Thriving Community
Development Process

CP 1:

Driving Forces

CP 2:

CP 3:

CP 4:

TP 1:

TP 2:

TP 3:

Strat- egies

TP 4:


CPI  = Community Involvement Period
TP = Thinkapalooza (Work Party)

While the specifics of every situation lead us to tailor our services to a community’s particular needs, Thriving Communities is a large scale, whole system change that involves the entire community.   The following are the major steps in the Thriving Community Development Process:

Convene the Work Party to Plan Project Goals, Outcomes and Process

Initial meeting with 20-30 community group leaders and activists (i.e., influential, well-networked people) who commit to following the process through to its successful conclusion.  They are Art of the Future’s primary contacts and guides who are also the on-going entity managing the process.  The Work Party should reflect the diversity of the community.  In addition to discussing what the idea of a “thriving community” means to them, this meeting establishes the goals of the initiative,  the intended outcomes and the flow of the process.  Art of the Future will work closely with the Work Party throughout the life of the project.


Public Launch Event

The  Work Party takes responsibility for creating and maintaining the positive momentum that is needed to complete an eight to twelve month strategic planning activity.  Public involvement in this activity kick-offs with an event to build enthusiasm for the process by demonstrating what it will mean to the community to address longstanding, impending and important issues it is facing. This event begins the close monitoring and celebration of the entire process by multiple communication outlets.


Community Involvement Period 1: Driving Forces

During the period between the Public Launch Event and the next meeting of the Work Party:

a.   Groups within the community meet to identify the many driving forces in play affecting their future.  These include social, technical, economic, environmental, educational, political,  and artistic (STEEEPA) factors.  The group member who is part of the Work Party is responsible for collecting the information from the group and capturing it on the project website.  

b.   In the same time period, Work Party members interview key individuals and opinion leaders, inside and outside the community, and capture their thinking on a project website.  

c.   Access to  media maintains interest and enthusiasm.  The website includes a survey for community members to complete to capture input and concerns.


Thinkaplooza 1: Focal Issue(s) 

The Work Party meets for a full day “Thinkaplooza” to review the consolidated information collected on driving forces and use that data to guide them in conversations leading to the framing of a focal question (or a set of focal questions)

Community Involvement Period 2: Certainty & Criticality

During this period, a range of group convening activities bring people together to explore the focal issues.   The Work Party members convene groups again to identify most uncertain and most critical driving forces related to the focal issue(s). These activities determine which of the driving forces, if any, are very certain to occur (i.e. are highly predictable given knowable facts).  They also establish which of the driving forces are the most uncertain and which are the most critical to the focal question(s).   This information is pooled by members of the Work Party on the web for further input by community members.


Thinkaplooza 2: Historic Patterns

This point marks the end of the data gathering phase and moves into the consolidation and analysis phase of the Thriving Communities Development Process.  It consists of two Thinkaplooza sessions of the Work Party:

  1. The Work Party considers the most critical and most uncertain driving forces that have emerged pertaining to the Focal Question(s).  These “critical uncertainties” are discussed and debated. The Work Party determine how these forces have been trending and if/how they impact each other.  Relationships between critical uncertainties and other driving forces are described using causal diagrams facilitated by Art of the Future.

b.      Using these relationships of the driving forces, Art of the Future crafts a Structural Dynamics Model. The model is reviewed with the Work Party to verify and deepen it.  Using this model, several distinct and plausible scenario plots are identified. Scenario plots frame the different possible futures for the communty will look like. 

These scenario plots are used to write Scenario Narratives.


Community Involvement Period 3: Scenarios

During this Community Involvement Period, Work Party members convene and facilitate groups to experience “life” in the scenarios

  1. These events are be open to the public and could also be excellent theatrical occasions suitable for media, especially if the “worlds” are constructed with creative props and artifacts
  2. Members of the community could be involved in designing and staging these scenario worlds.

Each group is charged with identifying strategies within the context of particular scenarios.


Thinkaplooza 3: Strategies

The strategies generated by the various groups inform the next Work Party Thinkaplooza.  This meeting focuses on the creation of a Strategy Matrix to identify strategies that work across all scenarios (robust strategies) and strategies that work under some scenario conditions but not in others (contingent strategies). Art of the Future assists in the creation of the Strategy Matrix.


Community Involvement Period 4: Implications

Next, the Work Party convenes groups to present the Strategy Matrix, discussing the robust and contingent strategies.   The groups articulate what the implementation of the strategies require in various scenario conditions and, therefore, how they should be crafted to anticipate the full range of possible future conditions.  The groups also discuss the conditions that would trigger the implementation of “contingent strategies.” This is the step where the thinking about strategy turns into testing what it would take to “make it real” in the community's context.


Thinkaplooza 4: Action Plan

The inputs from the group meetings and other sources are pooled for review and classification at a final Work Party session.  This Thinkaplooza results in an implementation plan that details “Who, What When and How” for all aspects of the strategy.  This is plan becomes the playbook for the community to use as a guide to facilitate action in their neighborhoods and to integrate actions across communities and fields of influence.


Public Event: Roll Out

A highly visible and dramatic occasion puts the plan into motion. Each of the constituencies in the Community Involvement Period participate in the roll out, either having a speaking part during presentation activities or through some sort of symbolic role evoking images of the community’s positive future together.  Community leaders, performance and visual artists and musical groups contribute to the energy and message of the event.  It creates the sort of energy from which there is no turning back.


Documentation, Communication and Monitoring

Art of the Future assists the Work Party in writing and publishing the final action plan, which includes recommendations for monitoring implementation and periodically reflecting on the results of these community development activities.

The community clout of the members of the Work Party will grow as a result of their involvement in this process and Art of the Future can coach anyone from the group on how to manage the increase in community influence they are likely to experience. 


Learn more about our one day train-the-trainer workshop on creating a Magnetic Focus.

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