Each method in this toolkit can spark deep conversation and insight and set the stage for bold action.

Additionally, each tool can be applied to an entire system, to an organization such as a specific child care center or network, or even to a single program or initiative. Any topic that has a current reality and possibilities for the future can be examined using these tools.

The three tools – The Systems Iceberg, Three Horizons, and Now vs. Future – are described below.

The Systems Iceberg

The Systems Iceberg is a tool from the field of systems thinking that can help us stop and look at how a system is working beneath the surface so that we can understand what is happening at a deep level, before attempting to create change. It enables us to articulate not only the events and circumstances that we can see and experience but also the patterns, structures, and beliefs that are contributing to them. The iceberg is also useful in assessing whether potential solutions are addressing the symptoms or the root causes of a problem.

Three Horizons

The Three Horizons method uses the concept of time horizons to help us consider what is and is not working today, what the future might hold, and what transitions and mid-term innovations might bridge the two. Created by Bill Sharpe of International Futures Forum, the Three Horizons method can help us manage long-term change. It looks across time to help people examine systemic patterns. It enables us to examine how we might best run the current system while innovating toward a future that serves emerging needs, not the old needs for which the current system was designed.

Now vs. Future

The Now vs. Future tool can help us specify our vision for the future, diagnose our current reality, clarify the gaps between the two, and identify ways forward. This tool can extend a visioning process by enabling us to understand what we would observe and experience if our visions become reality. It also helps to identify actions that could take us from where we are to where we want to be.