industry leaders and manufacturers, who can choose business practices that use resources and data responsibly. It’s for you, policymakers, who can hold us accountable for the carbon we emit and protect future generations with legislation for sustainability and resilience. It’s for you, teachers and academics who can discover, communicate and inspire with new ideas and new ways of seeing the world. It’s for you, parents, friends, neighbours who are worried about the future, and are able to express your opinions through engaging in democratic processes such as voting in local elections and challenging policies. 

Each one of us makes decisions every day – and each decision we make impacts upon the future we define for ourselves and for our loved ones, therefore it’s important to consider how our values are reflected in those decisions. No matter how big or small the decision, its impact ripples out from our sphere of influence to the wider world, and these decisions are cumulative. This is why we need to consider how our values and our decision-making affects others, not just today and for our immediate families and networks, but for tomorrow and the generations that will follow. The aim of this book is to give you a glimpse at four possible futures. Although none of them are certain and perhaps none of them will materialise, they give you an opportunity to consider which version of the future best aligns with your values and hopes, and will ultimately help to inform your decision-making from this day forward.”