This proposal anticipates the creative combination of emerging online mapping technology with strategic foresight methods such as visioning, into a powerful hybrid approach.


A new generation of online and editable maps increasingly gives people from all walks of life the ability to develop custom maps for their regions, towns or local areas.

Online maps, such as Open Street Maps ( or ushahidi (, give users the ability to annotate, edit and customize existing maps. These can be tailored for extremely specific applications. For example, such maps have been developed in the context of the sharing economy (, to provide historical information, or for specific communities, such as the Maribyrnong Maker Map (

Indeed, these open and editable systems that leverage off existing geospatial data and provide perfect platforms for context specific applications.

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Therefore, if such maps have already been used to map history and the present, it is a logical step to consider the use of such mapping systems to map preferred, probable, and possible futures.


In the field of strategic foresight there are a wide number of visioning techniques and methodologies. As a starting point three complimentary approaches are proposed, which can be blended as needed given various contextual situations.

Appreciative Inquiry

The first visioning approach is based on appreciative inquiry (AI). AI begins with a “discovery” phase were participants uncover the resources, strengths and assets they have as a community. Once participants get clarity on their resources, they move on to the “dream” phase where they can envision the best of what can be. The “design” phase follows were participants put together concrete plans and designs for enacting the dream.



(see: Ludema et al ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ Handbook of Action Research, Sage 2002).

AI is a strong fit with online mapping technology for a number of reasons. Mapping technology offers a strong canvas for which to conduct the discover phase and do community asset and resource mapping. Online maps then provide a canvas from which to dream in a geo-spatially rich way. Participants can use layers to add their visions in ways which are spatially specific. Finally, online maps compliment the design phase, allowing concrete elements to be super-imposed on the maps.

Causal Layered Analysis

The second visioning approach proposed is Causal Layered Analysis (CLA), developed by Sohail Inayatullah. CLA is an approach which analyses an issue based of for levels: Litany, Social Causes, Worldviews / Discourses and Myth / Metaphor.


CLA provides a way of reframing the social constructs that explain or give meaning to shared situations and events. It breaks apart social construct into 4 parts, and delves into each in a U-type process.

Applied to an online geo-spatial mapping tool, CLA provides a way for participants to move quickly from the sound bites and trivial stories about a particular place, into a more comprehensive understanding of the social forces impacting and shaping a place, and then deeper into the perspectives and cultures that imbue a locale. Finally, participants can get a sense of the narrative that has guided the develop of a place over time. Rather than just abstract ideas, the online map will allow these four layers to be embedded into the map itself, in geographically specific ways, so that the sources of each data point are geographical as well as qualitative.

When CLA is used on the up-turn, for re-framing, participants query a new story or narrative for the locale or region, and then begin to add geographically specific elements across categories of culture, systems and measurements.

Futures Action Model  

The Futures Action Model (FAM), developed by myself (in collaboration with many colleagues), is a framework which enables the rapid prototyping and rigorous conceptual development of breakthrough strategies, designs and models. FAM is a comprehensive approach in which team and network-based creative and analytic processes enable new strategies and models to emerge. It was designed to accelerate participants’ ability to ideate breakthroughs that are the seeds of the futures we intend to grow.

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FAM has four levels: 1) emerging futures, 2) global responses, 3) the community of the initiative and the 4) core model. Applied to an online mapping process, emerging futures would give space for participants to map the trends, emerging issues, and wildcards that could have an impact on a region. Participants would also map the global responses that are significant in relation to the issue or inquiry. Importantly, such maps can easily scale to global dimensions and easily allow for the embedding of data across a planetary scale while simultaneously maintaining a focus frame on local questions. Mapping a community of the initiative (the key partners in the enterprise ecosystem) would be especially useful through such mapping technologies, providing a place to map partners in a visually clear and localized way. Finally, the core model can emerge in relation to what has already been documented through the other layers, but can also be given specificity of place or geography if necessary.


Published by jramos

José Ramos is a researcher, writer and advocate for commons-based social change. He focuses on such areas as future political economy, planetary stewardship, innovations in democracy and governance, the conjunction of foresight and action research, and transformative social innovation.

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