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A Philosophical Mindset To Advance Ethical Futures

This is an excerpt from the original article by Global Futurist Sylvia Gallusser published in IMCI Magazine, November-December 2021 issue.

A strong approach to Foresight and Futures includes applying multiple lenses and crossing perspectives from multiple disciplines. Both developing a multidisciplinary mindset and collaborating with individuals from diverse backgrounds contribute to enriching our vision, therefore making our foresight practice more inclusive and more robust. 

As we observe two main paths to foresight – the academic path and the second-career path -, we notice that both are tightly intertwined with multidisciplinarity.

In the case of the academic path, foresight practitioners graduate in Futures Studies from an academic institution such as a university. In such cases, the chair for Futures Studies is often associated with another department or underlines its interaction with other disciplines such as anthropology, culture studies, economics, political science, public administration, business administration, design, etc. 

  • For example, the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies (Hawaii Futures) is located within the Department of Political Science, College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 
  • In Finland, the Turku School of Economics and the Finland Futures Academy offer a program in Futures Studies linked to Economics and Business Administration. 
  • In South Africa, Futures Studies are taught at The University of Stellenbosch, Economics and Management Science along with the Institute for Futures Research.
  • The Futures Studies Department of the Catholic University of Lille connects with the Department of Development and Strategy. 
  • The Foresight program at the University of Houston defines foresight as “the multi-disciplinary study of change and its implications in the context of the future. It synthesizes insights from a wide variety of fields including economics, engineering, sociology, politics, systems theory, creativity, community building and so on.” 
  • Canada’s largest art, design and media university OCAD U launched a Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. 
  • In Taiwan, the Tamkang University provides a Master in Futures Studies based on a broad interdisciplinary academic approach. 

The second-career path is taken by foresight practitioners stemming from another profession. These professionals usually have developed skills and credentials in another field. 

  • Popular backgrounds leading to a second vocation in futurism include: design, product management, technology, innovation, strategy consulting, activism, and HR management. 
  • The above-mentioned universities as well as private players and consulting groups have developed certification programs, such as The Futures School, the Institute for the Future, the Center for Engaged Foresight, The Future Today Institute, Futureproofing: Next, The Disruptive Futures Institute.
  • Corporate and Big Four+ consulting companies engage in Futures Studies, usually focusing on one aspect at a time – future of work, future of business – such as EY Megatrends and beyond, Accenture’s Business Futures 2021 report, or Deloitte’s Technology Futures Report 2021.
  • Non-profit organizations, and government agencies also play a role in building foresight skills for all. The World Economic Forum defines itself as “an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas” and a natural Strategy and Foresight player. The OECD’ Strategic Foresight Unit works with many governments and organisations facing many different strategic challenges. The United Nations’ report “Applying Foresight and Alternative Futures to the United Nations Development Assistance Framework” aims to improve multi-year strategic planning. The Millennium Project, which is a global participatory think tank, was originally established under the American Council for the United Nations University before becoming independent in 2009 and growing to 67 Nodes around the world. UNESCO deploys action-learning and collective intelligence to co-create the meaning of sustainability, peace and inclusion thanks to its Futures Literacy Laboratories, through impactful projects such as the Imagining Africa’s Futures project.
  • Professional associations and publications contribute to establishing futurists’ credibility within the foresight community, such as the World Future Society, the Association of Professional Futurists, the World Futures Studies Federation, The Journal of Futures Studies, and Fast Future Publishing. 
  • Further hubs such the Design Futures Initiative, the Grey Swan Guild, Silicon Humanism, Future Hacker, FuturePod, Futures Space, or Using Foresight contribute to fostering the community and ensuring its liveliness through events, panel conversations, workshops, publications, and sharing of best practices and resources. 

The coexistence and collaboration among these players surely illustrate how diverse, active, and multidisciplinary the foresight community is. 

However, one aspect which is still at the start of its development is the cross-pollination between philosophy and futures studies. 

  • First of all, the topic of the Future(s) has been hardly studied by philosophers. It rarely appears as such, and when it does, it is often in correlation to larger concepts of time, death, history, scientific progress, freedom, or justice.
  • Nonetheless, many concepts and tools used by foresight practitioners derive from philosophical approaches. By scanning over centuries of philosophy and engaging with philosophers, thinkers, writers, and leaders, from all continents, we considered twelve main definitions of Futurity which mirror actual Foresight notions and tools.

Read the full article on the latest issue of the IMCI Magazine.


Published by Sylvia

Futurist - Futures Thinking & Strategic Foresight

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