Tools, Tips, and Inspiration for Foresight Practitioners

 Issue #11 | July 30, 2020

Welcome to the IFTF Foresight Essentials Newsletter! In this issue we offer three powerful questions for sparking hope, share a process for developing your own “first person futures” game, and point you toward upcoming foresight learning events. Also, look out for this month’s signal of change on the future of foresight.

It’s so important to find community during these tough times, and we are always inspired to hear what fellow practitioners are doing to build the future. Please do stay connected!

To Spark Hope for the Future, Ask These Three Questions

 By Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research + Development

Why do we practice foresight? It helps us anticipate and prepare for future challenges. We spot new opportunities for innovation. We build consensus and motivate action around a vision for a preferred future. These are, perhaps, the most common reasons for thinking about the future. But foresight practice has another important benefit that’s often overlooked by foresight professionals. A well-designed foresight tool can help us feel better now, by lifting us out of depression and anxiety - especially during times of uncertainty and crisis.

Realistic hope for the future is something we clearly need more of right now. 46% of Americans say the current pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health, according to a national survey. A United Nations policy brief noted that during the pandemic, 47% of health care workers in Canada have reported a need for psychological support; 50% of health care workers in the People's Republic of China reported depression; and 42% of health care workers in Pakistan reported moderate psychological distress and 26% severe psychological distress. In Italy and Spain, parents have reported that while in confinement during the pandemic, 77% of children have had difficulty concentrating; 39% have restlessness and irritability; 38% have nervousness; and 31% feelings of loneliness, according to the brief

So how can foresight practice help bolster mental resilience during this crisis? 

Click here to learn the 3 questions that will spark hope. >>


Don’t miss this other recent post by Jane: Learn Four Techniques to Help You Prepare for the Unexpected


How to Design Games That Let You Feel the Future

By Ben Gansky, Research and Engagement Manager 


Exploring “first person futures” through games

Through my work at IFTF (and beyond) I’ve created a handful of foresight games as tools for individuals and groups to explore our relationship to the future.  As my colleague Jane McGonigal has written, our brains are not well-wired to imagine the future. To overcome this cognitive limitation, we can create immersive scenarios that “cast” the player in a role within a particular imagined future. Acting and reacting to these immersive scenarios in real time taps into the aspects of our brains that are well-developed. 

Foresight games can provide a sense that one is living “in the future” and create a different kind of relationship to the future. The action of playing a game always takes place in the present tense, regardless of when the game is narratively set; the immediacy of playing can lead to more lasting memories and associations with a particular subject. Foresight games make the abstract future personal.

Source: Ben Gansky
IFTF led one such futures game during the second annual "Night of Ideas" on February 1, 2020 at the San Francisco Public Library.

There are many, many ways one could design a game to explore the future and build foresight capacity and insights. My own observations here refer to the kinds of games that I’ve (so far) designed to accomplish these aims. The stories that unfold in these games start in the present moment and progress step by step into the future - a future that is shaped by the actions and decisions undertaken by the players. This step-by-step rhythm allows me to unfold a forecast in a cadence that is easily absorbed and responsive to the players’ actions. 

With colleagues and collaborators, I’ve run foresight games at bars, public libraries, IFTF’s annual conference, arts festivals, and senior centers, among other locations. The participants have varied accordingly. The games described here have all been run “live”; that is to say, with participants interacting in the same physical space. 

Without suggesting that these design patterns are either essential or intrinsic to foresight games, I have certainly found the following to be key tools towards effective foresight through play: axes of possibility, role-playing, dilemmas with binary choices, and subject-verb alignment.

Read more >> 


Coming up...


Navigate Large-Scale Change

IFTF has transitioned all trainings to a high-touch, live-online format, until we are able to confidently schedule in-person courses. After the success of our first IFTF Foresight Essentials and Design Futures trainings, we’ve opened several more live-online courses this fall. Please join us! See the schedules below for more information:

IFTF Design Futures Training: October 13-15 (See full agenda)

IFTF Foresight Essentials: 


Public Webinars: Meet Master Futurists

Future Forces that will Disrupt Sustainable Business

Wednesday, August 5th | 10:15–11:15AM PT / 18:15–19:15 UTC

Register here >>

Changes in urbanization, global infrastructure, information ecosystems, automation, and inclusivity are going to have a large impact on the way sustainable businesses operate in the future. Join IFTF and the Global Environmental Management Institute (GEMI) in conversation about doing business in a rapidly changing world—and how to build and maintain a sustainable business that's prepared for the future as explored in Future Forces that will Disrupt Sustainable Business


ASK A FUTURIST: XR & Simulation

Wednesday, August 12th  |  9:00AM PT / 16:00 UTC   

Sign up here »

Join us for a conversation with IFTF Research Director Toshi Hoo and IFTF Vantage Research Director Vanessa Mason, exploring XR, simulation, and other experiential technologies that will transform how we relate to the world and each other.


IFTF FORESIGHT TALKS: Steering Change in a Whitewater World: Working with Wicked Problems

Thursday, August 20th | 9:00–10:30AM PT / 17:00–18:30 UTC

Register here >>

We are now living in a whitewater world that is hyperconnected, rapidly changing, and radically contingent. In Design Unbound (MIT Press, 2018), Ann Pendleton-Julian and John Seely Brown argue that a new approach is needed to address the complex and entangled challenges that are increasingly common in this dynamic world. They describe a new mindset, based on understanding complex systems from an ecological perspective, and introduce a new set of tools to respond to these challenges.

In particular, they call for harnessing the power of a pragmatic imagination that engages a full range of mental activities to discover radically new solutions. Among the specific design tools they describe is the practice of “world building” that can be used to guide the development of transformational solutions to seemingly intractable (wicked) problems.


IFTF FORESIGHT TALKS: How to Future: a Practical, Tactical Guide to Foresight

Wednesday, September 30th | 9-10AM PT / 17:00-18:00 UTC

Register here >>

On Wednesday, September 30th at 9:00AM Pacific Time, Institute for the Future will host renowned futurists and teachers Madeline Ashby and Scott Smith to discuss their new book How to Future: Leading and Sensemaking in an Age of Hyperchange. We'll get a taste of what's in the book, share reflections on how futuring feels different in a post-COVID world, and make room for your questions. Join us as Scott and Madeline share valuable lessons from their extensive careers as futures practitioners.


2020 Ten-Year Forecast Summit

The Ten-Year Forecast team is crafting an immersive and transportive experience for IFTF's first fully-virtual conference this September, with sessions spread across time zones over two weeks, from September 14-25. For IFTF Foresight Essentials 2020 alumni who participated in the May 27/June, June 23-26, and July 7-9 trainings, you’ll have access to all sessions during September 14-18 (please hold these dates on your calendar). You’ll also receive a Future Readiness Package, a special care package shipped to participants in August to help bring the virtual conference to life. 

Interested in attending? Foresight Essentials newsletter readers can get limited exclusive free tickets that allow access to most sessions during the week of September 14th. Stay tuned to learn how you can register for a free spot at TYF and for more details on featured talks during the summit.


From Others

40th International Symposium on Forecasting
Hosted by The International Institute of Forecasters
Oct 26-28, 2020

In case you missed it...

The PRIMER 2020 conference took place virtually June 22-27, 2020, and the theme was “Activating Futures for All”. The conference highlighted diverse perspectives to imagine alternative paths and to challenge ourselves to enable more equitable futures through the further democratization of the tools for building them. Watch the archived presentations now. 


Scanning the Foresight Field: A Signal of Change

What: Facebook has launched a new app called Forecast, which crowdsources peoples’ predictions about the future and facilitates public debates. App users can pose, and submit a response to, a specific question about the future (i.e. 'Will the FDA approve a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of March 2021?’) and earn points along the way. 

So What: A tool to share collective knowledge could provide new insights and change our perspectives. On the other hand, if the tool is manipulated by bots or bad actors, we could see predictions artificially inflated one way or another, or enabling the spread of misinformation. Also, since the questions must be approved by a Facebook team, they will be subject to their particular biases, risking that the discussions favor one worldview while marginalizing others. 

What do you think about this signal and what it could mean for the field of foresight? Feel free to share your thoughts about this signal or any other signals you’re finding about the foresight field.


Thank you for reading the IFTF Foresight Essentials Newsletter!

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