Future Thinking for Urban Utopias: How to Transform Mindsets


  • Del Gobbo Giovanna University of Florence, Italy
  • Daniela Frison University of Florence, Italy
  • Sabina Falconi University of Florence, Italy
  • Mugnaini Silvia University of Florence, Italy
  • Francesco De Maria University of Florence, Italy
  • Giulia Biagi University of Florence, Italy
  • Chiara Funari University of Florence, Italy


urban utopias, futures thinking, sustainability mindset, game-based learning, interdisciplinarity, sustainable futures


Treating climate change not merely as a technical problem, but as an adaptative challenge requires a new way of viewing both problems and solutions which includes technical aspects, but also recognizes the importance of mindsets. 


The European Commission has developed the GreenComp, a sustainability competence framework which aims to foster a sustainability mindset by helping learners develop the knowledge, competences and attitudes to think, plan and act with empathy, responsibility, and care for our planet. One of the four areas is “Envisioning sustainable futures”.  


A “Futures thinking workshop” is described as an educational experience transversal to different subject areas, aimed to provide an opportunity to build this competence. With a game-based learning approach, students were challenged into a role-play, interpreting different public actors, to shape urban utopias. Participants were assigned two scenarios: one, highlighting scientific data on climate change; the other, a short research-based story on future scenarios, prefiguring dystopic urban configurations. Students were equipped with the awareness that each one of us can contribute to develop a sustainable future, keeping in mind that cooperation between different stakeholders is key to take inclusive, feasible and effective decisions.

The results of the role play provide us with 4 distinct urban utopias, based on different values and ideas of wellbeing: 

  • a city spread out in nature where citizens live in symbiosis with nature;
  • a city enriched by green areas and bodies of water to enhance biodiversity and to increase people’s wellbeing;
  • a city grounded on a new community-shared constitution which sets circular economy and equal distribution of resources as core values;
  • a city built by citizens which have learned how to prevent the repetition of unsustainable actions.


The experience highlights enabling and inhibiting factors to transform mindsets and may be repeated adapting to learners’ needs and the context. 


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