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Windows on the future

Scenario building
The Windows on the future: translating uncertainties about the future into guidelines for the present

The Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) team developed a process to set up a methodology for all the SMOTIES partners, a shared strategy to be applied in the 10 European small and remote places to engage the local communities in a conversation about creative solutions for their area. The methodology aims at guiding a medium-term strategy for all SMOTIES partners towards 2024, in a process that looks further in the future to seek a stronger impact beyond the SMOTIES project: How could we design the guiding perspectives towards the future of European small and remote places? By framing and building the Windows on the Future, possible visions of these territories in 2100 with the purpose of translating uncertainties about the future into guidelines for the present.

The scenario building process has been nurtured by the knowledge and experience of the research team and the collaboration with the European project FUEL4Design – Future Education and Literacy for Design, whose goal is to develop knowledge, resources and methods to help designers designing for complex tomorrows: for this reason, a fruitful collaboration served to match their approach with the SMOTIES methodology definition.


Through desk research, POLIMI team identified the current issues and challenges of the European cultural and creative sector, focusing our attention on the remote wellbeing and rural regions conditions.

By mapping data and findings, the POLIMI team drafted possible areas of exploration, then validated through two steps: “Horizon scanning”, an exploration on emerging trends to detect the challenges and the potential opportunities of the small and remote places, and “Future forces”, the key-elements affecting the future of economy, society and local development. The result was the creation of the 5 Windows on the Future, umbrellas for megatrends around significant matters such as ageing, tourism, ecology, governance and education.

Trends’ trajectories served then to define polarity maps for each Window, composed of 4 quadrants that go from more probable futures to more uncertain but impactful ones. This results in a total of 20 Scenarios for the European small and remote places.


Through one-to-one workshops with the SMOTIES partners, the POLIMI team shared this methodology, helping them to map assets, challenges and opportunities of their small and remote places to foresee what might be the best strategies to apply.

This provided a great common ground for the SMOTIES partners to speak the same language, to position all the different contexts and ideas within an established frame, and to easily share a collective vision for the short, medium and long term of the SMOTIES activities.
SMOTIES partners are now using the Windows on the Future to start a conversation with local communities and creative people in their small and remote place