Postcards from the Future

This creative methods site was compiled by Kelli Rose Pearson and illustrated by Réka Livits (

Title Postcards from the Future
Purpose This method supports participants in imagining the future and future generations in a way that is tangible and personal, rather than abstract and theoretical.
Time 15 minutes to one hour
Description Each person writes a postcard to themselves from an imagined relative or relation from a future generation (e.g. great-grandchildren or great-grandchildren of friends). Participants are asked to imagine that important positive changes have taken place in part due to their efforts, and that the future person wants to thank them. The postcard describes the way things are in the future, actions that were taken to get there, and extends gratitude to the people from the past (and the writer specifically) for their efforts and caring. This method stimulates concrete positive visions of the future (which have been shown to help catalyze action), suggests concrete pathways and actions to get there, and incorporates the future generations into one’s current identity (essentially expanding the sense of self through time). Because the exercise is relatively broad and open ended, it often provokes unexpected, spontaneous ideas. The front of the postcard can be designed via drawing or collage. Key themes and images can be collected for data.
Describe the Materials/preparation needed
Low preparation time
Medium preparation time
Use Generating Ideas, Reflecting/Metabolising
  1. Start by explaining the activity and the thinking behind it. Each person should be equipped with large index cards or full size A4 cardstock and drawing materials.
  2. The facilitator can start with a statement asking the participants to imagine the future. For example, “place yourself 100 years into the future and imagine that some of the work that you are doing has created a positive change for your great-grandchildren or the great-grandchildren of your close friends and family.” Ask them to imagine where their relation lives, how old they are, and what they are doing when they decide to write the postcard. Think about the smells, sights, sounds of the time.
  3. Next ask everyone to decorate the front of their card. If you are using collage, make sure to have those materials organized and available. This could take between 5 and 15 minutes.
  4. After everyone is finished, people can share in pairs about what inspired the front of the card. Where is the post card from and what do the images represent?
  5. Then, ask participants to write the text of the postcard in the voice of the future relation, covering specific questions/prompts as mentioned above in the description, as well as some words about why the post card was “chosen” or made. This should take another 5-10 minutes.
  6. Finally invite everyone to share their post cards in small groups and reflect on the process and what stood out. What were the similarities and differences between their visions and pathways? Could these visions coexist? What was meaningful for them, what was surprising, what might have been challenging? These reflections can be captured collectively and reported back in the plenary.
  1. Tip: It may be a good idea to conduct this exercise after some type of process for acknowledging concerns and fears about the future, so that the facilitator doesn’t give the impression of glossing over or ignoring important emotions. If someone still can’t imagine a positive future, allow them to write from the dystopian perspective and express anger if that is what is needed. Or write one of each and compare. Imaginative exercises should be flexible and responsive.
  2. Variation: Suggest that the future relation doesn’t have to be a human. Think of “relations” in the broader sense. It could be a forest, a specific tree, a lake, or a specific species of animal.
References & Resources
Appreciative Inquiry Discover, Dream, Positive Core