Climate Spring hosts first online World Building workshop

Climate Spring hosted its first online World Building workshop in partnership with Imaginals.

Climate Spring hosts first online World Building workshop

What would the future look like if we got serious about climate change, if we realigned society around climate justice? The greatest challenge writers that we collaborate with at Climate Spring have, is understanding what is possible. In response to this, Climate Spring has created a new World Building programme to support creatives; and we hope to support the wider climate movement in creating more compelling visions of the future - visions that will inspire a broader church of people to advocate for and roll up their sleeves to create.

First workshop

We were delighted to host our first online World Building workshop as part of our World Building programme. In partnership with Imaginals and led by world builder, social entrepreneur and writer Gustavo Montes de Oca, we designed and delivered the first of a programme of World Building exercises and tools, which involved a 'guided virtual tour' of a reimagined future as well as supported character-led world building exercises.


The workshop began with an introduction to how change happens, and how characters fit into trajectories of transformation. We based ourselves on the Berkana 2 loops model - which consists of a dominant system represented by a falling curve, and an emergent system represented by a rising curve, but with its source in the shadow of the first. In that process there are various roles to be played including:

  • Stabilisers who hold the dominant system in place. They are both resistant to change, but also perhaps keep the lights on as the change is taking place.
  • Pioneers are the high agency people and groups who start building the emergent future, often because the dominant system ignores, oppresses, or doesn’t suit them
  • Illuminators - this is us - the storytellers who shine a light on what the emergent system could be, to create a cultural attractor toward what’s next, toward what is better.

What if? Rules and pioneers

Then we went on to look at the world itself. It is a world that unfurls from the central “what if” of the competition: What if we lived in a regenerative world free of fossil fuels? Building worlds often begins with figuring out what the rules of that world are. We adapted ours from Regenerative Commons and the Capital Institute’s Regenerative Economics Whitepaper, shown below.

For each of the rules we found real life pioneers - people and organisations embodying those rules now, in the present and who have in many cases been doing it for a long time already. The tapestry of pioneers ranged from artists enabling trees to make their own drawings, mutual credit groups and time banks introducing more than financial accounting, and whole ecosystem alliances around Pacific Salmon founded by First Nations groups who have been in relationship with these creatures for centuries.

These examples are the little chick’s beaks poking out through the shell of the system that needs breaking open for the new to break through. They are small pin pricks but through them shines out a light of what is coming.

Characters need places to unfold in, trends to react to, contexts to unfold in. Using the examples of the pioneers already bringing for the regenerative world, we brainstormed other features of it. For Ursula K Leguin, mapmaking was an early step in writing the Earthsea story. Having it in front of her  “gave me a canvas I could draw on to go anywhere in the map to find out what adventures might be found there.”

Building the world and characters

This was done in the context of individual characters. What they might believe, how they create, how they relate, how they participate and how they consume. Among the ideas that emerged in the workshop were “climate conscription”, “interspecies coworkers”, “adaptive clothing”, “jam parties where music is collectively made by the unique gathering of people and the ‘stems’ in their collection,” “rotation based governance based on community service”.

After the collective worldbuild, each participant focused on developing a character by selecting a role in transition, some elements of the world just created as their context, and a life moment.

We selected life moments rather than age to introduce dynamism into the process. Participants were invited to consider and write a brief text about their character and then rethink their character at different stages in the transition. This process was designed to help illuminate areas of the world that could be further illuminated.

Philip Pullman talks of the importance in telling stories that we don’t get lost in the forest, that we guide the reader/viewer along a path. In this exercise we followed our characters through the path, and instead of building the whole forest, shone a light on the elements of the forest that the character touched. The branch that snagged their hair, the birdsong, the dust they kick up underfoot as they move forward. This is what the World Building programme at Climate Spring aims to do - shine a line on the pathway out of the climate chaos.

Pitch to us

With a panel of experts working across feature
film and TV, live action and animation, we’re
interested in stories in any genre and for any
age-group. Find out more about requirements
and how to pitch your idea to us.