From Agriculture to Aesthetics: Adapting FCTs to Your Needs
While the FCTs were originally developed to explore emerging technologies, their format is flexible. They can be used to interrogate a variety of issues related to a city, neighborhood, or region, from more specific topics like water resources or public transportation to broader topics like the arts or poverty. City planners, researchers, policymakers, or educators, among others, can facilitate FCTs. They can be used to engage a diverse swath of participants or a more focused group and can include three day-long tours or one half-day tour, depending on the goals of the project and the resources available. FCT outcomes can serve as an end themselves or can be built upon with additional FCTs, public exhibitions, or other forms of public engagement.
As with every urban or community issue, there are dilemmas, conflicting agendas, and economic trade-offs that are tricky to unravel. Further complicating matters is that change—or progression into the future—is often ambiguous and difficult to decipher while it’s happening. A nudge toward a seemingly positive outcome in one area may result in a leap to a negative outcome in another. FCTs can focus participants’ attention on these subtle changes, as well as support the integration of their values into decision-making.
For example, an FCT may examine the pros and cons of more locally sourced food. At first glance, food grown nearby appears to require less transportation and energy—seemingly good outcomes. However, growing food locally might also put additional strain on urban water resources or bring about unexpected changes to the workforce, affecting the city, state, national, or global economy. What are the drivers and perceptions affecting the way cities produce or obtain food? How do emerging technologies transform food production and distribution? What are the implications of different decision pathways? And, how might the food system evolve over time?
Food production and distribution is only one example of an issue that might transform a community. An FCT could also be used by a homeowner’s association to consider the design of a new playground. Tour stops could include school playgrounds, a playground equipment company, or a children’s museum, depending on participant interests, which might include safety, aesthetics, creativity, accessibility, adventure, or any of a myriad of other values. Speakers could include engineers, early childhood development researchers, psychologists, artists, an Americans with Disabilities Act advocate, etc.
Following are some additional examples of possible FCT uses:
• A community college could conduct an FCT to envision future job skills and better understand the needs of the local economy and the desires of the community.
• A city council could conduct an FCT to examine the public’s views about the role of art and aesthetics in their city.
• City professionals could conduct an FCT to explore a city’s water resources, public transportation, or business development, along with options for the future.
• A science museum could use an FCT to complement an exhibition and connect the theme to the concerns of the local community.
Regardless of who is doing the convening or what the topic of interest may be, it is important that an FCT include the following:
• A walking tour designed around participant concerns, curiosities, and values
• Participant photography as a basis for deliberation
• Formal and informal exchanges between participants and behind-the-scenes experts and stakeholders
• Reflective writing
• Facilitated dialogue and deliberation