Tools, Tips, and Inspiration for Foresight Practitioners

 Issue #13 | October 29, 2020

Welcome to the IFTF Foresight Essentials Newsletter! In this issue we offer lessons learned from hosting IFTF’s first virtual Ten-Year Forecast conference, present IFTF’s newest Foresight Essentials tool for action, and point you toward upcoming foresight learning events and recent essays. Also, please fill out our community survey about how you collect signals. And finally, if you live in the U.S. please remember to vote!

Lessons from the Ten-Year Forecast:
Remote Events in the Time of Covid 


By Dylan Hendricks, IFTF Vantage Partnership Co-Director


For the last eight years I’ve had the privilege of producing the Institute for the Future’s flagship annual event, the Ten-Year Forecast, which typically draws around 400 people from IFTF’s community of foresight researchers, foundational research sponsors, fellows and practitioners. We always aspire to make our event, modestly-sized as it is, an immersive and unforgettable experience for our participants, to create a permission space that inspires deeper and further thinking about future possibilities than our daily lives normally allow. In recent years this has meant hosting the event in unusual locations like museums, Masonic lodges, and decommissioned aircraft carriers, and blurring the edges between what’s real and what’s future fiction.

This year, like everyone else on the planet, we were forced to pivot our in-person plans in late March, and reimagine the event as a remote online experience. We knew the limitations we were facing, and we had the opportunity to see what best practices were emerging from other organizations whose events were calendared before ours, but we also set ourselves the ambitious goal of sacrificing as little as possible in creating an indelible experience for our participants. After months of Herculean effort from our team, our remote Ten-Year Forecast event transpired over two weeks this last September, and I’d like to share some of our ambitions for the event and what we did to bring them forward into reality.

Ambition 1: Create a different experience than just another series of Zoom calls

Zoom fatigue was heavy on our minds as we did our initial planning, and we wanted to create an experience that felt like an escape from quarantine realities more than an extension of it. Rather than trying and failing to translate a real-world event online, we decided to lean into the medium of online communication, and reframed the entire event as a live TV broadcast, with a full week of “TV shows” themed around the different tracks of our content. Each session was reimagined as an episode of these shows, complete with theme music, opening titles and a continuous broadcast projected through YouTube.

We reframed and produced the Zoom talks as episodes of a live TV show.


Ambition 2: Make the event physically tangible

One of the distinguishing characteristics of our in-person events is the artistic exhibits and theatrical elements to create an experience that’s memorable and provocative. To recreate that in the post-Covid environment, we created 500 “Future Readiness Packages” filled with physical artifacts, research materials, and mysterious daily items that were revealed during a daily ceremony that kicked off each morning. These mystery items were designed to play with our participants’ senses, such as miracle berries that make sour foods taste sweet. By creating a ritual where our participants experienced these physical sensations at the same time each day, we were able to recapture some of the magic that’s lost to screens and teleconferencing software.

Ambition 3: Create more value than we could in an in-person event

This is a fairly counterintuitive ambition for a year defined by constraints, but by leaning into the benefits of remote online events we were able to snag wins from our immediate losses. Without the per-participant cost of food and hotels, we were able to invite ten clients from each of our partner organizations instead of the usual three, and open up the event to a much broader public audience than we’ve ever been able to before. One participant commented “Thank you for doing this! I have never been able to attend the in-person events due to budget constraints,” and another similarly stated “I would love to continue to attend [IFTF] events and the Summit. Being based in NZ it was an opportunity that I otherwise would not have had if it had been in the US - so please keep these online/virtual.” Moreover, by recasting the event as a TV broadcast, we were able to immediately create and host archived versions of each session for perpetuity, which we’ve struggled to do with live event recordings in the past. Without the constraints of the physical conference space, we were able to extend our usual 2-3 day event into two weeks of content, going deeper into relevant topic areas than we’ve ever been able to before.

What we ended up with was the highest attended event we’ve ever put on, with close to 1000 participants. Moreover, because of the endless slog that 2020 represents, the brief mental escape our event provided seemed somehow more meaningful to our participants than past events were, an oasis in the midst of the quarantine desert. There are many things we did this year that will become precedents going forward, and in many ways I’m grateful for the new opportunities the Covid-19 constraints forced us to discover.

IFTF has made some select recorded sessions of TYF publicly available here. If you are not yet an IFTF Vantage Partner, but are interested in learning more, please contact John Clamme—

The Newest IFTF Foresight Essentials Tool:
Catalyze the Future

Good forecasts inform and drive new actions and responses. They provoke our thinking and inspire new approaches to thrive in the future. Good forecasts come from diverse groups who consider broader possible futures. Good forecasts come from a diversity of tools, too. For instance, futures storytelling and design-infused approaches engage creative thinkers, while more structured activities like cross-impact analysis and wind tunneling appeal to analytical minds. But a good forecast isn’t enough. You need some way to activate it.

In chemistry, a catalyst is something that activates and accelerates a chemical reaction, one that would otherwise happen slowly or not at all. In a similar way, a forecast developed by a diverse group of thinkers using systematic and imaginative foresight tools, can be activated with a conceptual catalyst.

"Catalyze the Future” is the newest foresight tool in Institute for the Future’s Foresight Essentials Toolkit, and it’s premiering at the IFTF Foresight Essentials training, which is running now until mid-November.   

"Catalyze the Future” helps activate changes toward a preferred future. The process starts by listing the elements needed to realize that future, and to take stock of your organization’s inventory of those elements. By undertaking this futures inventory, you can then uncover action steps that use your organization’s strengths and reveal areas that may need a bigger spark to drive change. 

To be clear, no one controls all of the elements to ensure a single future. And not every preferred future can come to life just because someone makes concerted investment and focused action. Often there’s a tipping point at the intersection of what is becoming technologically possible and what’s socially acceptable. That’s why the tool also helps you consider the societal acceptability of your desired future and gauge the effort needed to persuade people to favor it. 

Catalysts nudge what’s waiting to happen. What’s your preferred future? How can you nudge it along?

How Will Power Spread in the Coming Decade? 


IFTF’s Map of the Decade 2019, Power Shifts: A Decade of Extreme Consequences and Transformational Possibilities, is available for free download and hard-copy purchase.

In 2019, the IFTF Vantage research agenda focused on power and its ability to shape consequences. Traditionally, power flows from the top down. But in the tightly coupled and complex landscape of the current era, it flows in all directions—across industries and continents, affecting stakeholders of every scale. How is power affecting your work and space in the world?

For a limited time, receive 25% off your purchase of hard copies, and other IFTF items, using PROMO CODE: IFTFtyf2020


Coming up...

Start 2021 with New Futures Skills  

IFTF Foresight Essentials is about to close enrollment for its December Foresight Essentials training and is already filling seats for its early 2021 trainings. If you’re interested in enrolling or just learning more, contact

  • Foresight Essentials December 2020 (limited seats still available!) | December 1st (Orientation), December 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th (for optional private coaching), and 15th. Sessions start at 8am PT and last for four hours, except for Orientation (90 minutes). 

  • Foresight Essentials February 2021 (optimized for U.S. East Coast and Europe) | February 9th (Orientation), February 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 22nd (for optional private coaching), and 23rd. Sessions start at 8am ET and last for four hours, except for Orientation (90 minutes).

  • Foresight Essentials April/May 2021 | April 7th (Orientation), April 14th, April 21st, April 28th, May 5th, and May 7th. Sessions start at 8am PT and last for four hours, except for Orientation (90 minutes).

  • Design Futures May 2021 (new dates!) | May 11th, May 18th, and May 25th. Sessions start at 9am PT and last for six hours.


Public Webinars: Meet Master Futurists

ASK A FUTURIST: Design Futures with Jake Dunagan

Wednesday, November 11 | 9:00am PT / 17:00 UTC

Register here >>

Join us for a conversation with IFTF Research Director Jake Dunagan to explore how media, design, and immersive experiences help people feel futures. Don't miss this opportunity to have your questions addressed in real time by an expert design futurist!

IFTF FORESIGHT TALKS: Queering the Future to Save the Future

Thursday, November 19 | 9:00am PT / 17:00 UTC

Register here >>

IFTF will host IFTF Research Affiliate Jason Tester to discuss "queering the future": the untapped power of looking ahead through the perspective of LGBTQ people, a group that has been historically marginalized yet constantly adaptive and resilient. Join us to learn the art and science of seeing hidden resources, alternative systems, and transformative solutions by adopting a more expansive, transgressive, and liberating view of the future.

IFTF FORESIGHT TALKS: Equity and Decolonization - Transformation at the Intersection of Aid, Policy, and Foresight

Wednesday, December 2 | 9:00am PT / 17:00 UTC

Register here >>

IFTF will host Aarathi Krishnan, Strategy and Foresight Advisor for UNDP. She specialises in strategic foresight for the humanitarian and development sector. A seasoned expert with over 15 years experience globally, she works at the intersection of humanitarian futures, strategic foresight, and systems transformation. More details about the webinar to come later!


Other Resources from our Community

"Foresight and Design: New Support for Strategic Decision Making” by Joern Buehring  and Peter C. Bishop (Autumn 2020)

"Humanity is stuck in short-term thinking. Here’s how we escape” by Richard Fisher. MIT Technology Review (October 21, 2020) 


Thank you for reading the IFTF Foresight Essentials Newsletter!

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