Timeline: February – October 2019
Client: Suncor Energy Foundation
Project Team: Brock Hart, Kay Nadalin
Suncor Energy Foundation hosts an annual event called The Gathering, which explores complex social issues and brings together partners working toward social good. Recently the Foundation sought to consider the future impact and role of The Gathering. Overlap Associates supported the Foundation to explore possible futures and how they might shape the event. Using Strategic Foresight, Overlap and Suncor Energy Foundation constructed future worlds to understand and build strategies for The Gathering’s next steps.
Since 2013, Suncor Energy Foundation’s signature event, The Gathering, has brought together community organizations, government representatives, Indigenous leaders, social innovators, and other partners to convene on major social issues in Canada. The Gathering serves as a forum to explore perspectives, build partnerships, identify existing initiatives, and understand social challenges using a system-wide lens.
While the event has been successful in uniting partners and prompting powerful conversations, Suncor Energy Foundation wanted to proactively consider its purpose and goals for the coming years. The Foundation decided to use Strategic Foresight exercises to examine possible futures, and how The Gathering could influence social good, now and in the future.
Through a series of Strategic Foresight facilitations, Overlap helped the Suncor Energy Foundation and its key partners build possible futures for 2035. From those futures, the groups considered multiple implications for The Gathering and its potential impact.
Strategic Foresight is a process that seeks to understand the future by identifying current elements and conditions that may lead to future changes. Using creative and interactive methods, Overlap leads Strategic Foresight facilitations that help organizations to co-create multiple future scenarios, then consider the implications that the possible futures have for the organization. We then create strategies together that respond to possible futures, increasing an organization’s resilience in the face of change.
For Suncor Energy Foundation, Overlap held two, 1.5-day Strategic Foresight Facilitations with Foundation staff and key partners to consider the future of The Gathering. With a catalogue of trends and the driving forces behind the trends, developed in advance by Overlap, participants created eight possible worlds for 2035 using a custom interactive game board. To bring the worlds to life, three science fiction writers and one playwright developed stories in real time, based on participant ideas.
With a richly described and realistic depiction of the possible worlds, Overlap then guided participants to consider the implications of the various futures on The Gathering. These implications led to tangible next steps for the Foundation, which Overlap summarized in several useful deliverables, including a comprehensive report and a custom card deck.
Across both sessions, Overlap facilitated meaningful conversations that resulted in positive participant experiences and productive outputs. Key session outcomes from the Foresight facilitations included:
- Deep consideration of the current and potential future roles of The Gathering to impact social issues in Canada through collaboration and co-creation
- Creation of possible futures that have real implications on today’s strategies for The Gathering and Suncor Energy Foundation
- Identification of key opportunities to best prepare The Gathering for uncertain futures
- Development a set of useful tools that can continue to guide next steps for the Suncor Energy Foundation’s leadership and Directors