The basic low down on futures, foresight and understanding change

Posted on June 24, 2014

So I'm sitting in the back garden. It's a summer day and I am eight. Playing out my favourite game. I'm super girl, with my knickers tucked into my vest - super hero style. My special power is changing the future. I can stop the bad things from happening twenty years from now and make sure the good things happen.

Is looking at what happens in the future just a day dream for kids?  I don't think so.

Last week on our residential the Clore Social Fellows got to sit in a fantastic future foresight workshop – run by two futurologists whose job it is to help business and the sector think ahead. For me it reinforced why looking at potential futures is totally empowering and strategic for a sector working to create positive social, environmental and economic impacts. Which is why I often use foresight methods in my work on shaping places, spaces and cities. I've found the process creative and productive for inclusive place making.

So for those that don't know how future foresight can be done here's the basic low down.

First. Scope – read as much as you can, talk to some folk and do some horizon scanning. Next. Gather - put all the information you've got together, then spot signals - have a look at what the drivers are. Then watch for trends or themes (priority drivers). When you've spotted some themes spend time making sense of them. In this stage you’re looking for implications. Finally, agree a response. And here's a tip from the futurologists – don't expect total agreement and remember your 'blind' spots.

Simple enough?  Possibly. Possibly not. A useful tool for creating good? Definitely.

Foresight is about understanding change and the drivers of change, and then responding to it in a way that recognises everyones place in shaping what will happen next. It's not just for eight year old super girls (or boys). It's key to thought leadership and the practical task of delivering positive social change now and into the future. And there's a whole raft of research, books and case studies that evidence this.

So go on -  tuck your vest into your knickers.

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Maria Adebowale

Maria Adebowale

Environment and place making expert

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