BIO STORIES is a design-led global stakeholder engagement methodology developed by Faber Futures in collaboration with the Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology. By assembling knowledge-diverse stakeholders from across the world in dialogue about the living world, BIO STORIES contextualises synthetic biology into narratives that reveal what we prioritise as being key to continued human development. These stories are powerful because they provide a theatre in which to imagine the kind of a world we wish for. They give us space to explore how we might distribute agency and power in order to enact the radical change required to meet the most pressing challenges of the 21st century: climate change, biodiversity loss, and global inequity.
Download the BIO STORIES project report for new stories about the possibilities for synthetic biology, inclusive stakeholder engagement tools and recommendations for creating a world in which we can all flourish.
In 2020 the World Economic Forum formed a new Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology – a multidisciplinary network of stakeholders and thought leaders that our founder, Natsai Audrey Chieza, is a member of. The Council’s work considers the narratives, assumptions and visions of a world changed by this technology, in order to ensure that this world does not replicate the inequities of the past. The council states that: ‘If synthetic biology is to realise its full potential, it must have values at its core.’ If stories are a means to embody and advance values, then how do we solicit new, values-driven narratives, and place them in context to clarify what is at stake in the ways that synthetic biology is advanced?
Dialogues and Translation
In order to expand the kinds of voices that get to shape the future of the field, BIO STORIES crafts connections and establishes common ground between scientists, farmers, designers, investors, community leaders, artists, entrepreneurs and others. Each stakeholder provides an artefact as a conversational entry point. Artefacts ranging from tissue culture incubators through to carved radishes and jars of soil prompt dialogue and make tangible complex relationships with nature.
The first round of stakeholder dialogues took place in-person at the 2021 Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Netherlands, where we delivered a series of local, public-facing discussions held in a specifically-built infrastructure. The consecutive dialogues happened remotely, in order to move beyond geographical limitations and explore what kind of conversations would emerge on a global scale. These dialogues were then precisely and respectfully interpreted into relational BIO STORIES. Of the myriad tales that could emerge from the dialogue methodology, this iteration of the project offers two: Museum of Symbiosis, a speculative fiction by Claire L. Evans, and Dialogue Synthesis, an anthropological account by Dr. Melissa Salm.
BIO STORIES is a collection of conceptual, curatorial and symbolic tools that facilitate storytelling in synthetic biology. Our design process references long and rich histories of gathering to discuss our relationships with nature. BIO STORIES unfolds around a specially-designed round table that is not monolithic, but modular, light-weight and deployable across different contexts. Participants place their own seat at the table, breaking down hierarchies and bringing us all to the same level. BIO STORIES is framed by a continuous flag, which stands as a symbol of the hidden networks that embody and sustain the interdependency of nature.
BIO STORIES will be distributed by the World Economic Forum as a report which captures the extent of the project, as well as its nascent recommendations for creating a world we all want to live in. The report also makes public the methods for design-led stakeholder engagement created by Faber Futures as an invitation to others to take the project further and build their own stories within their unique context. For transparency, we also publish an appendix which holds the stakeholder dialogue summaries and a code book which holds the framework underpinning anthropological analysis.