Futures studies & futures literacy transcript
Daniel Ridge: It's an exciting time in the field of future studies with the High-Level Futures Literacy Summit taking place virtually the 8th to the 12th of December, and with numerous publications especially issues coming out on the subject, but what is future studies and futures literacy. In this episode, I'll be speaking with Riel Miller who is head of the Futures Literacy Project at UNESCO. He will give us an overview of Future Studies and explain in detail the importance of UNESCO's Futures Literacy Project. Then I will be speaking with Ozcan Saritas who is the editor in chief of the journal Foresight, and Professor Jonathan Khalaf, who has guest edited, along with Peter Bishop, an upcoming double special issue on North American Foresight.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Riel.
Riel Miller: Real pleasure. Glad to be here.
DR: I think a good place to start would be to explain what Future Studies is to our listeners.
RM: Yeah, that would be a natural point of departure. Future Studies is a long standing field, where people have attempted to really dive into the different ways in which people think about the future. Now, the thing to remember is that the future is always imaginary. You can't go there, you can't visit, there's no evidence. So, it's really about the different techniques and tools we have for imagining the future. For a long time, you know, science fiction - Jules Verne, H.G. Wells - were precursors to today's Future Studies field. And they, and they emphasised, and indeed it's been one of the main preoccupations of the future studies field, the images of the future that we have, so specific stories and ways of thinking about the future. And in the post war period coming out of the operations research and D-day and the Manhattan Project and getting to the moon, these kinds of big initiatives that were intended to be blueprints, a critical path, planning approaches to the future that became also very important for the military in terms of strategy but also for the corporate world in terms of strategic thinking. And this planning approach really preoccupied the future studies field, and it was it was very applied in most of its incarnations and efforts, meaning it was about helping people to figure out how to produce these images of the future, and then how to get there. So fundamentally for a very long time Future Studies was about planning in various ways shapes and forms. Today, it seems to me - and this is one of the things that's quite important about the work that we're doing a number of different networks and communities - Future Studies is taking on a bit of a bigger remit, it's covering a broader range of aspects of the future. And this is connected to something called anticipation and anticipatory systems and processes. My view is today Future Studies is the study of the different anticipatory systems and processes that people use, and why they use them. This means that we're looking at a really very diverse set of practices that are applied to a very diverse set of purposes. And that means that we want to look at the mythology, we want to look at divination, we want to understand the role of ideology and faith in the way in which people imagine the future and then how those futures that they imagine influence, not only what they do with their choices, (which clearly, you know, your image of the future influences the choices you make, because you're making bets, often), but also how that image of the future alters what you see, what you consider to be on the menu. So there's this dual aspect to the images of the future and future studies, which is on the one hand the origins of these images and then the applications that those images are put to and Future Studies, I think today it is becoming a very broad based field that encompasses the anthropology, the literature of speculative fiction, in all sorts of different ways, Hollywood, you know storytelling that conjures up the images of the future and then the ways in which those images of the future influence what humans see and what they do. So that's that's my take these days on future studies.
DR: So, it’s a very diverse field isn’t, so you can be in the sciences, you can be in business. Can you tell me how people apply this to different fields?
RM: What I was talking about was really also a kind of a transition that we're in for a long time. People were applying different future studies tools, different aspects of future studies, different anticipatory systems to specific tasks. So let's say Shell Oil wanted to think about the future of energy, and they wanted to come up with scenarios, and they developed a technique that allowed them to develop scenarios and describe those scenarios. That's a tool that's applied to a specific context for a specific purpose. And a lot of the future studies field, like I said, in the military and critical path planning, whether it's for engineering purposes or for government has been about how do we think about a particular image of the future, conjure up that image and then think about how to get to that objective. So this is like planning to get to the top of Mount Everest. You know there may be four or five different routes you could take, you know you want to go to the top of Mount Everest. And so you plan those different techniques and approaches and it's been applied across all fields. Really from public and private sector. And it's part of the way in which our societies function. It's about planning and people do it themselves, all the time. It's a kind of commonplace thing to, you know, you think about going for dinner. You think about doing something with friends, you decide to take a course of study, because you think there's a degree, you decide to buy a house, because you have an image of the future, and you want to invest in this particular place and you have all these ideas about what you're going to do in the future, because you've bought a house somewhere. So this way of anticipating the future is, you know, very innate to all humans, and to all human areas of activity.
DR: So, what does it mean to be future literate?
RM: This is where we're starting now to realise that we've only begun to scratch the surface of the different anticipatory systems. So, let me give you an example. Just today, I spent time with a group of scientists, climate scientists, and we talked about how they could use the future more effectively in what they're doing around climate science. And they were particularly interested in two aspects - one was adaptation, how we make existing systems better, but they were also interested in transformation, how maybe we can be more open, or able to think about different ways, significantly different ways, of doing things that don't reflect just repeating or improving on the past, but actually breaking from what we used to do, you know, kind of like the change from rural agricultural society let's say, to urban industrial society - a really massive transformation. But in order to think about that and the relationship of human actions and human agency - our ability to act to those different futures - you need to be able to distinguish those futures. And one of the interesting things was that we're only beginning to really make those distinctions, say, what's a probable future? what's a desirable future? what's the difference between probable and desirable futures? What constraints do probable futures have on what I see in the present? And what I'm able to act upon in the present? So I mean one way of thinking about it is that if I told you to describe the future, but you can only use words from a dictionary that come from, you know, 1920, or something you'd say, Hey, I'm going to have a really hard time, I can't even describe the present with that dictionary. So how am I going to describe the future? And that's the challenge of describing the future is to kind of think about the fact that we don't have the words, and they won't be invented. So, diversifying the ways we use the future,he reasons we use the future and understanding the future can be something that constrains our thinking, but also liberates our thinking is really kind of how being futures literate is a skill or capability. And it's being able to say okay, now I'm thinking about something in terms of probability. Now I'm thinking in terms of something in terms of desirability, now I'm thinking about it in terms of that - who knows, completely off the charts, just letting my mind wander, and not worrying about whether I'm realistic or whether it's, you know, useful for any particular desired or undesired future. And that diversification is what futures literacy is all about, is understanding that there's a wide range of anticipatory systems and processes, and knowing when to use them. I mean it's a bit like if I could, you know - you have a toolbox, you don't always use a hammer, you don't always use a screwdriver. Why should you use one tool as opposed to another?How can you distinguish when you're doing one thing versus another? And that's really what features literacies about, it's being able to distinguish different kinds of futures, and to be able to think about the different tools that are relevant for those different kinds of futures.
DR: So, how does the futures literacy project fit into that that UNESCO program?
RM: Well, you know, in a lot of ways, like I said, we're just starting to scratch the surface because we haven't been paying a lot of attention to the diversity of anticipatory systems and processes. We've been kind of putting them all into the same bucket and just saying, hey, think about later rather than now. And think about planning and how to get there, and whether it's good or bad. Now as we try to distinguish in a more, kind of, differentiated, more refined way, we end up with this need to explore and reveal. So I often talk about what I call the, the microscope in the 21st century, because it's something that renders the invisible visible. Just the way the microscope, you know, rendered bacteria or Amoeba in a drop of water, you couldn't see it with the, with the naked eye. Once you put it under the microscope, you could see it. Well, we've been doing these features literacy laboratories at UNESCO in kind of a laboratory project that I started with more than two decades ago - actually before I got to UNESCO - that was meant to reveal, to kind of render the invisible visible. And what this really involves is getting people to surface, to use the (inaudible) term to surface, the assumptions, anticipatory assumptions, that they use to frame their descriptions, their images in the future. And so we're really conducting research here into the different narrative frames and the different analytical frames, the different sets of anticipatory assumptions, that make up people's active ways of thinking about, and using the future. And in the book, Transforming the Future which came out in 2018 there's a framework called the futures literacy framework, which distinguishes six different sets of anticipatory assumptions using an epistemological and ontological matrix. And that allows you to begin to see when you're able to use the future in different ways for different reasons. And in that sense, you become aware that you're using the future in a more differentiated, more refined way. And you're also using a wider range of anticipatory systems. The big problem today I think is that, because we don't distinguish anticipatory systems, they kind of all get mixed together. And it actually it creates a lot of problems because on the one hand, it confuses different futures like apples and oranges, and it also creates this, I think, anxiety, because the future is not this anodyne thing, it's not just you know, another topic. The future is about hope, and about fear, and it's about the crucial aspects of our life. We have an emotional relationship to the future. And in - when we start to invite people to uncover and unpack and realise where their images of the future are coming from. We're also asking them to explore and reveal their emotions and their hopes and their fears. So, the research into anticipation requires a pretty careful and, I would say, sophisticated instrument that reveals these anticipatory assumptions in all their different dimensions. And that's what we've been doing really over the last few years with the Futures Literacy Laboratories.
DR: Well I'm interested in these laboratories. You have them all over the world. You have quite a few in Africa. What really goes on in these laboratories?
RM: Well, this is, this picks up on something that I think has been building for some time, you know, more and more people have had experiences now with going to these meetings where there's sticky notes and you put them up on a board and everybody talks and there's a facilitator and there's a structure to the process and all that. And then, and then your kind of wondering, you say to yourself, why are we talking about this with a little group of people about something that, you know, generally speaking - we say well what do the statistics say, what are the averages, what are the big samples, what are the scalable results and outcomes if we're just a small group talking about this? Why is it relevant? methodologically it seems weird to be doing these small group conversations. But I think it, in fact reveals - in the same way that the microscope was a tool that at first we didn't really know how to use because we didn't have the scientific techniques that allowed us to make the observations that the microscope made possible - that the systematic testing of hypotheses and conclusions, the processes that I like to call collective intelligence knowledge creation processes are really a way of creating living laboratories. And I mean that in the literal sense of creating a hypothesis, testing an experimental process in which people bring tacit knowledge - things they have often not articulated or made clear- and they share them. And so, you create an environment in which people can begin to make the meaning of what's in their heads clear to other people. So, this means negotiating shared meaning. And so, it's a whole process of really initially proposing and then elaborating and then refining and then understanding where it's coming from, and what the purpose is, of these images of the future that you're sharing and the strength of, in a sense, of futures that are seeing the board tours is that people are generally motivated to think about the future, and also they're quite motivated to think about it together. So futures that we see in laboratories take time, they require co-design, because the labs are structured in the same way that you're going to have a dry lab or a wet lab, you can have a biology lab or a chemistry lab, a futures literacy laboratory that uses collective intelligence knowledge creation processes has to be able to surface, reveal and scaffold meaning, accumulate over time, create a learning voyage, in which people become more aware, and you can get a group of people, to dive into their assumptions, work their way through it and become more aware of how the future is both constraining and liberating their thinking about the present - what they see and what they do.
DR: Well, you just gave a few examples there. I'm really interested in these laboratories that are all over the world, you know, geographically spread out and then intellectually spread out. Can you give us some examples of what they're specifically interrogating in these laboratories?
RM: Yeah let me, let me just use the last three last week. We ran a lab on the future of Black America 2050, and we brought together twenty-five people, virtually, so it was not a physical gathering, it was a virtual gathering, over a period of three days in sessions of three hours. We're in phase one. The groups were asked to get into small five-person, peer facilitated breakout groups, and they talked together about probable futures. They then talked together about desirable futures, they presented what they imagined in the plenary to each other. That was phase one, that's tacit to explicit, starting where people are at. Then on the second day, they thought about reframing, meaning we try and create a situation where the usual reference points that people have for the future are kind of no longer there. So, to give you an example of that. It’s - let's think about the future of schooling, but without the teachers, so you have a situation where people are learning, people are engaged in learning activities and schools are not structured with teachers, they're structured in a different way. You pull some aspects of the world that people would imagine away. So, they're obliged to imagine on their own. In other words, come up with their own images of the future. In the case of the lab we ran last week, The Future of Black America reframing scenario talked about a difference intensive world, a world where difference was the primary aspect of daily life, and which was really positive, in the sense that people created value with diversity, not on the basis of standardisation or homogeneity or universalism. It was really on the basis of appreciating and living with difference, diversification, creativity. That's not to say that that's a probable future, or desirable future, but it's a future in which the participants are obliged to rethink how things work, rethink what roles they play, what daily life is like. And then in the third phase we compare, basically, phase one, the tacit to explicit and then the reframing and say look, Once you start to play with your images of the future, you begin to realise how powerful those images of the future are for what you pay attention to in the present. It’s the things that matter that are related to your image of the future and because you've loosened up and expanded and played and toyed with the images of the future, you actually start to see all sorts of new things around you in the present, and that's the phase where we talk about asking new questions. The final phase of the labs in the kind of short form that we've been using - because it's kind of lab-light - is when they talk about next steps, and how to take what they've learned, the new questions they've asked, the techniques that they've learned the futures literacy that they've acquired and can apply it to their own context. So, the futures that are seen the board stories, and the process of collective intelligence knowledge creation needs to be designed in such a way that people will actually explore, discover, reveal the underlying sources of their images of the future, and develop their own capacity to generate images of the future.
DR: Wow, you know, that's really fascinating. So, December 8 through 12th you are overseeing the High Levels Futures Literacy Summit. I was hoping you could tell me more about that, and who will be involved, what is the purpose, what are the goals of this?
RM: Yeah, I mean, it's interesting how these things happen right? I like to tell the story about how in the mid-19th century there were no economics departments in any American universities and then by the late 19th century, every university pretty much in the United States had an economics department. There are certain periods in history when something's you know right, ready, ready to roll. And at the moment, I think we're really in one of those periods where future studies and anticipatory systems thinking that attempts to understand better the nature of what the future is and how it's used by humans in its diversity is really ripe. Last year we ran a forum called The Global futures that were designed for him at UNESCO, and it was on the back of all these labs that we've been running, and also the fact that we've developed UNESCO chairs in future studies. futures literacy, there's now 20 of these chairs at universities around the world and about another 15 or so in the pipeline. And as this wave was was building it became evident that we should try and draw it all together and create a summit, and initially the summit was a physical summit. But what happened with the pandemic is that it turned into a virtual summit and now it's really a popular summit and I'm thrilled with this turn of events because I think the current context allows us to finally go really global here. We're in a situation where it's fairly easy for people to come in to the summit, they just have to register, and we're hoping that there'll be thousands, maybe 10s of thousands of people visiting the summit, and the summit will really showcase what we've been talking about - which is that there is this immense and fantastic diversity of different ways of thinking about the future and that we have all kinds of organisations and institutions that are generating images, scenarios, ideas of the future, but crucially, it's not to say the scenarios are not the point. The point is that we're doing it. And why are we doing it. And I think that really underscores the overall shift in thinking that's going on, which is that we can no longer treat the future just like it's later than now and that's it, or something we should just try and plan for and control. In other words, the role that we kind of cast ourselves in, which is the engineers of tomorrow, is no longer tenable, it's no longer tenable, in part, it was already with climate change, you could see that that way of thinking about the future, wasn't getting us where we wanted to go in the sense of resilience, in the sense of a relationship with nature, but the pandemic makes it super clear that we were building in the fragility and the brittleness because we were playing this kind of designer of tomorrow role, which invites us to kind of use these heavy, defensive, insurance-driven planned ways of thinking about tomorrow. So the summit I think really, really encapsulates a whole set of changes that are taking place in the world around us. It's going to be a learning opportunity, but it's also, I think, a milestone for future studies, and it points, for 2021, 2022, towards the huge number of organisations and people who are I think now have caught the bug, which is to say they want to delve into anticipatory systems, they want to understand the origins and sources, and the purposes of images of the future.
DR: Right, for people who have never heard honestly who've never heard of futures literacy or future studies, what kind of panel discussions will they be able to sit on at this summit?
RM: It's going to be diverse. There's going to be a lot of resources, so people can go and consult a booth from the Asian Development Bank, or from the European Commission, from the United Nations agency or from Stanford design school, any number of think tanks, and they're all going to be creating booths, where visitors and participants can check it out, they can find out about that kind of futures work. There will also be the plenary where we're going to mixed speeches from people like the Prime Minister of Finland, and the director general of UNESCO with futures conversations that will be with ministers and chief executive officers, exploring their own experiences with thinking about the future. So we're going to ask leaders to share with us their memories of when they started thinking about the future, what provoked them to think about the future, what are the origins of their ideas of the future because really, I mean, what this summit is about is saying everybody can be futures literate and the summit will will provide a whole range of ways of exploring what that means.
DR: What might you say to someone who thinks this is too abstract?
RM: One of the crucial aspects of futures literacy is that it allows us to take a different attitude towards uncertainty. Meaning everybody knows that the only sure thing, the only certain thing, is change, is uncertainty. And so if we set ourselves up in a position which says, in order to feel secure in order to feel confident, I need to be absolutely certain of the future we're setting ourselves up to fail, we're setting ourselves up for continuously being anxious about futures literacy. Therefore, it is a way of kind of diversifying, walking on two legs. Of course we make bets, all the time, you cross the street you make a bet, you go on the right hand side you get to take the left hand fork, you're making a bet with the choices we make. Once you've made them, it's a done deal. But at the same time, the world is creating all this rich novelty around us, all these experiments, all these things that have no name, but we can invent names for them. And we can invent ways of using them or giving meaning to what we're doing. So, in that - from that perspective futures that are seen as a capability. And this shifts the future from being this instrument, you know, this kind of thing that we that we use as a hammer- meaning it's, you know, turning - I need to know what to plan, I need to know what to bet on, I need to know which horse to bet on into something that's got huge implications for how we see and feel about the world around us. And by understanding better the relationship of humanity to complexity, which is a condition, it's not a more or less - we live in this creative complex universe. Futures Literacy allows us to be more at ease with the universe around us. And I think from that perspective, also to appreciate our ability to be creative, to be adaptive, to be different, and to differentiate. And in that sense, in a very fundamental evolutionary sense, be more resilient. So, capabilities and resilience are not target-based. You don't know how the world is going to unfold and what's going to make you resilient in the future, because you don't know what the conditions are, but you can be more agile, you can be more able to understand and appreciate the world. And that I think enhances, in a sense, the quality of life. Basically, it makes it easier to feel at ease in a universe that is changing all the time.
DR: Great, well thank you so much for joining me.
RM: Yeah. Real pleasure, glad do this.
DR: I now like to turn to Ozcan Saritas, editor in chief of the journal Foresight and Jonathan Calof, co-guess editor of the special issue North American Foresight.
I'm happy to have you both here to talk about some of the newest research in Futures. Are you both going to be participating in this upcoming conference at the Futures Literacy Summit?
Jonathan Calof: I know I am and I know I'm going to be sitting in a booth with my, my buddy there so I'm going to say both of us are.
DR: That's great. Well, I wanted to ask you about the North American Foresight special issue that you have coming out with Ozcan as the editor of the journal and Jonathan, you are the guest editor on this special issue. I know that a lot of research has been written that's country specific but it doesn't seem that there's been a lot done on North America in general so I was wondering if you could tell us maybe what you learned about North American foresight while doing the special issue.
JC: So, in reference to that issue and in keeping with what we're seeing in North America, it was a team of Peter Bishop and myself as the guest editors. Bishop is a very noted foresight futurist and I noted in competitive intelligence market insight and foresight, and we combined and that's what we're seeing in North America is let's call it combination. First of all, lots and lots of active foresight research and practice is happening in North America, we had more response than we expected which is why it's a double special issue We are seeing an awful lot of teaming up, not just academics, but academics with practitioners. We've got an article for example that's been done with Peter Bishop, and with the president and some senior staff of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, which talks about the use of foresight for their strategic decisions. We've got combination of professors from areas related to foresight. So, a lot of growth but I'm telling everybody the model is changing, we really are at a crossroads in foresight in that respect.
DR: So, tell me more about this crossroads.
JC: The crossroads is that there are more and more fields interested in, let's call it foresight related study. So I'm, right now, I'm at a competitive intelligence conference where one of the themes is foresight. There was the SLA (Special Libraries Association) - they were talking about foresight, collective intelligence mentions foresight. Foresight mentions competitive intelligence so you have a lot of fields now that are saying it's critically important to integrate information to help with decision making by looking forward in the external environment. And we're all now seeming to find each other and saying, why don't we work together? So the special issue is a very good example of four of these fields coming together, the UNESCO conference as well and asked and you could talk more about that in terms of the journals that are going to be represented in the booth and I'm seeing professors that I'm doing research with and working with. I'm at a conference in Morocco where I'll be with collective intelligence, and I will be with Foresight and Competitive Intelligence. We just had a conference in Germany, that combined foresight and competitive intelligence so the crossroads is: we have to work together for the benefit of moving the field forward. And the other thing is this field called Collective Intelligence is also starting to make major contributions and inroads and we're starting to team up with them.
DR: Right. So, can you give us some examples of some of the articles that you'll be publishing that are going to be in this special issue?
JC: Well, we've got, in the area of the competitive intelligence, you're looking at an article by Freeman and Farley, that looks at C.I. within healthcare, we're looking also in that domain I've got one on does size really matter when it comes to foresight and intelligence activities and hint, no it doesn't, size is really not a barrier. We've got articles on future studies, not just on foresight, looking at the application of future studies for higher education's by (inaudible) and Erwin. We've got country related studies, we’ve got Drake, who's looking at alternative futures for Caribbean nations. We've got foresight being used to identify whether you need an agricultural research centre in Haiti. So again, this goes back to application of foresight and related domains for strategic dimensions of decision-making. And then we also have some really good, we'll call them theory platform articles that look at developments within foresight and within future studies as well. So, it's not just that North America is integrating in an applied sense. We're also doing a great job on the theoretical foundation of foresight and foresight related fields.
Ozcan Saritas: If you would let me, I would like to tell a couple of words about North American special issue that Jonathan has just mentioned.
DR: Oh definitely.
OS: Well, Jonathan and Peter have done a fantastic job with this special issue. The North American special issue is an important one because the institutional foresight practice third in North America, particularly in the US, in the middle of the 20th century. And since then it has evolved a lot, and it is now practiced all over the world. So with this special issue, it was very good actually to take a closer look at what is happening in the year 2020 in North America, in terms of Foresight and Competitive Intelligence. What is the latest research, what is the latest practice methodological development? and so on. So I was really pleased to see that we can now truly talk about - in North American Foresight and Competitive Intelligence—the activity is really embedded in not only in the US, Canada has made fantastic progress with foresight and we see that other countries, including Haiti, for example, have applied foresight for their science, technology, and innovation policies in different sectors and topics. So, I'm really pleased to see that we have this double special issue coming very soon.
DR: Yeah, so I wanted to ask you about the conference, can you tell us about some of the booths that will be up at the conference?
OS: Yes, the UNESCO High Level Futures Literacy Summit is a really an important event for the whole community. So, I'm hoping and expecting that the participation will be really high from all over the world as UNESCO is well represented in developing worlds and other underdeveloped countries. So, we all need foresight, we all need futures thinking, we all need to develop our collective intelligence for a better future. So, UNESCO Futures Literacy Summit plays a great role to achieve that. An important component of the summit is the future studies booth, so I'm really pleased to be appointed as a Senior Curatorto bring this together, this future studies journals booth. This is very important because futures journals are also important. They collect our knowledge and the latest advancements in the field of Foresight, Future Studies in general, Collective Intelligence and other related activities, and then they disseminate this knowledge and share this knowledge with a wider group of people - policymakers, industrialists, universities and research institutions and wider society. So, we are bringing together in this Futures Studies Booth, about a thirteen journals so far. So, we will have one booth for each of them, and they will have an opportunity to feature their contents. And they, they are presenting portfolios of scientific papers, their future plans, and they will also have a chance to integrate their knowledge together and interact with each other and with the participants of the summit.
JC: Daniel, can I add a little bit to that because when you ask about the general question of booths. I'm part of a couple of booths so obviously as the North American regional editor for Foresight, you know, I will be there in the Foresight booth, but we've also got the University of New Brunswick booth where - I'm part of University of New Brunswick and University of Ottawa, - where we're going to be highlighting the programs and research that have been done and Daniel, you were right when you said their are advantages of being virtual, you're going to see programming and information provided by the linking up of various booths and participants, you're going to see Oskin and I hosting a dialogue on North American foresight, as part of the programme they'll be a looking at foresight 3.0. There'll be dialogues between some of the stuff I'm doing in Morocco in Sweden and Italy because we now have the ability to bring all these foresight and foresight related research programs and practice together in one spot in a way that would not have been possible in a face to face type of event. Ozcan, you and I talked on Friday we added three more of these programs to the UNESCO again recognising that we are at a crossroads.
OS: We also have some other exciting events. So really preparing for that. We have a session on blended foresight, which will bring design, art, science fiction and data analytics together to explore some new possibilities for foresight. And also, I'm now working with colleagues from the University of Manchester, and we are putting together a session on foresight 3.0, and this will also bring together the latest practice of foresight, not only from Europe and North America, but also from the other parts of the world, including Africa and Asia.
DR: Well, what are some of the hot topics that are getting a lot of attention in the field of future studies?
OS: Well it's interesting when you pose it that way, Daniel. I sit at the cusp of the academic research and the practice within organisations and Foresight journal is one of the only ones that actually integrates both perspectives. So I'm seeing a lot of foresight and competitive intelligence units appearing in companies across Europe and North America, issues around, use of big data analytics issues around impact issues around structure and organisation of these units. How do we integrate these units together in one study? I just did one organisation had nine parts of the organisation, doing foresight and foresight related activities, because of COVID-19 activity in foresight units is getting busier and busier. And so it's a really unique opportunity in time when you think about the UNESCO conference to look at the research and the demands that are coming in foresight and foresight related areas and, as I mentioned, I'm just right now at the skip conference strategic competitive intelligence professionals, which once again is looking at how do we use this to help strategic and tactical decision making.
DR: Well, I think it's really great that you both pointed out so that, you know, Jonathan you said that future studies is at a crossroads and Ozcan talked about foresight 3.0. So, I'm wondering, looking to the future of future studies how do you see it developing?
JC: To a certain extent academics are independent entities and they're going to go in whatever direction they want to, but Ozcan, myself, you know (inaudible) and over in Sweden and a few others. We're trying very hard to integrate these domains together to go towards this common agenda. And so that you're going to see that more and more we've now had a couple of special issues around that, in various journals and conferences, so expect, Daniel, to see more work in effort at integrating these communities by my friend and I.
DR: What do you have to say about that Ozcan?
OS: I would say that they should the agenda of foresight is getting very exciting and very interesting. Foresight is actually and collective intelligence combined together, these are different than other future studies, the first of all we will keep pushing that foresight is not only about thinking about the future or dreaming about the future or speculating about the future, we will encourage thinking about the future, which is evidence based. So, we will get our evidence. By using our collective intelligence and also we will make use of the data, the power of big data. So, this is providing us a lot of opportunities to understand what is the emerging and what is evolving in order to encourage divergent thinking about alternative futures, and then articulating regions and priorities, and then coming up with some policy strategy and action proposals, so we don't only design the future and live it in the future. We try to bring it to the present. So how to connect the future and the present will play an important role also in our future foresight agenda.
JC: And Daniel that brings us back to the North American issue and that's why you saw teaming up for example of the head of foresight, for global affairs Canada government department and a professor from Carleton University because you have to bring it to the present, you've got to show the implications how it can help organisations that's becoming more and more of an important factor. Interestingly enough, even academically organisations like AACSB which is the accreditation body for business schools are also making a point that the research we do should have impact on organisations and not just impact in terms of citation analysis. Final thing I'm going to bring up is, you know, when Oscan says we are. He's right. There's a lot of us our group is growing that says we have to bring foresight and related domains into that area, and very excited that UNESCO has that vision under the title of anticipative of studies with real Miller, who has put together an impressive program, not just for the conference but at UNESCO with this chairs programs. And if you take a look at all the universities now that are working together to create the shared vision, you'll understand why Oscan and I keep saying we and not I.
DR: Is there anything more that you'd like to add about the special issue.
JC: Just that I was completely overwhelmed by the response I might add that most of the authors also served as reviewers. Most of the authors are saying when do we get together again. So I'm going to add another dimension to North American foresight. I've said it's integrative and combined. I'm going to add to that word friendly. It's extraordinary relationships that have been developed and continue.
DR: Well for researchers who are just learning about foresight for the first time and futures studies and futures literacy, how do you bring them into the fold, what sort of advice do you give them about where to start in this this domain?
OS: Right, I'll just mention briefly my experience. When I heard the word foresight for the first time I was really excited. I realised that there's the future, and we can do something about that future. So we don't need to, we don't have to just sit and wait what the future will bring us. So, I saw that there are techniques, there are processes, there are great examples for that. So, I found that I just gained another dimension when I look around me and look at the world that gave me the third dimension. So I transferred with kind of expert knowledge to young people, my master's students, for example, in our program, the governance of science, technology and innovation. We have around four-five students, an international group of students, so I tried to kind of transfer this knowledge, and I see how they feel excited as I felt a couple of decades ago.
DR: Jonathan What do you have to say when you talk to colleagues who haven't really learned too much, who really don't know too much about foresight?
JC: Well that that applies to very many people, I mean, when you have people reaching out to you about foresight and you all have PhD students, I have undergraduates masters and colleagues. The great thing about our field is we've got material we can point them in direction of there's a lot of online material now for foresite. There's articles we can send them from foresight journal and again back to what I said about the field, we can introduce him to people so we can go to a new researcher who wants to get into the field, taught you talk to them about what their area of interest is where they see their contribution, so that we have a network where when we identify the interest of the individual we can introduce them to people that can help cultivate what their contribution could be within that domain. The other thing and this goes back to what I said is that there are many academic domains, where there's clear what I call rules of engagement. You don't get to speak to anybody above their station, we'll call it that. This is a field where you go you know what, I'm going to put you in touch with with oscan, and I'm going to put you in touch with Alexander, and we generate a discussion with these professors these people that are interested we bring them into our research program. I had a meeting two weeks ago in Montreal virtually, we're now up to six professors who were not in foresight, who are now part of a foresight research program, simply starting from the question of how do you get impactful foresight, how do you get decision makers to listen in. Now that wasn't their question. That was the discussion that was then linked to the foresight field.
DR: That's great. What are you looking forward to at this upcoming summit?
JC: For me, I cannot wait to meet all these people to, to have the folks in my booth, the dialogues that I'm going to be having with Ozcan and others that I know are going to generate new research ideas and new research directions. Think what it means, both to UNESCO and to us as professors to say, take, strip away the we will meet and who will be there it's academics, practitioners, government, industry, NGO, so you take all those groups. How often do you see a conference or all those different groups get together to talk about the futures agenda? So it's not just going to be the academics talk to the academics, we're going to have all these diverse groups talking about what it means to them so Austrians right we're excited about new people coming in, but new people from each of these different groups, and that takes me back again to the, the foresight journal that Ozcan so wonderfully runs and Daniel thank you for publishing, because that's what it does, it's not just one of those groups it's designed to appeal to all those groups so it's important for us at a conference like this to hear from these diverse groups.
OS: We are not actually head counting in here. What we aim is to really get some true collective intelligence because we think then with the participation of all those people from all the different stakeholders, there will be a new synergy emerging as a result of this impact. So then it will be greater than the sum of the numbers. The impact will be much greater.
DR: Thank you so much for joining us today. You can find more information about Riel Miller, Ozcan Saritas and Jonathan Calof in our show notes as well as more information about the futures studies summit taking place virtually the 8th to the 12th of December. I'd like to thank Alex Jungius, from This is Distorted for his help with today's episode.