Scenarios and Foresight
I’m currently a consultant on the Horizon 2020 IMAJINE project looking at spatial inequalities and injustices across the European Union.
As part of IMAJINE’s foresight component, I’m working on scenarios for the future of European territorial cohesion and regional inequality.
You can see early discussion of the IMAJINE project’s opening stages at The Conversation and Ireland’s RTÉ Brainstorm. Subsequent IMAJINE publications include pieces for Resilience, the Regional Studies Association’s Regions eZine, and the Irish Humanities Association.
In 2019, Energy Consumers Australia contracted me for a scenario planning project exploring the future of the Australian energy sector.
The scenarios were to be shared at ECA’s 2020 Foresighting Forum, as a platform to encourage a broader range of perspectives on how Australians’ supply of heat, light, and power might evolve in the future.
I worked with the ECA team to plan the scenario engagement, and in December 2019 held a two-day workshop with a range of Australian energy stakeholders.
Materials from this workshop were elaborated into four distinct visions of Australia in 2050 – “Futures of Heat, Light, and Power” – each offering a different context for consumers’ relationship to their energy supply.
These scenarios were presented as videos in a special installation at the Forum in February 2020. A panel of international industry experts responded to the scenarios as part of the event.
“Matt facilitated the two-day workshop in an extraordinarily deft and sensitive way, pushing people hard to test their assumptions and positions, without ever losing the room and leaving them feeling disrespected.
He synthesised the outcomes from the workshop, translating them into four compelling narratives about the future.
In a deeper sense though, Matt validated our sense, that perhaps we hadn’t been able to properly articulate, that we needed to approach the issues in a different way, and that rather than handwaving about uncertainty and complexity, it was possible to embrace the issues confidently and systematically.
The extent to which Matt genuinely cares about changing things for the better, and intellectually and genuinely engaged with our topic, rubbed-off on everyone. We are all ‘bush’ scenario planners now.
The scenarios were one of the focal points at our annual Foresighting Forum which was a hugely successful event. Using the scenarios as a prompt and challenge helped form a consensus in the room around the need to take a broader view about the future.”
– Chris Alexander, Director of Advocacy & Communications Energy Consumers Australia
In 2019-2020, I worked on a short project to build futures thinking at the University of Oslo.
Supporting staff from the Screen Cultures and Living the Nordic Social Model projects, I convened a scenario workshop to explore the future of Norwegian schools, with a focus on the digitalisation of education.
Teachers, activists, advocates, researchers, and other education stakeholders joined us for a one-day event to generate plausible future contexts. I then worked with the university to refine these contexts into scenarios which would challenge received wisdom about what to expect or hope for the future of Norwegian education, and inform future research directions for the two university projects. I recruited an international respondent to provide commentary on the scenarios and their relevance to present, and managed design of the finished scenario products.
Almost immediately on release of the scenarios, issues which had been highlighted in the workshop appeared in the Norwegian news as an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Matt facilitated a scenario planning workshop on the future of education for us at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo. The workshop was intended to identify key emerging tendencies in the field which research will need to attend to.
Not only did Matt help with the organisation of the event and with putting together an exciting group of stakeholders from a wide range of institutions and businesses, he was also the main driving force in compiling, analysing, and writing up the resulting scenarios. For the compiling of the results, Matt brought in international colleagues from related fields to read and comment on the scenarios so as to lend additional depth to the analysis.
His collegiality and professionalism, his engagement in the project, capacity for work and desire to learn has been key to the workshop’s success and a constant source of inspiration. The resulting document will be a steady guide in our future research endeavours in the field of digital education.”
– Dr. Steffen Krüger, Department of Media & Communication, University of Oslo
From October 2020 to March 2021, I consulted for Open Education Global (OEG), a membership-based global non-profit organisation supporting the development and use of open education around the world, on their new strategic plan.
Working with OEG’s leadership team, I advised on the design and delivery of a COVID-era strategic planning process, including a suite of interactive digital activities to elicit insight from stakeholders worldwide. I also joined a working group responsible for synthesising the process outputs into a draft strategic plan.
Throughout this entire process Matt was caring, helpful and provocative making sure we considered unexpected and novel perspectives. The resulting plan has been shared widely and is being received with excitement and support. I’m a Matt Finch fan and plan to do more work with him going forward.
– Paul Stacey, Executive Director, Open Education Global
From 2018-2019 I worked with the Supreme Court Library of Queensland, Australia (SCLQ) on a comprehensive strategic vision and planning exercise. Our objective was to develop a five-year strategic plan which would guide development of the Supreme Court’s library and information services. The entire project was undertaken remotely, minimising environmental impact and avoiding the expense of international travel.
In the project’s initial phase, I conducted an environmental scan for the organisation and reported on trends and emerging factors in both legal librarianship and the wider legal sector, with an emphasis on jurisdictions similar to Australia. I conducted interviews with international experts and built peer relationships overseas to support the SCLQ leadership on an ongoing basis.
After the initial research, I worked with SCLQ’s leadership team on an internal workshop process to elicit staff views and enable them to co-design elements of the new strategy. I created the workshop design and identified an experienced local facilitator to deliver the session to staff. I also assisted SCLQ in designing a customer survey and conducted my own one-on-one interviews with key staff and stakeholders, including senior legal practitioners, members of the judiciary, and those serving on the governing Library Committee.
In the final phase of the project, I collaborated with the Library’s CEO to co-write the strategic plan for approval by the Library Committee. We iterated several drafts and variants of the plan, working via documents shared in the cloud and discussions by phone, email, and videoconferencing.
In March 2019, the new strategic plan was approved by the Library Committee and is now informing SCLQ’s operations.
For the library’s CEO and leadership team members, who collaborated with Dr Finch, the experience of undertaking the project with him was extremely positive. We found him to be knowledgeable, experienced, organised, and highly professional, while remaining approachable and good tempered throughout the term of his engagement. He was a fast learner and a good teacher, always generous with advice and happy to share his experience. His enthusiasm was infectious, and helped inspire us to first create a compelling vision and then embody it in the plan.
Apart from leaving us with a plan to guide our strategic direction over the next five years, he also left us with the tools and the knowledge to undertake similar visioning and planning processes for ourselves in future – so his engagement proved to be a wise investment. We highly recommend Dr Finch to anyone considering engaging him.
– David Bratchford, CEO, Supreme Court Library Queensland
In 2017, the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) hired me for a six-month project supporting Scholarly Information and Learning Services (SILS) as they completed a remodelling of their offer to clients.
I helped teams to tell, in new and compelling ways, the story of what they do and how it makes a difference. I coached individuals and created opportunities for SILS staff to share their expertise and raise their profile, both on and offline. I also served as lead researcher on the team which won SILS’ first major external tender, a statewide consultation for the future of public libraries in Queensland.
Externally, I brokered new collaborations with health providers, cultural institutions, local government, arts practitioners, and other universities. As part of the university’s “One USQ” strategy, I established new internal relationships and strengthened existing ones by identifying opportunities for staff to collaborate across faculties and functions, including podcasts, cross-functional training sessions, and the annual Astronomy Festival.
Matt’s contribution as a member of the team was invaluable. His energy, insights and amazing facilitation skills have taken us on an important organizational learning journey which has a made a lasting difference to the way we do business. Through his help we were able to challenge and expand our thinking and ways of doing, and most importantly achieve great things for our clients.
– Professor Helen Partridge, University of Southern Queensland
Creative in Residence
I came to the State Library of Queensland, Australia (SLQ) in January 2016 for a 12 month project as their Creative in Residence, exploring innovation, strategy, programming and partnerships across their teams. SLQ extended my residency twice: it ran until May 2017.
In addition to providing strategic advice to a range of leadership & management teams, I devised interactive workshop formats which allowed audiences and speakers to meet as equals, delivering sessions at Brisbane Writers Festival, Queensland’s Heritage Leaders symposium, and the Broadband for the Bush conference.
For the Queensland Memory team, I identified new collection acquisitions relating to Queensland’s LGBTQ community and the history of Australian television. I also hosted and recorded a session for Brisbane’s inaugural Deathfest, a festival of death literacy.
Working with the library’s Regional Partnerships team, I devised and delivered boundary-pushing staff development projects to librarians across a region three times the size of France. These included Presenterless Workshops and an interactive roleplay session called “Library Island“.
During my residency, I coached SLQ project officers to lead the development of Queensland’s Fun Palaces art-and-science events from 9 sites in 2015 to over 60 locations statewide in 2016. I also devised a game based on the life cycle of the scrub turkey in association with Griffith University, and contributed to public events including Human Library, the Taste of Belonging banquet, and the library’s collaboration with Etsy markets.
I represented the library on ABC radio and as a guest speaker at events including RUN Regional Futures, LIBERACT digital symposium, Brisbane Writers Festival, the University of Southern Queensland’s salon series, and the inaugural Lake Mac GLAM conference. I also MC’ed the 2016 National Year of Digital Inclusion Forum in Sydney.
Digital projects included the Queensland Fun Palaces Comic Maker and a staff development initiative which led to the FunFace Lab, swapping visitors’ faces with figures from our digitised heritage collections. I took part in our Wikipedia editing sessions, consulted on the development of the State Library’s Ozofarm competition, bringing together agriculture and robotics in rural communities, and also facilitated the Poetic Places partnership between State Library of Queensland and the British Library.
In 2016 and 2017, I devised and delivered innovation workshops for medics and health professionals at Brisbane’s Metro South Health Board. These sessions explored opportunities to push the boundaries of their professional practice, devise new offers for their community, and implement the Planetree standard of patient-centred care.
I also worked with the School of Allied Health Sciences at Griffith University to create training & engagement opportunities for student occupational therapists working in community settings.
Using a mixture of storytelling, play, and strategic thinking, we devised opportunities for students to challenge themselves, explore their professional identity, and develop strategies for communicating their work to a broad audience.
In 2016 and 2017, I worked with third-year students to help them present the results of their work placement to a mixed audience of therapists, lecturers, and the general public; in 2017, I helped new student therapists take their first steps during their degree’s Orientation Week, using unusual materials including edible displays and diagrams.
Fun Palaces are an international community scheme which helps people of all ages around the world to team up with experts and organise their own celebrations of science & art. I was a consultant to the team who ran Australia’s first Fun Palace in 2014 and an event co-producer for Lambeth Libraries, who ran eleven simultaneous Fun Palaces in London on October 1st 2015.
For Lambeth, I brokered partnerships with organisations like City University London, the State Library of Queensland, and the Orbital Comics store, as well as recruiting high profile presenters including entrepreneurs, broadcasters, and academics.
I also conceived and ran the online comic maker built for Lambeth Fun Palaces by the State Library of Queensland, which extended Fun Palaces’ international reach.
I trained staff, coached volunteer participants, devised activities, and directly supervised some of the events, as well as delivering volunteer recruitment sessions at community venues.
On Saturday 1st October 2015, the London Borough of Lambeth came alive with DNA experiments, urban myths, online games, slices of brain, cardboard robots, a Geodesic dome, food, dance, football, firefighters, kickboxing, theatre, jewellery making and entrepreneurship sessions.
Find out more at www.funpalaces.co.uk
Matt was fundamental to our success. He listened to our ideas and helped us develop them into practical activities. His help and inspiration made it an incredible success.
Matt was able to really help us raise our profile and we got lots of publicity for the service. Should we ever get the opportunity we would love to work with Matt again and cannot recommend him enough for the way he engages and brings together communities to explore new ideas and activities.
– Susanna Barnes, Lambeth Libraries
In projects where Matt has led on his own initiative, and also in supporting the wider Fun Palaces community, across the UK and internationally, he has shown a solid understanding of our values and a clear articulation of where this aligns with his own practice – as well as where we can work together for greater benefit.
Further, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Literally. Fun Palaces are not just about engagement theory and strategy, they are – very deliberately – about true engagement and full participation, across the board, from the grassroots up. Sometimes this means putting up and taking down marquees, in the rain. Matt does this too.
– Stella Duffy, co-director, Fun Palaces
Parkes, New South Wales
I worked with the Australian country town of Parkes over a number of years in the early 2010s, designing and delivering innovative cultural events for all ages. The work involved libraries, universities, emergency services, and community groups. From teen zombie battles to pub games for over-18s, movie events, and workshops, plus Australia’s first Fun Palace, we created an inspiring range of programmes which led to us receiving a 2014 national award for innovation.
Working with Matt has been an amazing experience. It’s been so valuable having a partner-in-crime that is prepared to push the boundaries of traditional library services – an important reason for Parkes Library becoming the 2014 Bess Thomas Award winner. We’ve achieved industry recognition and provided customers with innovative programs and events and resources. Matt sees the big picture and has the skills to join all the dots. His input has helped us become leaders, not followers, which delights our managers and supporters no end!
-Tracie Mauro, Parkes Shire Library
Dark Night Burlesque
In June 2013, I devised and ran a guerrilla festival of cabaret and burlesque together with staff from Auckland Libraries, the largest public library system in Australasia. Designed to ‘challenge, question, and explore sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen’, the week-long festival for over-18s included cinema screenings; librarians venturing into bars to offer their services to Auckland’s drinkers; author talks; a panel discussion with bloggers, academics, and comics creators; and a grand finale cabaret show which included a poi-dancing Maori drag queen, erotica readings from the Auckland Libraries collections, and a performance by the opera burlesque troupe Oh! Is For Opera.
I was rather pleased to dye my hair purple and channel the great Alan Cumming’s turn in Cabaret as I MC’ed the final event. The New Zealand Herald described me as ‘camp, straight, and very talkative’ – which I decided to take as praise. The working group which I established for Auckland Libraries in the wake of Dark Night went on to devise the XXUnmasked gender and media literacy programme, and the librarians-in-bars pilot evolved into “Reading Between the Wines”.
Central West Comics Fest
In 2014, I co-ordinated Australia’s Central West Comics Fest. The event brought creators Pat Grant and Marcelo Baez together with Sydney retailer King’s Comics for Australia’s first rural event celebrating comics and pop culture in all its forms.
All the workshops were fully booked and people from all over the Central West attended. The event was so well received and we identified a large, previously unrecognised demographic.
We recently received feedback from an owner of one of our library supply companies. “You know, what you are doing here in Parkes is getting everyone talking. I’ve just been to another library 300 kilometres away and they were telling me about what a great comic and graphic novel collection you have.”
Matt was absolutely instrumental in the development of this collection. It was through his knowledge and contacts with Sydney based Kings Comics that we have been able to offer such a high standard of resources. He assisted with our purchasing selection by organising comic book “speed dating sessions” for the community. He even assisted library staff with the cataloguing, encouraging us to rethink how comic readers and enthusiasts might search for their favourite material.
– Tracie Mauro, Parkes Shire Library
Write And Draw Your Own Comics, Usborne Publishing
I consulted on this 2014 guide by writer Louie Stowell and a team of artists for UK children’s publisher Usborne. In addition to providing feedback on the work in progress, I ran workshops where kids and teens tested the activities which appeared in the finished book.
Having someone on the team who’s worked extensively with young people, helping them to unlock their creative potential, made it much easier to work out if what we had on the page would get the job done when it made its way into the hands of actual children.
– Louie Stowell, Senior Editor, Usborne Publishing
I’ve devised and run a number of immersive play activities for teens in Australia and New Zealand, based around zombie siege storylines.
In 2014, around 70 kids from across Central West New South Wales took part in a 4 1/2 hour immersive zombie roleplay in the town of Tullamore. The event saw two teams of survivors battling a team of the walking dead, aided by police officers and firefighters. The collaboration between libraries, schools, and emergency services gave teens the chance to be the hero of their own story, explore choice and consequence in a high-stakes scenario, and develop social skills and resilience. You can see coverage by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation online.
This was a sequel to the November 2012 zombie siege, in which students from Tullamore found themselves facing off against the walking dead in a literacy activity where they had to research escape plans and work with local emergency services to evade the zombies who had taken to the streets of their town. The event was covered on radio and online by reporters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – you can read more at the Australian National Year of Reading blog.
Tupu Youth Library, South Auckland, hosted a Kiwi zombie battle in May 2013. As zombies overran the library, teens retreated to a secure room and faced life-or-death decisions as they tried to separate out the infected from human survivors, experimented with strategies to evade and distract the walking dead, and even had to wrestle a zombie-bitten community police sergeant to the ground when he turned on them during a debate about the ethics of survival behaviour! The event was covered by New Zealand’s TV3, and two newspapers: the Manukau Courier and the New Zealand Herald. In a follow-up activity, I also led an Auckland Libraries initiative to create City of Souls, an adventure game which continued the story of the zombie siege online. You can read more about City of Souls – and play the game! – here.
You can see more about how to run a zombie event in your own library at the Library as Incubator website, and more on the literacy value of zombies via my School Library Journal piece ‘Why Are Zombies So Good for Libraries?’.
Similar games we’ve run included Time Travel Detectives and robots-vs-monsters roleplay Big Box Battle, which you can also read about on this site. The last two are part of a wider series I wrote on Finding Library Futures.
Herefordshire Public Services
As a content editor on a project to move all public service web content for the English county of Herefordshire to a new one-stop website, I led the transformation of a number of areas, including education and family services, teen health, and sustainability. The role involved leading meetings with council departments, liaising with designers and developers, writing copy text to Plain English specifications, and building content in a new content management system.
“Matt was an invaluable addition to our team, able to work unsupervised and deliver superb work on time, every time. I would love to have Matt as a full time content editor and hope to work with him again in the future.”
-Ashley Tucker, Digital Channels Programme Manager, Herefordshire Council and NHS
Paint the Town REaD
“Dr. Matt Finch [is] an impressive speaker with a passionate commitment to literacy development.” — David Bradbury MP
“Matt’s contribution to Paint the Town REaD has been a game-changer for our organisation. His energy, enthusiasm and talent for community education are limitless and Paint the Town REaD is pleased to recommend his services to clients in Australia and beyond!”
-Rhonda Brain OAM, Founder, Paint the Town REaD
From 2011 to 2012, I consulted on the development of Australian literacy scheme Paint the Town REaD, a capacity building programme which empowers local communities to take a hand in child development through the message “Read, talk, sing and rhyme with your baby from birth!”
The role encompassed development of media awareness, professionalisation of resources and overall strategic direction for the scheme, which brings together government bodies, volunteer organisations and the private sector to support community literacy across Australia.
In addition to leading brand development by establishing connections to new partner organisations, project managing the launch of a new website and driving use of social media within the programme, I also created new training and press materials for Paint the Town REaD affiliates.
In September 2012, I was a keynote speaker at Paint the Town REaD’s Third Annual Literacy Conference in Canberra. You can read the speech on my website.
“Matt’s work in training and community outreach has made a huge impact on our work as corporate citizens and our long term commitment to the UK economy. To reach the final stages of the national Business Language Champion Awards in the first year of our outreach scheme is a real achievement, alongside speaking at the Houses of Parliament and discussing issues with our local MP. We look forward to building on these successes in the future.” – Geoff Dance, Managing Director, PMD Magnetics
I headed up the launch of an outreach programme at PMD Magnetics, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and distributors of blank media. As a major supplier to the education sector, PMD was keen to support Britain’s students and strengthen their already extensive links with schools and universities across the country.
Working with a range of partners and education venues, I developed a programme focussing on business skills, foreign languages, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) subjects. In the very first year of PMD’s outreach work, the firm was highly commended at the Business Language Champion Ambassador’s Awards.
“The students were captivated and you left an excellent impression on all of us!”
– Mireia Barrachina-Plo, Development Leader for Student Voice, Heart of England School
“Matt did a brilliant job and his presentation was pitched at the right level, giving pupils very interesting examples from the real world of business”
– Cornelia Smith, Head of Languages, Queen Elizabeth School, Atherstone