The project workshop took place on July 4th and 5th, 2018 at the Taisho Emperor Memorial Hall in the Kiyosumi Shirakawa Gardens, Tokyo. The workshop was attended by 27 participants including 14 members of the advisory group of Envisioning Project who are sustainability experts from around the world from a diverse range of fields including government, academia, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector. The aims of the workshop included advancing the sustainable living field by enriching our analysis, exploring sustainable living cases, co-creating key messages on sustainable ways of living, and advising the next stage of the project. Two additional aims were to analyze sustainable living futures and to co-develop breifings for the ‘mash-ups’ and gap-filling visualizations being developed for the project (see below).

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Day 2 of the workshop focused on the futures visions and scenarios aspect of the Envisioning Project. The day began with Vanessa Timmer (One Earth) reviewing the key messages on sustainable ways of living developed on Day 1. The purpose of this review was to encourage participants to use these insights to imagine possible future lifestyles and to explore sustainable futures.  The day was co-facilitated and co-designed with François Jégou and Christophe Gouache of Strategic Design Scenarios, a sustainability innovation lab who are specialists in scenario building. Interactive exercises with participants were interspersed with a presentation – the Sustainable Living Futures Safari – that presented the analysis of sustainable futures and a range of existing visions of sustainable daily living. The presentation is described below and then the interactive exercises which the participants engaged in throughout the day.


Sustainable Living Futures Safari

Vanessa Timmer (One Earth) presented an overview of the futures field and a tour of the sustainable future lifestyles visions collected by the project to date. She emphasized that imagining is a key part of taking action to advance sustainable living because our futures are not predetermined but can be shaped together in a creative process. The future is an open space and we can reframe our collective stories in ways that break us out of unsustainable patterns. Vanessa provided examples of visioning methodologies and ‘techniques of futuring’ such as forecasting, scenarios and backcasting. She provided examples the climate scenarios undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Mont Fleur scenarios co-created by a diverse stakeholder group in South Africa post-apartheid. Vanessa provided a review of past visions of cities, including highlighting the influence of the 1939 New York Exhibition Futurama in promoting the car-oriented high-rise city that is prevalent today. She summarized the project’s analysis of sustainable living futures and the collection partly displayed in the workshop room of futures visions.

François Jégou (SDS) outlined Strategic Design Scenarios past efforts and methodologies. Vanessa then engaged the participants in searching terms ‘green future’, ‘sustainable future’, ‘sustainable city’, and ‘smart city’. The project team’s findings are that many of the futures currently depicted can be grouped into four tendencies 1) smart green techno-living, 2) sustainable urabn and rural design, 3) eco-communities, and 4) Living Green Expos and Tradeshows. The challenge now is to expand this set of imaginaries to reflect real sustainability understanding and the next level of thinking on sustainable daily life.  Vanessa reviewed a number of examples of ‘unusual suspects’ and sustainable futures images and projects that are more aligned with sustainability insights and the creative potential of co-creating futures.

The workshop participants engaged at their tables in an interactive exercise to envision sustainable futures through a six step process designed and facilitated by François and Christophe (SDS). These steps and their rationale are described below.

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#1 Looking for missing bits

Diving into the small bits of everyday life

Sustainability is mostly looked at through the lens of specific domains: food, mobility, energy, housing, etc. however when exploring what sustainable lifestyles may look like, we need to dive into what everyday life is actually composed of. Lifestyles are not ordered and segmented into these domains or areas: it’s not about Food but about having dinner out with friends, enjoying a beer at a festival, feasting with your family during a holiday celebraiton, or grabbing some food on the go. And beyond the usual classifiable domains, daily life activities are also about fun and laugh, death and sickness, faith, holidays, leisure, dancing, communicating, learning, etc. so many topics that are not talked much about when thinking about sustainability. The “Bits of Everything” picture set was developed to explore and find the unspoken, the forgotten, the invisible, the intangible aspects of what makes everyday life. The set contains 96 pictures depicting bits of everyday life throughout the world. It built on a photo set developed in partnership with partners in the CIMULACT project. This activity allowed participants to identify and highlight a series of daily living subjects rarely, or not often enough, spoken of.

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#2 Building sustainable snapshots

Imagining meaningful snapshots of future lifestyles

Each participant selected a particular ‘unrepresented’ aspect of sustainable living that is not yet captured in sustainable futures visions. They noted why they thought this subject was underrepresented and the environmental impacts (if any) the subject had. This participant then challenged the rest of the participants at the table to reflect on this same subject: let’s imagine variations of how this subject can be approached in terms of sustainability. By each participant providing their own short story in a diverse way – because of the diversity of the present participants – the project benefits from a rich sustainability exploration of each underrepresented subject. The snapshots are meant to stretch the initial chosen subject into different directions. In between 4 to 6 snapshots were developed for each selected “missing bit” for a total of over 40 snapshots. Participants were asked to find a title and come with a short narrative to describe their idea.


#3 Combining snapshots into sustainable life stories

Why build stories?

In order to understand what living sustainably really means and implies on a daily life basis, we need to incorporate sustainable practices into actual life stories. What does it mean to move sustainably, eat sustainably, enjoy life sustainably? If we have that conversation at a generic level, it does not make much sense. We know that biking is more sustainable that driving your own car, or taking the public transportation than driving your own vehicle but what does it mean to move sustainably when you need to go shopping, when you need to rush in the morning to take your kids to school then go to work. What does it mean moving sustainably when you go holiday with your family? Sustainability topics should always, to be meaningful, be incorporated into people’s actual lives. To go beyond what it means to eat sustainably at an abstract level, you need to take in account people’s lifestyles and life context. If we want to talk about eating practices, we need to get into Selam’s life, then Jorge’s life, then Abdul’s life… to describe what it means to shift to sustainable eating habits for them, in their life, within their context, sets of values, with the eating options and choices they have, etc. Each table of participants were asked to select a number of the diverse snapshots and combine them into a sustainable life story.


#4 Combining snapshots into sustainable life stories

Examples of personas

The participants teams needed to decide who their life story was about. Who should be living this sustainable life? In order to inspire participants, SDS had prepared a series of personas. They were diverse: youngsters, adults or elders, living to the countryside, small cities or megalopolis, living in Asia, Europe or Africa, and being a fisherman, a tattoo artist, a civil servant, a chef, a farmer, a bank employee, having kids or none, being community centred, family-centred or individualist, being a tech fan, a sports fan, running a healthy life or less healthy diet, being middle class, upper one or lower one, and so on. If we are to imagine sustainable lifestyles, we need to imagine what it means and what it takes for every of one of those people living in very diverse ways.


#5 Building life stories starting with creating personas

What are personas?

Personas are fictional characters created to cover the scope of different user types that might be concerned by our research or solution, or product or service. Since the ESL project has a global dimension, personas were meant to represent a wide diversity of people from different places in the world, different backgrounds, cultures, level of education, wealth, sets of values, etc. Personas that we created during the ESL workshop had an identity (a name), an age, a face, a place where they live, a few biographic details, an occupation, etc. Personas were not meant to be too “average”, they were to be unique yet credible characters. Creating personas provides an opportunity to go beyond sociological clichés and/or the classic socio-professional segmentations, etc. The value of creating personas is that you need to translate each sustainable practice into something that is adapted and shaped ad-hoc for that particular person, with these particular needs, and aspirations and ways of living. Amelie, Piotr and Carmen may all eat sustainably in the future but the way they eat and what they will eat will most likely be very different one from the other.


4 stories coming a selection of the Snapshots of the future…

Here below is an example of one of the life stories created by the participant teams. This is a glimpse into Anne’s life:

“Anne lives in Shanghai, China, as a neuro-surgeon, she’s 32. And she used to be a man named Antonio. Her parents live in the countryside. She has a busy lifestyle, loves shopping, also enjoys fitness and is in love with nature. Finally, she is quite keen on the idea of traveling. Anne works both from home (reducing her commuting) and at the hospital. She only goes to the hospital when she actually needs to operate. Anne does most of her shopping online to avoid taking transport and wasting time. At the age of 38, and with the money and time she saved, she started to become interested in sustainable food. She buys sustainable ingredients and invests time cooking healthy meals. When she turned 40, she joined an online community to share knowledge and practices on sustainable food as well as on planting seeds, etc. Professionally, she also uses online platforms to connect and train peer surgeons through online learning classes. A couple of years later she became active at the local level by getting involved in the city sustainable food festival. When she turned 47, she lost her dad. He was incinerated and buried in a sustainable cemetery, which basically looks like a flower field, with land art pieces and sculptures made by people themselves for commemoration of their losses. The cemetery also hosts a veggie garden which brings life and activity into that special place.“


#6 Reflecting critically on the sustainable lifestyle future lives through stakeholder role play

During the different groups’ presentations of sustainable life stories, other participants were asked to listen to the presentations from a particular stakeholder’s perspective.

The different roles were:

  • Large businesses
  • Small & medium businesses
  • National governments
  • Academics & educators
  • International organisations
  • NGO’s, civil society
  • Youth Groups
  • Activists, protest groups
  • Faith groups
  • Media


Why is it useful to look at sustainable lifestyles through different stakeholders’ lenses?

Shifting towards more sustainable lifestyles require both systemic and individual changes. But the world is not going in one direction, many actors in the global system have very different interests, values and visions and many of them do not align with each other. To avoid having a naive and idealistic vision of how things will unfold as we shift towards more sustainable lifestyles, we propose to see that evolution through different stakeholders’ perspectives by asking the following:


When listening to the life stories, and from your perspective as [particular stakeholder role], what do you think would happen? How would you react? What would you do? Would you support what is described in that story? Would you be controlling, limiting, fighting against it? Or would you promote and benefit from it? Does it go in your desired direction or against your interests? This reflective and critic activity allowed to explore the tensions that lay behind the transformations that need to be happen in order to implement more sustainable lifestyles.

The futures exercises undertaken in this workshop provide the project with a rich array of possible futures sustainable living subjects and life stories. These inform the outcomes of the project and also direct the development of a few sample ‘mash-ups’ or ‘gap-filling’ visions developed by Strategic Design Scenarios to display the ‘underrepresented’ aspects of sustainable living futures.