This will be a first for DAOs — tackling a foresight process, producing a futures report, and fueling a flywheel with our Incubate squad as a community — and we’re thrilled to leverage our web3 infrastructure and collective philosophy as we do it.
Throughout the process, we’ll be thoughtfully balancing centralized and decentralized approaches, leaning into niche expertise and leveraging the wisdom of the DAO, and prioritizing feedback loops as we go about both the process and its output — all while emphasizing the divergent perspectives that make the community we’re building at RADAR so special.
This is about cultivating a new approach to futures thinking — one that’s been reimagined top-to-bottom for this new future we’re all building together. And so, in the spirit of building in the open, we wanted to show our work!
First, the players
Before we get started, we’d be remiss to ignore the always-on engine that fuels this whole process: Signal Scanning.
Signals (emerging indicators of the future) and Collective Futures (mutually-determined hypotheses) are the essence of RADAR. They capture our collective discovery and curation process and sit at the heart of building the future of futures. And it all happens at RADAR HQ on Discord.
From #ai-algorithms and #media-brands to #aesthetics, #environment and #education, our channels explore broad cultural pillars and specific trend topics to serve as a living, breathing platform for collective curation, sense-making, and discussion of what’s next.
In the context of RADAR, everyone is a signal scanner: foresight practitioners contribute alongside brand and innovation strategists, writers, web3 experts, topical specialists and more to generate collaborative perspectives uniquely suited to uncovering novel insights.
And it’s these very insights that set the course for our research process.
Ok, now let’s dive in…
When we started outlining this process, our biggest question was how will we get from all these signals scattered throughout a Discord server to an actionable, inspiring, and rigorously decided-upon research brief?
After much deliberation, our answer was a process that we’re calling SuperCuration — conducted in large part by a diverse micro-squad of hand-raisers within the community who have demonstrated a capacity for signal spotting & pattern recognition for emerging trends across a variety of topics and channels.
We’ve talked about trends as constellations — made up of different behaviors, values, and cultural anomalies that indicate a meaningful shift is on the horizon; that a coherent story is emerging.
And that’s just what the SuperCurators are tasked with looking for. As they make sense of the signals that have been scanned, shared, and batted around within the Discord, they’ll bring their pattern recognition skills to bear, identifying and shedding light on these clusters as potential areas for exploration.
After evaluating the clusters they observe through the lens of Futures Criteria developed by the community, each SuperCurator will surface up to 10 Constellations that they deem worthy of consideration. Using a Constellation-on-a-Page template, they’ll offer a 10,000 foot view of the trend, a perspective on why it’s interesting, and a demonstration of how and where it’s manifesting today.
With these summaries in hand, our micro-squad of SuperCurators will gather to debate, discuss, compare, and converge their curations into no more than 10 total Constellations-on-a-Page to be evaluated by both the RADAR community and a panel of outside experts.
Across two days of public forums, sync discussions, and async voting, we’ll gather the community’s feedback, while simultaneously calling upon the fresh eyes of our expert panel to share their thoughts through a survey tailored to our Futures Criteria.
Armed with all of this feedback, our SuperCurators will meet once again for a final discussion before anonymously scoring the remaining Constellations using our Futures Criteria rubric, designed to surface a clear priority to be pursued for the remainder of the process.
Once a priority Constellation has emerged from the SuperCuration process, a selected Research Lead will hone the information and inspiration gathered to date into an internal brief.
In our view, a good research brief must be:
The brief itself will be just that — brief — a one page document offering an overview of the Constellation with all necessary background, any emerging theses discussed in the SuperCuration process, and a clear articulation of the opportunity. It will, of course, also cover off on the necessary details: things like critical focus areas, methodology, and the scope of work required for delivery.
With the brief complete, we’ll run our governance process for Critical Proposals — a process built on co-op models of async discussion — to vote, as a Community, with a ‘go threshold’ of 60% of active members.
In a 90-minute Kickoff Session, the Project Team will meet to discuss and align on the brief, divvying up areas of focus and jobs to be done. They’ll also work through ingoing hypotheses that will inform the direction of their research, and get grounded in RADAR’s Philosophy for Exploration — level-setting on expectations for the research they’re about to embark on, as well as key milestones and available resources.
If you’ll indulge us, a brief aside about that philosophy…
For RADAR, context is everything. Yet far too often, we think far too little about the context in which signals are unfolding — trapped by the allure of the now, our focus is too narrow and, all too often, too biased.
That’s why RADAR believes in research that’s built on a foundation of vertical & horizontal contextualization.
Vertically, we seek out the perspective of time. What can we learn from history? From fundamental human truths and societal needs, behaviors, and shifts? What can we learn from the past & the present to inform the future?
Horizontally, we seek out perspectives that inform inclusive futures. How is the idea we’re exploring manifesting (or not) across diverse groups, cultures, subcultures? How is it playing out outside of the myopic western cultural lens?
There’s a tweet that went a bit viral recently — about the need for texture, color, depth, and history in our lives, especially when it comes to talking trends. And frankly,we couldn’t agree more. This philosophy? We believe it’s the key to delivering.
Over the course of 4 weeks, the Project Team will dive deep into the topic at hand using both secondary and primary research methods.
From a secondary perspective, keeping RADAR’s Philosophy for Exploration in mind, they’ll mine the topic far and wide, leaning into the community by way of #research-threads with specific questions aimed at crowdsourcing insight and inspiration from the diverse, global network of RADAR members.
With their deep dive well under way, the Project Team will also conduct a phase of primary research aimed at bringing not only topical knowledge, but also warmth and humanity into our storytelling.
They’ll think outside the box to identify a range of experts that can speak to the underpinnings of what’s happening, as well as unpack the consequences and future-forward implications — people like industry experts, journalists, and academics.
They’ll also look to the edges of culture, to the tastemakers living at the extremes of the trend, to get a firsthand account that places the topic at hand in context of their broader life & lifestyle — the kind of insight that only comes from self-analysis.
Both primary and secondary research will be supercharged by RADAR’s Mega Resource Board, a living and breathing library full of people, podcasts, publications and more sourced from across the community in an effort to burst our personal filter bubbles and diversify our resources.
Every good process builds in a moment to breathe, and this is ours. So following the research phase, the Project Team will surface the insights they’ve gathered to the community in the form of a one-page overview and brief presentation.
This moment of convergence will set the stage for our Futures Mapping process and give the community an opportunity to get excited about what’s to come.
Most reports stop before — in our opinion — they ever get started, failing to extend their thinking into imagined futures that drive meaningful implications for what’s to come. So for us, this is where things get really interesting.
Our Futures Mapping process is built on a philosophy of 3 P’s: marrying Push with Pull so that we can ultimately Plot a path of action into the future that will set the course for our Incubation and Delivery stages.
This portion of the process starts with a worksession where we’ll gather the Project Team, Research Squad, and other relevant community members to explore the Push & Pull of the Future.
With a pre-defined timescale in mind based on the trajectory revealed in our research phase, we’ll use worldbuilding techniques to unpack what’s possible and probable (the push) and what’s preferable (the pull).
Think: What kind of world will the tailwinds of this trend push us toward? What cultural ideas will emerge? What societal structures will be reconsidered? What technologies, mediums, arts, and sciences will be used to connect people, places & things? What goods and services will we make and how will we consume them?
And just as importantly: What kind of future do we want this to drive toward? Given RADAR’s values & beliefs about what makes for better, more inclusive futures, what ambitions, desires, and visions of the future does this trend inspire? What do we want to pursue that’s both aspirational and achievable given RADAR’s incubation process?
Where these ideas intersect is our Center of Gravity — the clearly defined future from which we’ll backcast a path of action.
While we’ll work as a small team in this initial session to ideate around the Center of Gravity, this is a pivotal moment in which we want to engage the whole RADAR community.
Enter our partners at Psi: Through Psi’s Collective Intelligence platform and process, we’ll bring the community together to discuss and debate a collection of ingoing hypotheses. From this Psi Session, we’ll emerge with a refined & aligned Center of Gravity to be used as the north star in our final Futures Mapping session…
Which is all about backcasting — plotting the potential path of action required to manifest our Center of Gravity. In this session, we’ll gather the original crew that engaged in the Push & Pull session, while also bringing in members of the Incubate Squad to help us think through the kinds of possibilities, products, partnerships, and platforms that could serve as stepping stones to our desired future. These can be just about anything: think cultural artifacts & activations, transformative technologies, new goods & services, coalitions & collabs…you name it.
At session’s end, we’ll vote on our favorites before surfacing them to the Community for feedback on what exactly will inspire and lay the foundations for the Incubate Squad’s Futurethon.
Whew, that was a lot. But of course, we’re not done. Because what’s a research process without a report?
We’ve thought long and hard about what will make a RADAR report unique from its web2 counterparts — about how we can leverage the superpowers of this community to really create something special that your traditional consultancy couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do.
And so, we’ve netted out with 5 tenets:
While the report structure is yet to take shape and will surely be, at least in part, defined by the topic at hand, you can expect a few things that the RADAR community is already excited about: A report that’s packed with audio and other media elements, not just dry text. A dynamic experience, more than just a simple deck. A built-in feedback loop, with interactive opportunities that draw the public in. And a choose-your-own-adventure vibe, because futures simply aren’t straight lines.
Oh, and yes, we’ll be minting our reports as NFTs. Because why wouldn’t we?!
8. Hand-off to Incubate
And then? It’s out of our (the Research Squad’s) hands! At least, mostly. We’ll be working closely with the Incubate Squad to ensure that the research & futures mapping process grounds and inspires the exploration that will be done in this phase, without constricting creativity and wild ideation.
Stay tuned for an in-depth look at how we’re thinking about the Futurethon and what’s to come as Discovery gives way to Incubation and Delivery.