An interactive futures method developed by UNESCO
Duration: 5 to 6 hours (short version), one day (normal version, including lunch break) Participants: ideal for groups of 12 to 50 people, no prerequirements needed
Form: online via zoom and Miro, or in person (needs beamer and board or wall for post-its)
What is 'Futures Literacy'?
Futures Literacy is the UNESCO method conceived by its director of Foresight Riel Miller to expand our competence in future thinking.
Futures Literacy is about enhancing our capacity to imagine plural futures, which in turn makes us aware of new opportunities in the present. The present is exactly where we need to start if we want to tackle the urgent challenges of our time.
Futures Literacy expands our imagination by inviting us to consider the future from three different angles – namely the probable, the desirable, and the alternative futures. Its experiential approach harnesses creativity and collective intelligence at each of these three steps.
During this process, our understanding of the future deepens and new questions arise. It then becomes possible to perceive more opportunities in our environment and to consider a wider range of actions here and now.
Broadening our horizon of the future means expanding our scope of action today.
A new way of thinking about the future
Futures Literacy is part of a relatively recent paradigm shift in contemporary futures studies. This school of thought replaces the desire to know the future with an ability to act spontaneously, creatively and opportunistically here and now, without the limitations due to predefined visions and expectations.
Unlike conventional foresight, which is limited both in time and in scope (generally 3 to 6 different future scenarios), Futures Literacy, as the name suggests, aims to develop a literacy, i.e. a ‘future competence’, which can then be put to use in any circumstance.
It is about encouraging a capacity to navigate the uncertainty of the future, or a “capacity to dance with the unknown” as Riel Miller puts it.
The UNESCO method is particularly well suited when challenges or the need for change arise (e.g.: digitalisation, climate change, social and political change, etc.) – since this is the moment when we need to imagine and discover other paths and opportunities toward desirable futures.
Futures Literacy lends itself well to:
– A reflection on the future of a more or less large domain
Examples: future of democracy, future of the cultural field, etc.
> Well suited for a professionals & network meeting, conference, or education program
– A reflection on the future of an organisation, a community or a company
Examples: the future of our organisation in 2030, the net zero CO2 emissions future of our company in 2050, our community in 10 years
> Well suited for a vision/strategy/governance development, a community empowerment program, an education program, or team building exercise
I offer this method for the cultural, environmental and social fields.
Here are a few ideas of focus in these fields that you might want to check to find inspiration:
- Strength and diversity of the cultural field
- Organisation and modes of production in the arts
- Future possible orientations in artistic practices
- Transformation towards sustainable practices in relation to climate change
Environmental and climate crisis
- Visions for a sustainable society
- Socio-economic transformations in relation to climate change and IPCC scenarios
- Future of mobility
- Sustainable lifestyles
Society and social innovation
- Modes of participatory governance
- Urban or regional developments
- International relations and human rights
- Transformation of lifestyles
Interested? A question? Not sure where to start?
Drop me a line!
I'll be happy to chat with you and help if I can.
I've organised and facilitated Futures Literacy workshops for broad audiences, teams, or students and young people.
Online and in person. In English, in German and in French.
22.01.22, Zukunftsworkshop: Wie könnte unser nachhaltiger Alltag in der Zukunft aussehen?, Open Futures in collaboration with KOSMOS Zürich
14.09.21 (short version), Climate and Sustainability Action Week, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne
21.04.21, Competence Centre in Sustainability, University of Lausanne (UNIL), Lausanne
« The workshop was great, the whole team is delighted! »
Nelly Niwa, Director of the Competence Centre for Sustainability (CCD) at the University of Lausanne, on the workshop on the CCD's future in 2030 organised for the CCD team on 22 April 2021.
« I keep applying the three different perspectives "probable", "plausible", and "alternative" futures to my own work and private life – and they are very helpful! »
and Open Futures.