Systemic constellations is an experiential or 'phenomenological' approach to exploring a question or issue concerning the futuring process. In a constellation the participants form a 'living map' to represent the patterns and dynamics of the system in which the issue exists. The pattern is observed and adapted, allowing participants to explore the issue using a physical, relational and spatial vocabulary. Systemic constellations have their origins in family systems therapy and existential phenomenology.

In a constellation process the facilitator frames the exercise and proposes a set of roles/positions that have emerged from the futuring process (e.g. different scenarios, weak signals, drivers, protagonists, etc.). The participants are invited to choose a position, or move between positions and reflect on thoughts, emotions or physical sensations that emerge. The constellation can stop at this point, or continue by inviting participants to change postures or positions and observe the effects this might have on other parts of the system. The purpose of a constellation in futuring can be to bring somatic and intuitive knowledge into the conversation, or to unlock potential alternatives to undesirable futures.

At FoAM we use constellations as warming-up exercises, but also to explore complex or conflictual situations when thinking alone can't provide satisfactory answers.


Process

The space in which you conduct the systemic constellation should be as empty and free of clutter as possible. There should be enough room for people to move around and assume standing, sitting or lying positions. The only materials you need might are sheets of paper and a marker to write names of positions and if appropriate a camera to record the different constellations.

  • Step 1 (together with the participants): Decide on the issue/question and the roles/positions to be explored (e.g. the issue might be the topic of your futuring exercise, the positions might be different scenarios, drivers, people involved, burning issues, etc.).
  • Step 2: Frame the exercise by introducing the question/issue and the positions, and explaining what the participants are expected to do. Stress the importance of focusing on the whole spectrum of experience (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, intuitions, anticipations, memories…).
  • Step 3: Invite the participants to choose a position. This can be done in two ways:
    • (a) each participants choses a position to represent, where they 'inhabit' the role of this position and speak from the perspective of the position, not as themselves;
    • (b) the positions are written on pieces of paper and placed around the space by the facilitator, in which case the participants remain 'themselves', move towards a position (or in between positions) that resonates with them and describe what they experience as themselves. Note that not all participants have to choose a position. Some of them might decide to be 'witnesses' and remain in the outer circle observing the system as a whole.
  • Step 4: The participants move through the space for a while and slowly assume a posture and position that they feel intuitively drawn to. They remain in this position in silence for a few minutes, observing the different thoughts or sensations that emerge.
  • Step 5: You (the facilitator) move from one position to the other and ask the participants to reflect on their experiences. You ask each of them if they feel the need to move or change posture or position, invite them to make the change, and observe how this alters the experience (both their own experience and experience of others).
  • Step 6 (optional): Continue moving positions and discussing the changes for individuals and the system until the participants are satisfied with the configuration and feel like the issue has been resolved or the question answered.
  • Step 7: Integrate the insights into the futuring process (e.g. form working groups based on different positions, add information to scenarios or retrocasting exercises, etc.).

Read more about the foundation of Systemic constellations