Futures Research

Images evoking the future.
Credit: Roland Molnár, Matt Harasymczuk, 'justgrimes', IAEA, BASF, NYC Media Lab, NASA, CIAT


What is the Auckland 2050 Research Project? 


 As part of a master planning exercise to develop Takaparawhau Park (Bastion Point) and Pourewa Reserve, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is commissioning research on what life in Auckland might look like 30 years from now. The product will be four scenarios of daily life and the economic, environmental, and social systems that underpin each snapshot.

The intent is to take those four scenarios into workshops with local business, government, and community leaders and tease out the various risks and challenges facing our city. Together we can navigate global challenges, like climate change, as well as local Kiwi challenges, like housing shortages, fluctuations in the tourism and primary sector markets, and the need for adaption in our education sector.

Using the insights from these workshops as well as engagement with our hapu, NWO leadership plans to design world-class public recreation areas - honoring our shared history through rich cultural experiences, teaching a new generation of leaders through augmented reality gaming and real-world research projects, and demonstrating the integration of new sensor technology, smart monitoring software, and traditional matauranga to showcase the potential of 21st century kaitiakitanga.

Get the brochure to learn more about the project. CLICK HERE

What is Futures Research?


Futures studies is an academic field of study involving the systemic and explicit thinking about alternative futures. It can trace its origins in the industry to the think tank RAND. As they developed early frameworks in this field, the US military’s strategic planners sought them out. Over the next few decades, the energy company Royal Dutch Shell proved their value as the in-house foresighting team used them to help prepare senior leaders for the decisions that saved the company during the oil crisis of the 1970’s. More recently, the practice has been adopted by governments (Singapore is one of the world's foremost proponents of the practice), large corporates, and across military branches. 

While there are well-grounded theories that make up the practice of futures studies, it can be simply thought of as insight into how and why the future will be different from today. There are no accurate predictions of our future 20 to 30 years from now and no pre-determined outcome.

Scanning While there are obvious trends that the research team will take into consideration - artificial intelligence, IOT, climate change - the point of this early exercise is to identify ideas in their earliest stage of development. To most, they may not appear significant, but when considering alternative futures on the scale of decades, futurists will make an effort to cast their net wide,  including for consideration issues that current decision-makers reject out of hand. The first report includes the most relevant issues for the brief - urban life in Auckland - and an analysis of those horizon trends which have varying potential for impact on our future lives. 


Framing The next step is to realize that the future is composed of multiple variables, where it would be a rarity to see a linear extrapolation of current reality for any one of them. The challenge is to frame the multiple emerging issues in a variety of contortions, challenging their interrelationships. This work can be done via mathematical models, simulations, or systems dynamics models. 

Scenario Planning Given the limitations of mathematical modelling to offer a prediction for life 30 years into the future, the next step is to generate multiple logical, alternative future scenarios. Manipulating the models gives an array of outcomes; using those, the time will write 'Day in the Life' type scenarios giving leaders a sense of the feeling of life in the future - what the challenges are, how people connect, the tools they use and their aspirations. 

Workshops: This final component will consist of facilitated workshops by Dr Lum, the CE of Vision Foresight Strategy, and Anne Gibbon, Design Lead for Master Planning at Whai Maia. They will lead the group of government, business, and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei leaders through 2-3 days of exercises to extract meaning from the scenarios his team develop. 

Learn more about Vision Foresight Strategy, LLC, our research partner. CLICK HERE

Participate in Auckland 2050

You can purchase a copy of the Horizon Trends and Scenarios Report, and join Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei leadership at the foresighting workshops in April/ May 2018. Whai Maia is registered as a charity, so your gift is tax deductible.

We invite you to join us on this journey as we explore the future of the world's most liveable city.

The packages include the report, worth over $100k, as well one or more of the workshops. 

  • Report + 1 topic workshop   $10k
  • Report + Final Auckland 2050 workshop  $12k
  • Additional topic workshops $3k each
  • Report + Complete set of 5 workshops  $22k

Project Plan

  • Jan 23, 25, 30, Feb 1, 2018: Four Strategy Dinners exploring the topics of 
    • 1) data sovereignty & ubiquity, 
    • 2) cultural connection & tourism, 
    • 3) experiential learning, and  
    • 4) guardianship of the environment.
  • Jan - April 2018: Ongoing futures research by Vision Foresight Strategy, supported by NWO master planning team
  • April - May 2018: Five workshops lead by professional futurist Dr Lum of VFS, and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei leadership. 
    • There will be a one day workshop for each of the four topics, and a final workshop bringing the conversation full circle. What kind of economic, environmental,  and social systems do community leaders want for their city, and how can we achieve that dream together.


A recent Harvard Business Review article backing the benefits of using futures research and scenarios for strategy development: 

A recent survey of 77 large companies by Germany’s EBS Business School, found that formal “strategic foresight” efforts add value through (1) an enhanced capacity to perceive change, (2) an enhanced capacity to interpret and respond to change, (3) influence on other actors, and (4) an enhanced capacity for organizational learning.


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