Researcher Network: Alternative Future-Making

The Alternative Future-Making network addresses the crisis of democracy in the face of the multiple crises of our age. It will do so through refining participatory processes in which alternative futures can be articulated and debated. The network has more than thirty members from four faculties at Malmö University who share a specific interest in interdisciplinarity and in the integration of conceptualization, critique and practice.

The network is coordinated by Per-Anders Hillgren, School of Arts and Communication. The 2017 activities, such as seminars and workshops, are organized in collaboration with Medea.

Use to send emails to all participants in this network.

Upcoming events:

  • Full-day workshop, May 4
  • Seminar 2 – May 15 at 10–12 (location: NI:A0506)
  • Workshop 1 – June 13 at 9–16 (location: the K3 studio on floor 5, NIC:0541)
  • Workshop 2 – August 21 at 9–16 (location: the K3 studio on floor 5, NIC:0541)
  • Probably 31 October 30 September: Closing the process and decide on focuses and key areas.
  • November and December will be devoted to writing the application as well as smaller seminars on how to establish connections to education and external collaborators.

Past events (for documentation, scroll down):

  • Network kick-off, March 17 at 9–12. Location: the K3 studio on floor 5, NIC0541 (changed from NIC0929)
  • Seminar 1 – April 19 at 13–15 (location: NI:A0506)

Contact Per-Anders Hillgren if you are not already involved in the network and want to participate.

Padlet: “boundary themes/clusters/bubbles”

“We now have a number of rough boundary themes/clusters/bubbles – each of them quite open and plastic, but hopefully strong enough to make sense as a first effort to start creating some coherence across our different research fields and interests. You will find them in this padlet and you are welcome to add sub-topics that you think make sense or relate to the theme/bubble.”

To get access to the padlet, send an email to who will then add you as a user!



These are some of the books and articles that have been mentioned in seminars and workshops:

Network participants

(XX indicates faculty affiliation: HS = Health and Society; KS = Culture and Society; LS = Education and Society; TS = Technology and Society)

Erika Augustinsson, Mötesplats Social Innovation
Martin Berg, TS
Sara Bjärstorp, KS
Fredrik Björk, KS
Carin Björngren Cuadra, HS
Karin Book, LS
Laid Boukaz, LS
Suzan Boztepe, TS
Jonas Christensen, HS
Ragnhild Claesson, KS
Berndt Clavier, KS
Anders Emilson, KS
Maria Hellström Reimer, KS
Per-Anders Hillgren, KS
Magnus Johansson, KS
Asko Kauppinen, KS
Ane Kirkegaard, KS
Susan Kozel, KS
Per Linde, KS
Kristina Lindström, KS
Margareta Melin, KS
Elisabet Nilsson, KS
Magnus Nilsson, KS
Peter Parker, KS
Pille Pruulmann Vengerfeldt, KS
Petra Ragnerstam, KS
Bo Reimer, KS
Margareta Rämgård, HS
Staffan Schmidt, KS
Christina Scholten, KS
Per Schubert, LS
Anna Seravalli, KS
Anne-Marie Skriver Hansen, KS
Eric Snodgrass, KS
Maria Eggertsen Teder, KS
Anuradha Venugopal Reddy, KS
Stig Westerdahl, KS
Michelle Westerlaken, KS
Jenny Wiik, KS

The network in more detail

At Malmö University’s ”Bildningsbaren” in November 2016, comics artist Sara Granér argued that the political parties have failed one of their most important tasks: to construct images of a better future. Without compelling visions of alternative futures it will be hard to address the multiple crises and risks of our time (Giddens 2009), risks such as flux of migration, climate change, income and health disparity, rampant nationalism, unsustainable economic development, persistent gender and racial inequality, and global health crises. The political imaginary will become dominated by outdated economical-political models or populist dreams.

The Alternative Future-Making network addresses the crisis of democracy in the face of the multiple crises of our age. It will do so through refining participatory processes in which alternative futures can be articulated and debated.

The need to generate participatory processes for alternative future-making is grounded in significant existing academic research across a range of disciplines. Environmental scientists Gerst, Raskin and Rockström (2013) argue that humanity today faces a double challenge in how to support equitable human development while at the same time preserving the bio-physical integrity of Earth systems. Building upon scenarios created by the Global Scenario Group they outline two very different paths for human development: (1) Conventional Development and (2) Great Transition. Conventional Development supports sustainability through policy reform and traditional technology-driven development without any significant changes in the basic institutional elements and value systems, while Great Transition builds on a fundamental reassessment and change of lifestyle, values, and what is considered to be human wellbeing.

The network takes its point of departure in the Conventional Development/Great Transition distinction, without ignoring or denying that risks and compelling visions will be found within both these paths, and thus view both paths critically and constructively. We will also argue that both of them must be connected to democratic public discussions regarding possible paths, values and choices (Emilson 2015). This is in itself a difficult task, not at least regarding present tensions between sustainable development and democracy (Lafferty 2012; Tainter 2006; Ward 2012). Furthermore, we argue that the scope, scale and extremity of the current crises means that discussions, visions and actions have to happen now (Klein 2014). “Small steps will no longer get us to where we need to go. So we need to leap … We now have a rare moment to look at what we have become – and decide to change.” (The Leap Manifesto)

Methodological and critical starting points
The network will focus on exploring emerging practices, publics and new forms of expressions. The latter will be both studied and used. Our action-oriented perspective will also lead to our research participating in the formation of new publics. Research methodologies will range from collaborative practices such as co-design and action-research, to reflective practices of critique and hermeneutics, to embodied methods expanding phenomenology, feminism and performativity. The strength of the group of researchers is that we combine critical/theoretical practices with practical work: in short all of us combine theory and practice in various ways, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders.

The research questions addressed are within the following areas:

  1. Evaluating and articulating risks relating to Conventional Development.
  2. Elaborating and articulating alternative compelling visions of a better future based on a leap towards the Great Transition.
  3. Exploring forms for debating these articulations.

Emilson, A. (2015). “Design in the space between stories: Design for social innovation and sustainability – from responding to societal challenges to preparing for societal collapse.” PhD diss., Malmö University.

Gerst, M. D., Raskin, P. D., & Rockström, J. (2013). “Contours of a resilient global future”. Sustainability, 6(1), 123-135.

Giddens, A. (2009). The politics of climate change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Klein, Naomi (2015). This changes everything: Capitalism versus the climate. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Lafferty, W (2012). “Governance for sustainable development. The impasse of dysfunctional democracy” in Meadowcroft J, Langhelle O and Ruud A (eds.): Governance, democracy and sustainable development: moving beyond the impasse. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Tainter, J. A. (2006). “Social complexity and sustainability”. Ecological complexity, 3(2), 91-103.

The Leap Manifesto

Thrift, Nigel and Ash Amin (2013). Arts of the Political. Duke University Press.

Ward, H. (2012). The future of democracy in the face of climate change. London: Foundation for democracy and sustainable development.

Page last updated on 20 April 2017.