Phase 2: January – December 2023

Developing and engaging on future scenarios


A collaborative scenario writing exercise “A history of civic space, 2024-2034” was conducted in the first half of 2023 to provide space for civil society professionals to craft civic space futures. A method called ParEvo was chosen for this exercise which is a collaborative and innovative method to explore alternative futures (or histories), using a participatory evolutionary process (hence ParEvo). ParEvo is a narrative based method that encourages participants to be imaginative and creative by writing stories about possible futures. It comes with an online platform that allows for a collective but asynchronous collaboration across different time zones.

15 organisations were brought together in this exercise – participants from ICSOs, local CSOs, civil society networks and philanthropy who contributed to the exercise as individuals or in small teams. The exercise was guided by a team of facilitators and opened to external commentators on two occasions to receive feedback and point out trends that might have been underrepresented in the stories. Through eight iterations of storytelling between April and June 2023, the participants moved on the timeline from the year 2024 to 2034 and crafted 109 stories about possible civic space futures.

The outcomes and lessons from this ParEvo exercise are summarised in the report “A history of civic space, 2024-2034: Outcomes of ParEvo scenario writing collaboration”. The report outlines key themes that emerged across the stories, presents actionable ideas seeded by the stories, and outlines strategies for enabling futures thinking. It further proposes practical ways to build on the outcomes of this exercise, offering activities for teams – within organisations or as cross-sector groups – to build on the storylines to anticipate and prepare for possible futures. A report supplement “From landscape mapping to scenario building” connects the 2023 ParEvo exercise with the 2022 landscape mapping on the crises and trends that impact civic space and the strengths and weaknesses of (I)CSOs’ responses to them, identifying ways to strengthen the civil society sector’s future preparedness.

The ParEvo report and insights collected by the facilitators’ team further informed the preparations of the International Civic Forum (ICF) 2023 on “Anticipating futures: Moving from scenarios to actions” convened on 29-30 November 2023 in Brussels (Belgium). The ICF 2023 focused on operationalising insights from the future scenarios for civic and civil society operating space developed through ParEvo and examining ways of translating them into strategies and practices. The ICF took place in the workshop format and its methodology was developed by the ICSCentre in collaboration with Forum for the Future. 40 civil society experts (from ICSOs, CSOs, networks and philanthropy) came together at the ICF 2023, engaged with future scenarios, and explored how to build up anticipatory capacity at the sectoral, organisational, and individual level.

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