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News article3 July 2024Joint Research Centre4 min read

Futures Garden goes live: Sowing the seeds of innovative policymaking

Futures Garden is an experimental project of the Joint Research Centre’s EU Policy Lab to generate new policy ideas with citizens and policymakers to help shape a better future for Europe. 

We are now proud to announce the public launch of two innovative ‘artefacts from the future’: Symbiotic and Inwards. Watch them and let us know how they inspired you! 

These artefacts take the form of two short thought-provoking animation films. They mark a significant milestone in the project's mission to intertwine foresight and speculative design with creativity, empathy, and analytical insight to spur policymakers and citizens alike to imagine and to shape a better future for Europe. 

How we did it 

To produce these animations, Futures Garden used a unique approach bringing together leading futurists and innovative designers to explore emerging trends and issues crucial for Europe's tomorrow.  

For example, ‘Symbiotic’ imagines the world in 2050s, a time marked by an expanded understanding of intelligence beyond human confines thanks to a revolutionary breakthrough. Imagine that scientists have created a device that allows humans to experience the perceptions and sensory worlds of other intelligent beings on earth, immersing them in the ‘umwelt’ of these creatures. This film follows four stories of four researchers: a journey into the deep blue through the mind of a sperm whale, life within an ant colony's intricate society, the emotional landscape of the guts, and the interconnected life of a forest. The shape of this paradigm change is rooted in the small ‘signs of new’ that we are seeing today regarding the understanding the diversity of cognitive approaches, both human and non-human. Already now, without waiting for breakthrough technologies for communication with other intelligences, we can imagine what different information processing styles, perception and interpretation models could add to policymaking.  

The second artefact, ’Inwards’, through four individual situations and a collective resolution, a series of five short animation videos follow a group of friends, each curating their own life path while keeping the common vision in mind. Each video reveals elements of the cultures of self-reflection, emotional development, and material minimalism that have emerged in this fictional future and stages the artefacts and services that accompany this progressive shift in social reality. The shape of this paradigm change is rooted in the small “signs of new” that we are seeing today as new practices and technologies that enhance self-reflection and sharing of emotions, which help shape our choices in life and nurture a renewed sense of togetherness. And already now, we can usefully imagine what bringing more self-reflection into policymaking could mean. 

Using the power of speculative design, the project creates alternative future scenarios that become tangible starting points for in-depth and critical discussions, encouraging citizens and policymakers to reimagine everyday life and society. The two artefacts, ’Symbiotic’ and ‘Inwards’, are the result of a comprehensive four-step approach that involves horizon scanning, speculative design, citizen engagement, and policy reflection.  


‘After showing them in festivals across Europe, we are thrilled to share these artefacts with the public, marking a significant step towards a more inclusive and forward-thinking approach to policymaking.’ 
Erica Bol, Architect Futures Garden at the EU Policy Lab 


Futures Garden's innovative approach responds to the need for a more anticipatory and adaptive policymaking process, one that considers the long-term implications of decisions and involves citizens in shaping the future(s) they want to live in. By exploring the potential impacts of emerging ideas and issues, the project aims to develop unexpected ways of learning, listening, and absorbing signals of change, leading to unconventional modes of analysis and understanding, and unusual ideas for designing policies. 

What other participants said about the film

'What I liked particularly how this video visualises different systems that might be relevant in the real world - to build more thriving futures through collaboration, sharing, and caring.'

'It makes me experience the terror and the beauty, the awe and the uncertainty... [it was a] strong experience, nice reminder of our destination to coexist in a social network despite everchanging time and place'

What can you do now?  

After screening in festivals across Europe, the two artefacts have now been launched publicly. This public launch of Symbiotic and Inwards marks the beginning of a new chapter in the project's journey, one that promises to inspire a more dynamic and diverse Europe, shaped by its citizens and policymakers working together towards a common goal. 

Join the conversation and explore the artefacts at Symbiotic — Futures Garden and Inwards — Futures Garden

You could even organise a watch party or a private screening with family and friends around the two short films and share your impressions via the website.  

About Futures Garden:  

Futures Garden is a project initiated by the EU Policy Lab of the Joint Research Centre, commissioned by the Directorate-General for Research & Innovation through the Foresight on Demand framework contract. The project aims to redefine policymaking for Europe's future by using speculative design with creativity, empathy, and analytical insight. 

The two artefacts have been developed with the help of our partners Modem and Normals.



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