Facilitator’s Guide for Hosting a Workshop with Solarpunk Futures
There are multiple ways to host the workshop, and the following are guidelines based on our past experiences. Feel free to simplify any parts that seem overly complicated or add elements to make it more engaging and fun!
Find a Location
The first step is to find a suitable location. Sometimes, finding an event host or co-host can make it easier to promote the workshop to attendees. Ideally, the hosts/co-hosts should be groups or organizations already taking action towards a solarpunk future, as the game aligns with their vision.
The game can be played in various physical settings as long as people can gather, hear each other, and ensure that the cards won't blow away. We have hosted workshops in parks (using tables or blankets), art galleries, classrooms, library rooms, bars, cafes, living rooms, conference rooms, and even on rooftops.
For accessibility purposes, we recommend having at least one table available.
Set the ambiance! You can enhance the atmosphere by using potted plants, food and drinks, ribbons, tablecloths, costumes, artworks, videos of crackling fires, ambient music, or even a real fire. Create a special space where an intimate festival might take place.
Promote the event to relevant individuals and organizations. If the workshop is part of a larger event, inform attendees beforehand, especially if playing the game is different from other parts of the event. If you have hosts/co-hosts, provide them with the necessary information to promote the workshop through their channels.
We call our workshop 'A Workshop for Utopian Remembrance' and use the following description, which you are welcome to adopt or modify based on your own goals for the workshop.
Solarpunk Futures: A Workshop for Utopian Remembrance utilizes the artist’s table-top game, Solarpunk Futures, to engage players in a process of visionary social storytelling around the collective struggle required to win our utopia. The game employs backcasting in a “Festival of Remembrance”, whereby Assemblies for the Future (groups of 1-8 players) play for 45 minutes from the perspective of a future utopia in which they collectively “remember” how their Ancestors utilized Tools and Values to overcome a real-world Challenge.
Assemblies will report back on the form of their utopian scenarios, insights gained along the way, and how their experiences might inform their present-day actions. Through the game, an intergenerational group of players engages in the serious yet joyful play of dialogue on the nature of the Challenges we face (e.g. Hunger, Water Crisis, Police Violence), the role of individual Ancestors, the constraints and opportunities presented by different Tools, the forces of opposition the Ancestors are likely to face, the ways different Ancestor roles and Tools emergently interweave, and more. Players embody positions of historical consequence while — via Tool cards featuring quotes from figures such as Rosa Luxembourg, Fred Hampton, Pericles, and Ursula K. Le Guin among many others — engaging with ancient and contemporary concepts from our global legacy of freedom.
Don't forget to remind attendees about the event, especially if you are collecting RSVPs. Practice running the workshop to determine who will handle different facilitation aspects, especially if you have multiple facilitators.
Running the Workshop
As participants arrive, greet them and encourage them to form groups of 3-6 people. Aim for even group sizes to manage timing, which may require reshuffling before starting. Encourage participants to open the game boxes, read through the game book, and explore the cards.
Here is what our typical agenda looks like for running the workshop:
- Cold Open with the following quote: “Play is the laboratory of the possible. To play fully and imaginatively is to step sideways into another reality, between the cracks of ordinary life. Although that ordinary world, so full of cumbersome routines and responsibilities is still visible to us, its images, strangely, are robbed of their powers. Selectively, players take the objects and ideas of routine life and hold them aloft. Like willful children, they unscrew reality and rub it on their bodies or toss it across the room. Things are dismantled and built anew.”(Thomas Henricks, Play Reconsidered, 2006).
- Introduce the game, yourselves, and the goals of the Workshop (use the description of the workshop to do this)
- Ask for any objections to photography of the event
- A few tips we typically use
- This is not a competitive game—or at least players will be collaborating against forces not currently present. So you won’t need to hide your cards from anyone, count points, or anything like that.
- This is a political game. In other words, nothing is neutral and everything is real. We will play in a world of make believe based on the world we know and live in today, embodying consent, egalitarianism, and cooperation.
- Highlighting consent: we expect players to openly communicate when there are themes or topics that should not be discussed, or shouldn’t be discussed in great detail for their safety and comfort today. These may be themes folks want to name at the start of game play or at any point throughout as themes emerge in your storybuilding. We trust that we’ll make it our collective responsibility to keep each other safe in our conversations.
- We suggest playing under modified consensus, which means that you all should openly discuss plot points, air any objections or clarifications as you’re building stories together, and make collective modifications as needed. People should feel that the decisions you’re making together are safe enough to try or move forward together. If you’re already prioritizing consent in your group, you’ll pretty naturally make decisions in this way as you move along. Eventually, in round 4, you will need to agree as a group when you have “honored your Ancestors for their struggle” which is the win-condition that concludes the game.
- Using the Notepad. We also want to foreshadow that if this is your first time playing the game, the first two or three rounds might feel a little slower, and you might find yourself clinging to the little notepad that helps you script out the story, there might feel like a bit of quiet introspective time while you consider your choices. But by the time you get to the fourth round, we invite you to use the notepad as a starting place for open conversation between all of you, where you build off of each other’s ideas through conversation and a little less on notetaking. You don’t have to use the scripted notepad at all, but if you do, you’re also welcome to use the back of the white sheet to write more notes or have a little more space to keep track of what other people are saying.
- Speculative Ancestors. The last note before I’ve got for you before we officially get started is that this is a kind of roleplaying game where you are remembering an ancestor, not necessarily acting as the ancestor of the game yourself. You will embody this ancestor by remembering and honoring their stories, but this is a made up ancestor based on prompts in the game. You’re welcome to base the fictional ancestor off of one of your own ancestors, or a friend, or even someone you love, you’re also welcome to completely fabricate this ancestor who you will be “remembering”
- Scale of solutions. As you begin the Challenge phase. It may be useful to figure out along the way through discussion if you are solving this challenge for your city, your country, or the whole world
- Read the gamebook through 01 Challenge. Give players ~5 minutes to think about their Ancestors and then…
- Set the Scene. Get creative and make people feel like they are in a Festival of Remembrance."You can feel the festival’s fire on your face and hear its crackle amid the low expectant hum of audience members, each of them past or future Assembly members themselves…” Then let players introduce their Ancestors.
- Let everyone play. Answer any questions people have.
- Give everyone regular time updates. Try to leave 10-15 minutes for debrief. You may have to rush some groups for the sake of the workshop. Encourage any groups that finish early to use the “Report” postscript to debrief amongst themselves.
- During the final 10-15 minutes, remind everyone: “The final phase ends when anyone declares that they’ve honored their ancestors for their struggle and everyone agrees.”
- Debrief: what happened briefly? anything prominent that came up?
- Further discussion about: What did your utopia look like? How did it feel? What will you take to your own life/organizing work? Could Solarpunk Futures be useful in your organizing work?