August 10, 2016

Toowoomba Futuring Workshop


The futures of regional communities are a matter of worldwide concern. In Australia, given the rapidly changing nature of rural and regional communities, a Futuring program was proposed to explore ‘community development’ scenarios guided by local stakeholder participation. The venue for our Futuring research is the regional city of Toowoomba, in Queensland, Australia. Over the past decade, Toowoomba has responded to significant change in response to local and global effects, such as the resource boom and shifts in agricultural production. As a consequence there are a number of social, economic and environmental impacts whose cumulative effect could threaten the city’s future vitality. The purpose of the Futuring workshop is to identify the futures issues specific to Toowoomba with lessons and suggestions of relevance to a European readership. An inter-disciplinary research team from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Smart Services CRC and the University of Southern Queensland co-developed a Futuring Tool-Box (FTB) incorporating a comprehensive range of acknowledge tools and methods. Workshop participants were professionals, CEO’s and NGO’s living in the Toowoomba region, identified as actively futures-oriented. Given time constraints, we designed a micro-workshop to cover a complete Futuring process as well as produce applicable outcomes. Workshop attendees forged three sets of scenarios: 1. Toowoomba after the resource boom; 2. Homelessness, and 3. The mental health crisis. This paper focuses on the voices of these participants and the future scenarios they co-created and concludes with a suite of follow-up strategies.