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THE FUTURE WORKSHOP AS A QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHOD—FIELD EXPERIENCES IN INDIA AND HONDURAS

A. Purushothaman1, M. Rivera2

1Aalborg University (DENMARK)
2Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana (HONDURAS)
Field studies have not widely explored the use of Future Workshop, especially in developing economies. Future Workshop was implemented for the first time in Germany in the 1970’s by civil action groups. The pioneers of Future Workshop, Robert Jungk and Müllert define it “as a kind of laboratory for social experimentation where people can try out alternative visions of the future.” The typical Future Workshop consists of a preparatory phase and four more: Critique, fantasy, implementation and follow-up phase. This is a relatively old research method with strong participatory, democratic, and emancipatory principles, however, researchers have rarely used it in studies.

Through the paper, we illustrate how this democratic data collection technique succeeds in getting answers because the participants can talk without inhibitions in an informal atmosphere. We show how Future Workshop can be implemented in developing countries context by using two different research methodologies: Ethnographic Action Research in India and Educational Design Research in Honduras. In both qualitative research methodologies, Future Workshop was adopted as a method to collect data directly from the participants in order to understand the context and came up with practical solutions taking into account their dreams, worries, and hopes.

In the Indian context, the Future Workshop served as an effective technique that helped the researcher to understand what kept the students from using the Internet. In addition to understanding students’ barriers to using the Internet, the method also gave the researcher insight to what the students believed to be possible ways of realizing their preferred situations for using the Internet.

In Honduras’ research context, the Future Workshop was used to collected data that allowed the researcher to find out the main constraints that teachers face when using XO computers in the classroom and when they use a teacher-oriented pedagogy. Participants identified issues from the previous phases and held another brainstorming session to decide which ideas they could implement based on their own experience.

Empirical accounts from both research contexts support the conclusion that Future Workshop can be successfully applied in developing countries such as India and Honduras. This imaginary, participative, emancipatory approach to solve a common problem helped the researchers in both contexts identify the best solutions put forward by the participants themselves and work on them within the scope of the time and resources of the research project.