Alternative Narratives on the Future of Growth

The following work is the culmination of my final Major Research Project (MRP) for the MDes in Strategic Foresight & Innovation at OCAD University.


To provide some context, it may be helpful for readers to know a few things in advance: I am not an economist. I don’t know what it means to live in an extended state of poverty. And, at the time of writing, I have no direct experience in working in public policy. But, having spent some time studying open currencies in two prior research projects and gotten a sense of the need for alternative approaches to economy, I wanted to understand why our current economic system is making people poorer, increasing social unrest and damaging the environment — and what a human-centred approach might bring to the challenge.


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Abstract: Increasing inequality, rising social unrest and climate change suggest new approaches to economic growth are needed. This project asked “How might reframing growth enable change to a more desirable alternative?” and used two primary approaches in the process of discovery. Causal Layered Analysis was used to understand causes, processes and outcomes of economic growth and alternatives to it. Three narratives were analyzed comparatively including the current growth-first narrative, an emergent participation narrative and a speculative freedom narrative. Outputs from this analysis were used to reframe economy and create an accessible and participatory role play experience for stakeholders to explore how change might happen. Responses to the role play experience show how powerful a participatory approach can be and provide insight into engaging diverse stakeholders as participants in the future of economy not just as receivers of economic policy. Proposals are presented based on candidate strategies generated through role play.

Keywords: Growth, economy, causal layered analysis, system-level change, worldviews, narrative, metaphor, role play, reframing, wellbeing, innovation


The five spreads to follow are a sample of the content and visuals within the report. For the full experience, and to learn more about alternative narratives on growth and how participatory approaches to significant socio-economic challenges might guide policymakers and help us transition to a more humane and inclusive economy, download the PDF.

1. Project Structure & Methodology Overview

This spread provides an overview of the project structure and methodology, which was conducted, and is presented, in two phases: Understanding the Narratives and Exploring Change. See the full spread on pages 14-15 of the report.


2. Mapping the System

This spread is a system summary map for the first of the three narratives presented: the domination narrative (N1). See the full spread on pages 40-41 of the report.


3. Narrative Continuum: A Comparative View of Narrative Synopses

This spread shows a comparative view and synopsis of the three narratives analyzed in the first phase of the project and presented in the first section on Understanding the Narratives. See the full spread on pages 96-97 of the report.


4. Comparative Stakeholder Relationships Map

This spread shows a series of radial convergence graphs representing the stakeholders and relationships between them. It also identifies potential additional stakeholders. These relationship analyses were both an input to and outputs from the role play workshop in the second phase of the project on Exploring Change. The image groups across the two pages represent three types of relationships: Anticipated stakeholder relationships before the workshop (left column), emergent stakeholder relationships from the two groups during the workshop (center columns) and combined emergent stakeholder relationships determined after the workshop (right column).

The purpose of the stakeholder analysis was to discover potential insights to the question of who might be involved in the change. The results from this analysis could be used in an iterative way to inform future role play activities, as well as offer recommendations to policy influencers and policymakers on stakeholders to engage as participants in change toward new approaches to economy. See the full spread on pages 108-109 of the report.


5. Comparative Stakeholder Relationships Map

This spread shows one of the five Proposals for Change presented in one of the final chapters of the report as a result of ideas offered in the interviews in the first phase of the project on Understanding the Narratives and the strategies generated in the role play activity in the second phase of the project on Exploring Change. See the full spread on pages 122-123 of the report, and the full set of proposals on pages 120-129.


Download the full PDF of the report at OCAD University’s Open Research Repository.

I welcome your comments.