New York, NY
Overview of Future Laboratories
Future Laboratories will be society’s R&D department.
Just as Bell Labs came to life a century ago to pursue the technical moonshots of their times, Future Labs exists to pursue moonshots for humanity. But what excites us most is how we do that—our core technology and, in our view, the most inspiring invention even in the digital age: you. People. And not just individuals, but breakthrough teams made up of pragmatic idealists across every imaginable discipline who aren’t afraid to envision a new future and bring it to life.
Leveraging the power of collective genius, Future Laboratories identifies the world’s biggest problems, conducting original diagnostic work on society; turns those problems into massive opportunities in the form of products, policies, campaigns, concepts, or brand-new categories; and then builds solutions until they are scaled. Already, we are working on projects across the realms of the future of human potential, the future of America, the future of capitalism, and the future of social change itself. As more inspiring visionaries join our team, each exploration and project takes on new life, since people—above all—are the fuel for our problem-solving engine.
Our mission is to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time, and while we will celebrate progress along the way, nothing less will suffice over the long run. Our society has been settling for “good enough” for too long. But more than that—given advances in technology, more human willpower than ever before, and momentum around thinking anew about how to truly change the world—radical improvement is more possible than ever before.
Future Laboratories grew out of The Future Project, one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in America, dedicated to unleashing the possibility and power of young people to change the world. Future Laboratories is practicing what The Future Project preaches—that there is no more important act in life than finding your passion and unique gifts and channelling these to build breakthrough solutions with others… not as a one-time action but as a lifelong practice.
As big as our dreams are, we believe in moving in sequence, step by step, and are laying the foundation for our 100-year plan. We were officially underway in mid-2017 and already have a staff of more than a dozen leaders across several marquee projects and funding for our first two years. We also are proud to be partnered with some of the most inspired institutions and philanthropists in the world. And we’re most excited that we’re just getting started (and, in so many ways, always will be).
What is a Civic Imagineer?
The responsibility of a Civic Imagineer is to dream up and bring big ideas to life that will drastically improve society as a whole and the lives of all those living within it.
We know more today than ever before about how to create societies that thrive and people that flourish, and yet the inventions that translate those insights into practice are unfortunately few and far between. And so we are looking for a team of Civic Imagineers, inventors driving social progress, taking the most cutting edge research and developing wildly imaginative and yet astonishingly practical ideas to improve the individual and collective experience of every member of society – solving the problems of today but also those that are just beyond the horizon.
Why ‘Civic Imagineers’? ‘Civic’ because we work outside of the traditional for-profit and non-profit structures. Our accountability is singular, and that is to the public good – no shareholders, no clients. And ‘Imagineers’ because we tackle even the most serious challenges with unbridled creativity, audacious dreaming, and a sense of adventure. It’s in those spaces where the issues are so high stakes and so complex that it’s easier just to look away, where a better way feels all but impossible to find, that’s where we play.
About the R&D Model
Here at Future Laboratories, we have research and development under one roof. That allows our work, the work of Civic Imagineers, to start with scientifically backed research, so that everything we produce has the greatest probability of producing the outcomes we want to see for society and the people in it over the long term. That is possible thanks to the work of the Insights team, our team of researchers and analysts who spend all day digging through mountains of publications only to try and tear them apart, manipulating oceans of data to reveal patterns that others may have missed, the team that seeks out statistically significant truths and allows us to see around the bend so we can anticipate the probable future and design for it.
Now, the research can tell us what behaviors under what conditions will yield certain outcomes over time, but it won’t tell us how to create those behaviors and conditions. That’s where we come in. Our task then is to understand the immediate needs of the people we are serving, and address those in a way that also creates the behavior that we are hoping to realize. That’s the true power of having research and development under one roof.
Our process is both human-centered and humanity-centered. In order to make our ideas as likely as possible to succeed, we strive to understand what motivates all the key players in a system and amidst that complexity, design an offering that has everyone benefit. And so we involve the public throughout our process, in generating ideas, in rapid prototyping, and in designing for implementation, so we know we’re not missing the mark. Also, as we come up with ideas to benefit society, we aren’t limited to ideas that are profitable they can come in all shapes and sizes – from products, businesses, and services to installations, policies, and artwork. As long as they work.
As Civic Imagineer, you will be accountable for…
• Identifying Opportunities. Recognizing near-universal experiences that are worth exploring more.
• Understanding Real People. Uncovering motivators and limitations in people’s day-to-day lives.
• Looking for Patterns. Getting obsessively curious on a hunch and making unusual connections.
• Visualizing Concepts. Surfacing new questions by putting abstract ideas into concrete forms.
• Prototyping and Testing. Having people react to low resolution models, informing future iterations.
• Attracting Distributors: Packaging our ideas in ways that activate distribution partnerships.
We are looking for someone who is...
Obsessed with Arriving at the Truth
• Passionate about understanding people. You are deeply curious about people’s needs and the conditions in which they live. You can come up with creative ways to get good information, and synthesize it all into a form that is as simple as possible but no simpler.
• A seeker of knowledge from all sources. When taking on unfamiliar territory, you dive into research so you can be familiar with the terrain and build upon what came before. You aren’t intimidated by deep reading and you write out your complete thoughts with ease.
• A team player and leader in their own right. You don’t get overly attached to your ideas or frustrated by opposing perspectives. You honor the truth inherent in any idea, no matter the source, and actively create space for everyone’s genius to shine, including your own.
Fearlessly Creative and Technically Skilled
• Wildly imaginative. You overflow with ideas. The world is your inspiration. You challenge the status quo, which allows you to connect dots that others may miss, and come up with unconventional new ideas. There is no limit to your sense of what's possible.
• Expressive across a variety of media. You are fluent in a range of expressive media, and can communicate clearly in ways not limited to writing and speaking. You might make videos, printed matter, artifacts, digital assets, experiences, or something else entirely.
• Comfortable working fast and loose. You learn by making. You use your creative outlets to surface new and better questions. Prototyping and testing is a regular practice for you. You tend not to overthink things and would generally rather just give it a try as a way of learning.
Committed to Real World Impact
• Fueled by serving the public good. You want to make a positive impact and you see opportunities to improve lives everywhere you look. You get lit up talking about the future of society and you don’t shut down in the face of massively complex problems.
• Detail oriented and pragmatic. You don’t call the work complete until every detail has been considered, from the biggest systemic level down to the subtlest texture of the experience. You see no detail too small to be intentionally designed.
• A long-term thinker. You consider not just the immediate impact of the things you create, but also any possible long-term implications, and you have practical ways to explore them, whether drawing from speculative design, Futurism, or some other field of study.
These are some traits that we’d look for in any Civic Imagineer. Consider how closely they apply to you. Some will likely apply more than others. Don’t let that keep you from submitting an application, after all, this work is done on a team.
Ideal candidates will...
• Have 2+ years of relevant work experience.
• Have a background or professional experience related to visual thinking or other creative outlets.
• Have a background or professional experience doing ethnographic research (interviews, surveys, etc.)
• Have an identification with one or more of the disciplines of design, architecture, engineering, fine art, writing, storytelling, futurism, research, data analysis, community organizing, activism, production, technology, media, education, and/or business consulting.
• Be willing to live in New York, and work day-to-day at our awesome office on Union Square West.
• Be ready to commit the next 3+ years to building out this team and refining our invention method.
There are many possible paths that may have led you here, and being a new role in the world, there’s no right path. If one or more of these points doesn’t fit you exactly, that’s no reason not to apply. We’re also still learning what background makes for the best Civic Imagineers. Teach us!
This role, along with the rest of the Future Laboratories team is based in New York City, at our new HQ located on Union Square West.
The first thing you should do is complete the application. From there the process will include a few conversations and an in-person group experience to see you in action in mid-April – that is, assuming we mutually decide to keep moving forward. Our first team of Civic Imagineers will be in place in May 2018 at the latest.
Future Laboratories is committed to a policy of Equal Employment Opportunity and will not discriminate against an applicant or employee based on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, alienage or citizenship status, ancestry, nationality, national origin, marital or domestic partnership or civil union status, familial status, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law. In addition, Future Laboratories will provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities.