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News article21 February 2024Joint Research Centre3 min read

Futures Garden: sowing the seeds of policy innovation for Europe's future

In an era marked by increasing interaction between human beings and AI, a question arises - what if we could not only connect to AI, but also to other non-human forms of intelligence like plants, insects and animals? What would they teach us? The EU Policy Lab’s new experimental project, Futures Garden, aims to create conversations around the future and bring completely new perspectives to policymaking. Its first outputs are two thought-provoking – and visually intriguing – short films or “artefacts from the future”.   

Amid an ever-evolving landscape, there is a growing need for innovative tools and approaches to policymaking. Enter Futures Garden, a new experimental project seeking to redefine the way policymakers make decisions for Europe’s future. By using speculative design, creativity, and analytical insight, Futures Garden is exploring a different way to create policies and empowering policymakers to shape a dynamic and diverse future for the people they serve.  

Here at the EU Policy Lab, in collaboration with our partners, we want to inspire citizens and policymakers alike to imagine a Europe enriched by a diverse array of potential futures, each with its own opportunities and challenges. By working with futurists, innovative designers, and active EU citizens, Futures Garden is committed to exploring these possibilities and shaping Europe's tomorrow in a collaborative and inclusive manner.  

How, exactly? 

We use fictional "future" artefacts to start discussions and get people thinking about future scenarios. These (currently) two artefacts are a starting point for exploring the future, looking at both their positive and challenging aspects: 

What would mental health and social wellness look like in a future where society has transitioned towards emotional excellence and material minimalism?  

How could experiencing the perceptions and sensory worlds of other intelligent beings – like plants, insects, and even bacteria teach us more about our role in the natural world? How would this change our personal and professional mindsets towards greater empathy and understanding of the world around us? 


Get a first taste of the two artefacts - watch the two trailers:

Futures Garden


Futures Garden has a four-step approach to exploring future scenarios.  

  • We begin by diving into cutting-edge ideas and emerging trends from our Horizon Scanning activities, identifying opportunities that could shape Europe's future.  

  • We transform abstract concepts into tangible, thought-provoking scenarios, making future possibilities more accessible and engaging. 

  • We analyse the societal implications of these speculative scenarios: we ask people across the EU to share their diverse perspectives and insights. 

  • Finally, we assess the potential impact of these innovative ideas on policymaking, supporting the creation of forward-thinking, inclusive, and impactful future EU policies. 

In practice... 

This process, through the current two scenarios, broadens policymakers’ understanding of non-human intelligences and different forms of reflection, allowing them to explore new ways of being and understand how these new ideas could affect the future.  

By engaging citizens and policymakers together in interactive experiences around the artefacts, Futures Garden harvests their insights and critical questions, ultimately sharing this innovative process and its outcomes with a wider audience.

Beyond speculation, Futures Garden is about actionable innovation. It contributes to innovative policymaking by creating structures and mechanisms that let us use what we know about the future. By expanding knowledge about potential impacts of emerging ideas and issues, Futures Garden is bringing unexpected ways of learning, listening, and absorbing signals of change to the forefront.  

How can Futures Garden inform policymaking?  

Finally, by giving policymakers the tools and insights to think about and prepare for the future, this project can help us shape a new approach to policy creation that is forward-thinking, resilient, and inclusive. The two short films can serve as inspiration and 'eye-openers' to understand, enliven and pro-actively co-create for potential futures. Within the safe space of the EU Policy Lab, policymakers are supported to start new small scale experiments, to pre-test new ways of addressing policymaking in light of futures to come. Experimenting with proactive policy design or cognitively diverse and self-reflective policymaking can allow decision makers to be more open and prepared for the future.

Curious to find out more? 

Explore the two artefacts here:  

Follow us as we participate in festivals around the continent.

Stay tuned for our public launch, foreseen for June 2024, in Brussels!  

Futures Garden is commissioned by the DG for Research & Innovation through the Foresight on Demand framework contract.



Publication date
21 February 2024
Joint Research Centre
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
EU Policy Lab tags

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