Episode Archive

SCP E320 Speculative Futures for Resilient Smart Communities, with Johanna Hoffman

Hi #SmartCommunity friends! In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have a fascinating conversation with urbanist and author Johanna Hoffman. Johanna is the founder of the research and action institute Design for Adaptation, and works primarily at the nexus of design, planning, fiction and futures. We talk about what a Smart Community is for her, and what inspired Johanna to write her book, which is called “Speculative Futures: Design Approaches to Navigate Change, Foster Resilience and Co-Create the Cities We Need”. Johanna tells us how we need to be using our imaginations more in our Smart Cities and Communities work, how that can build our personal and social resilience, and why we need to focus on future possibilities not just solving current problems. Johanna and I discuss the issue of information overload and interpreting data so that citizens can actually understand it and the role memory plays in speculative futures. We finish our chat talking about the dangers of tech goggles and silver bullet thinking. As always, we hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it.

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Johanna’s background as a diver and coral reef researcher turned urbanist, researcher and writer 
  • Her passion for working at the nexus of design, planning, fiction and futures 
  • What is a Smart Community to Johanna
  • What inspired her to write her book “Speculative Futures: Design Approaches to Navigate Change, Foster Resilience and Co-Create the Cities We Need”
  • Why we need to be using our imaginations more in Smart Cities and Communities work 
  • How speculative futures builds our personal and social resilience 
  • The problem of only focusing on current problems and not also thinking about future possibilities 
  • Information overload and the need to interpret and communicate data so that citizens can actually understand it
  • The role memory plays in speculative futures and why we should be translating data into multi sensory experience 
  • The power of co-production and collaboration
  • The dangers of tech goggles and silver bullet thinking 


“I’m pretty obsessed with cultivating more proactive engagement with long term issues, some of which are climate change, and associated uncertainty in urban spaces. So, the exploration of tactics and strategies for really enhancing that collaborative capacity in urban planning and policy development.”

“For me, I feel like Smart Cities and Communities are spaces that serve and support their residents in resilient ways and residents that know how to take care of themselves, their communities and urban spaces in turn. I feel like when we’re Smart about the places that we live in, we’re in a relationship with them.”

“Regardless of the strategies that we use, it’s about collapsing the distance between tomorrow and today. And really creating experiences that can help us reflect on the ramifications of potential change. In that way, that can be really powerful means of challenging the status quo.”

“We’re not in a place or a time where the past is a template for what lies ahead. So what are tools that can help us really think beyond the conventional wisdom for what should be or could be or what is? Or what is Smart? And think forward so that we can be more proactive?”

“When places are more socially resilient, they’re able to weather negative occurrences a lot more effectively. So it’s not to say that those other factors are not important—infrastructural resilience, technological tools for communication, all of that stuff is hugely critical. Underlying all of it is the importance of our social infrastructure, that resilience and the connections that we have with each other.”

“I think speculative futures are really powerful tools for us to cultivate self determination, and create cities that really aren’t about working for just a few of us, but for all of us.”


Connect with Johanna on LinkedIn, her website or Instagram @johannaehoffman

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

Podcast Production by Perk Digital


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