Participatory explorations of alternative futures

Book by Rick Davies, Lara Mani, Tom Hobson
Published on 04 June 2024

This essay describes the origins, use, and potential of an innovative web application known as ParEvo, which has been used to facilitate the participatory exploration of alternative futures and histories. Starting with a seed text, participants collaborate anonymously over a series of iterations to construct a branching structure of narrative accounts about different possible sequences of events happening in the future. These storylines represent alternative theories of change, wherein different actors engage in various activities towards goals, some of which are successful, others not; some of which are desirable, others not. The design of the platform also contains a theory of how to explore alternative theories of change, in effect a metatheory of change. This is embedded in a social process that implements what is known as the evolutionary algorithm: the reiteration of variation, selection, and retention. The essay provides six perspectives on the use of ParEvo: (1) the origins of the ParEvo app, (2) the relevance of ParEvo to evaluators, (3) a summary of ParEvo exercises completed to date, (4) a detailed case study of how it was used most recently, (5) challenges facing the analysis of ParEvo exercises, and (6) two planned uses of ParEvo in the near future.

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This chapter is in the book Theories of Change in Reality edited by Andrew Koleros, Marie-Hélène Adrien, Tony Tyrrell.

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