+ What is a Postcard from the future?

Postcards from the Future are a fun way to imagine and describe the desired future state of an organization or a community. As an engagement tool, they can help us understand what our engagement participants hope will happen in the future.

The open endedness of this activity allows for participants to respond as they see fit. By allowing participants to interpret the activity we can gain deeper insights into their imagination and worldview.

+ Why are we using a Postcards for this project?

Postcards are a low-to-mid-level research technique. They allow for easy engagement as part of a Stakeholder Lab or in place of a traditional survey.

Postcards, if deployed strategically can leverage the different views and voices from different segments of your community. The ability to take time and predict the future is a fun task and we gain amazing insights.

+ How do Postcards work?

Postcards can be deployed in a number of different ways. You can have a sign with instructions beside a stack of postcards on your reception desk, or you can facilitate a group to complete them together and share their vision for the future of your organization or community.

There is no incorrect way to complete a postcard!

+ How long do Postcards take to complete?

It usually takes participants 10-15 minutes to complete a postcard.

+ Who should complete my Postcards?

Overlap will work with your team to identify the key stakeholders you want to engage. We often group these based on demographics or industry. For example: youth, organizations you’d like to collaborate with, or those who are non-patrons of your organization/service.

+ How should I introduce Postcards?

We find that the more simple and clear your instructions are, the better the results. We often suggest:

"Imagine yourself, ten years in the future. How old will you be? What will you be doing?"

"Now, imagine that in this future, your city has an amazing, world-renowned community organization. Write a postcard from your future self, to your current self, talking about all the things that make your community organization great! Try to describe what the ideal future service is like and explain what a great time you’re having at your community organization.

If participants are stuck, here's an example of a phrase they could use to start their postcard:

"Dear 2017 me, It’s 2027 now, and you would not imagine how great your community organization has become…"

+ What kind of support should we expect from Overlap?

Overlap will provide:

  1. A file for you to print industry/project specific Postcards
  2. Instructions on how to use the postcards to collect information from your stakeholders
  3. Instructions on how to review and analyse the completed postcards

+ How do I work with the data from the completed postcards?

These steps will take you through a full analysis of the postcards and help you pull themes from the data you’ve collected.

  1. Postcards contain multiple ideas. To make things manageable, break the full content of each postcard apart into discrete pieces, where each piece represents an individual concept or idea. Depending on how you like to work, you can do this:
    • On a computer: type each individual concept or idea into a cell in an excel spreadsheet
    • On sticky notes: write out each individual concept or idea onto a sticky note, and make a pile of sticky notes

      Here’s an example of what pulling out individual concepts and ideas might look with sticky notes:

      Note: This can be a time-consuming process. If you have to work with hundreds or thousands of postcards, you may shift your approach to only recording unique ideas (i.e. ideas you haven’t seen before on a previous postcard). This won’t allow you to keep track of how often an idea came up, but it can really speed up your analysis. It can also be helpful to talk with the project team beforehand and clarify what questions you are trying to answer and what sort of information is most relevant. Being clear on your research question and the purpose of your analysis will ensure you pull the best information, in the most efficient way.

  2. Find connections and relationships between the individual concepts and ideas. By exploring these connections, you’ll eventually see a set of themes emerge from the data. At Overlap, we use a technique called “clustering” to do this. Here’s how to cluster:
    • Start with just 15-20 ideas. Begin identifying pairs of similar or related ideas. Stick these paired ideas side-by-side (as sticky notes on the wall or as cells in an excel column) Find as many pairs as you can. Once you’ve got a few pairs started, you can also add ideas to existing pairs. Now you’ve got “clusters”.
    • As ideas move into clusters, replace them with other ideas so you always have about 10-20 to work with. Feel free to reconsider and shuffle the clusters while you work. Repeat this process of introducing new ideas into the mix and then adding to or making new clusters until all ideas have been clustered.
    • Give each of your clusters a clear, descriptive name about 3-5 words long. The point of the cluster title is to help anyone who picks up the cluster easily understand its contents.

  3. Look at all your cluster names—these are the themes you found in your data. Together, these themes outline a vision for the future that has been built with input from every stakeholder. You’re now done analyzing the data from your postcards. As a next step, think about how you want to share the themes and act on the data.